Friends of the Lake District are to provide a training space for Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs at the Helm, near Oxenholme.
The conservation society purchased land on the east side of the Helm in 2007, a popular area for walkers which is now being improved for wildlife and greater public access.
The Helm will be made available for rescue dog training on Saturday mornings and Thursday evenings, including after dark - so it's possible that lights may be seen on the eastern side of the Helm at night if the dogs are working. There may be up to 10 dogs and handlers at a session, with a maximum of two dogs working at any time. Friends of the Lake District are keen to reassure walkers that everyone is still welcome to visit even when training is taking place.
Judith Moore from Friends of the Lake District says 'We are delighted to be able to support the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs by allowing them to train on the Helm, which is easy for local handlers to get to, especially if bad weather prevents them from travelling further away. The search and rescue dogs are really important in all sorts of emergencies and Friends of the Lake District is pleased that we can help in this way.'
Search and rescue dogs are trained from being a puppy to air scent not to track a missing person, but to react to a human scent blown towards them. Dogs can cover large areas of ground in the search for a missing person and undergo on average two years of training during in which they must also demonstrate consistently that they are not interested in any livestock grazing on a hill. In 2010 Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs were called out to help mountain rescue teams 72 times, and five missing people were found by dogs.
Les Telford, one of the assessors for the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs, says 'Regular training is vital for our young dogs as they move towards qualification and also for our qualified dogs. We are very grateful to Friends of the Lake District for making this land available as a training area for us.