Handler Ian Higginbotham with trainee search dog Keppi

Handler Ian Higginbotham with trainee search dog Keppi

Search dogs will be able to enjoy regular training sessions on a Cumbrian fell after its owners offered the land for their use.

Members of Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs will be able to use The Helm near Oxenholme as a training ground thanks to the Friends of the Lake District, which owns the fell.

The Helm, a 182m (597ft) hill south-east of Kendal will be available for rescue dog training on a Saturday morning and Thursday evening, including after dark.

The Friends warned the public lights may be seen on the eastern side of the Helm if the dogs are working. The charity said people are still welcome to use Friends of the Lake District land if the search and rescue dogs are there, and handlers will gladly talk about what they are doing and why.

Up to 10 dogs and handlers could be present at any one session, with a maximum of two dogs working at any time.

Les Telford, an assessor for Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs, said: “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.”

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, with five missing people being found by dogs.

Judith Moore from Friends of the Lake District said: “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.”

Friends of the Lake District own land on the east side of the Helm, a popular area for walkers, which they bought in 2007 to improve it for wildlife and open it up for public access.

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