A PUPPY has high hopes for its future as it bids to join the mountain rescue family.

River is hoping to become the latest addition of the Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs and join the team’s training programme to become a graded dog.

Training officer Andrew Peacock said it was an exciting moment for the team: “It’s always exciting to get a new puppy. Dogs are really important for what we do, because they aren’t affected a great deal by the weather, they use their nose all the time and – while the heat may affect them a little – the rain doesn’t and they’re able to cover big distances.”

The Lake District Mountain Rescue Search Dogs is a voluntary organisation. Handlers are all operational members of mountain rescue teams within the area. They specialise in searching for missing people.

While River is not yet a member of the team, the puppy is undergoing some training to work on obedience. Team members will then start working on its focus.

Andrew said: “We work on a particular drive and then reward dogs with their favourite toy or food – we work on positive reinforcement. We’re very careful about how we train them.”

If River is found to have the right skills, it will then undergo tests.

One of the important aspects for the puppies is to ensure they do not show interest in sheep, as they are a regular feature of the fells were many of the mountain rescue team’s activity is carried out.

“If they’re successful they then move into the association and they become a trainee search dog.”

It generally takes around two years to train a dog, depending on the type.

Search dogs are trained to follow the scent carried and dispersed in the wind by people.

Andrew said: “There’s a big group of people helping to train the dogs as search dogs.

“But all our dogs are pets before they are search dogs.”