The Labrador Retriever is a loyal, intelligent breed with a reputation for bravery and initiative. Whether they are putting their friendly and social nature to work as therapy dogs, using their intelligence to help the visually impaired navigate busy streets as a guide dog or putting their nose to work for the police as a cadaver dog, the Labrador can be found helping people all over the world. Arguably one of the bravest and most noble jobs this breed has been known to perform is the work of a search and rescue dog.
The work of a search and rescue dog, also known as a disaster dog, is a long, exhausting and often very dangerous process. It requires intense concentration and a keen sense of smell. Earthquakes, avalanches, land-slides, terrorist attacks and any other number of disasters can leave people trapped and injured. It is the search and rescue dog’s responsibility to navigate the dangers of a disaster site, locate survivors, and aid disaster-relief workers in bringing people to safety. Thick smoke, dust, burning debris, broken glass and ruptured gas lines make the work of a disaster dog extremely dangerous. These dogs put themselves in incredible danger in order to save the lives of others.
The calm and gentle nature of the Labrador Retriever makes it especially well suited to this kind of work. As a retriever, they naturally enjoy holding objects in their mouths. It is said that a Labrador can hold an egg in its mouth without breaking it. While a soft and tender bite may make the Labrador unsuitable for work as a police protection dog, it is ideal for helping pull a person to safety from an icy river as a search and rescue dog. Alongside the Labrador Retriever, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are breeds that also make excellent search and rescue dogs. Large-scale rescue efforts often include a mix of these breeds. However, as a cultural icon, the Labrador Retriever remains a symbol of humanitarian effort on behalf of all canines.