Search dogs were first introduced to UK Mountain Rescue in the 1950s. They had previously been used in the Alps for many years, especially for avalanche rescue. Hamish MacInnes of the Glencoe Team and ‘Guru’ of British Mountain Rescue successfully adapted their use for British rescue conditions. One significant difference was the move from German Shepherds to Border Collies as the predominant search dog breed.

It takes up to 3 years fully to train a dog to work in a rescue team, with an expected working life of 10 years. In the right conditions, a fully trained dog is 10 or 12 times more effective than a human rescuer. Search dogs use their incredible sense of smell to pick up ‘air scent’: they can detect a human scent from 500 metres in optimum conditions. These dogs are especially useful in forestry where a human search is compromised by dense branches and undergrowth. The dog teams are also the first to be mobilised for night searches or in bad visibility. Handlers and their dogs usually work on their own and will often be the first to reach a casualty and it is, therefore, essential that the handlers have excellent first-aid skills.

Lake District Search dogs could not operate without their ‘bodies’. Bodies are volunteer members who act as live casualties for the search dogs during training and assessment sessions. If you would like to become a dogsbody or want to find out more about the work of the search dogs, go to

 Penrith MRT Search Dogs

Matt N and Morag

Morag (Active from 2018 - Present)
Handler: Matt Nightingale

Morag was rescued from the Streets of Carlisle as a stray by the Oaktree Animals' Charity. In 2014, Morag was adopted by Matt who decided to train her as a search dog.

Becky Lowis, community engagement officer at Oak Tree, said: "We are absolutely delighted to hear that she has done so well in her new home and that she has achieved her green tag which both she and Matt have worked so hard to gain."

Matt and Morag qualified as search dog and handler in the summer of 2018. Their story was featured on ITV Border news, you can find it here.



Kaz, Angus, Dottie

Dottie (Active from 2007 - 2017)
Handler: Karen Frith

Karen Frith passed out her second search dog Dottie in 2007. Dottie graded after 14 months of training at only 2 years old. 
Dottie is enjoying retirement after 10 and a half years of service, completing 250 callouts and finding 8 casualties.

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Penrith MRT are now using Digital Mapping and GPS for Mobile Devices provided by ViewRanger