The Labrador Retriever is often found working in airports, on street patrol, and in other public locations, as it has been found that they have the concentration capacity and staying power to maintain scent work in large, populated areas.
The Labrador Retriever is becoming more popular in this job and have been known for their ability to work among civilians without creating anxiety which is often known to occur when the more traditional police dogs such as German Shepherds and Dobermans are used.
Following in the path of the Saint Bernard, the Labrador Retriever has become a vital part of rescue teams. The Labrador’s superior scenting ability has made him one of the top Disaster Dogs. Because of their keen sense of smell, Labradors are being trained to find people buried by the debris of earthquakes or similar disasters.
The work is arduous and requires great concentration in dangerous surroundings; The dog must go to his task in the rubble of collapsed buildings, surrounded by the clamor of emergency vehicles, and often fire.
In these crisis situations, the air is usually choked with dust, smoke, and gas escaping from broken gas lines. A Labrador Retriever is able to focus on the human scent and locate trapped victims. Upon making a find, the Disaster Dog is trained to indicate this to his handler by barking and scratching gently at the spot.
The intensity of the bark generally indicates whether the victim is dead or alive. The handler calls in another team to verify and then notifies the rescue officials, who do the removal.
The Labrador Retriever works efficiently, in a calm, gentle manner, rather than the aggressive, almost attacking method exhibited by breeds that have been tried but eliminated from the program. Each Disaster Dog has undergone extensive training and must be fully reliable to work individually off-lead and be fully responsive to his handler.
Despite his desire to continue searching, a Disaster Dog must withdraw immediately upon command, as the handler may spot a danger that the dog is unaware of.
The Disaster Dog program is run by unpaid volunteers who teach the dog to master all obedience skills as well special techniques.
A Disaster Dog must be trained to climb over difficult obstacles, such as ladders, thin walk ways, rocks, and downed trees, and avoid broken glass, collapsing surface and other life-threatening situations. He must also be able to climb on through small windows or crevices where people may be trapped.
This type of work requires a superlative dog like the Labrador Retriever that is dedicated to saving lives, putting his own on the line without fear.