Training Mountain Rescue Dogs during lockdown for peak performance

16 June 2020

Ross Pringle, a first year Design Engineering Graduate Apprentice at Leonardo, has been spending some time during the UK lockdown volunteering to train Search and Rescue dogs.

In 2016, Ross’s family started volunteering at Search & Rescue Dog Association (SARDA) Southern Scotland, an organisation that trains search and rescue dogs for local Mountain Rescue teams. Explaining how he became involved in the organisation, Ross says: “My stepdad is a member of the Ochil’s Mountain Rescue Team and had always hoped to train his own mountain search dog. As a family, we agreed to support him and all helped choose Evie, our black Labrador – a breed well suited to this type of role.”

As part of the dogs’ training, Ross acts as a ‘casualty’ for the dogs to search for and lead the handlers to their location. “SARDA Southern Scotland holds monthly training weekends, basing themselves at different hillside locations in all types of Scottish weather,” adds Ross. “My brother and I volunteer as ‘missing persons’, which means walking or climbing to a remote location and basically lying hidden in the undergrowth waiting to be found by the various dogs out training. Depending on the weather (and the midges) it can be very relaxing, but it’s sometimes bitterly cold and soaking wet. We keep in contact with base using radios, and the ‘casualties’ are always pleased to see the dogs when they come in. As a family, we all do our bit to support training our dog and the others in the team.”

Ross says that one of the reasons he joined Leonardo was due to its work manufacturing technology for search and rescue services. “Leonardo manufactures search and rescue helicopters such as the AW101 and the AW189, and since my family works with mountain rescue, I know first-hand how important these helicopters and the surveillance radars we produce are in bringing lost and injured people home safely. This led me to apply for Leonardo’s graduate apprenticeship in Edinburgh, which allows me to have practical, hands-on experience while also studying for a degree.”