Avalanche Beacons on Dogs?

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | March 8, 2010      
Backcountry skiing dog.

My dog Princess, circa 1982. No avy beacon on her for this trip.

I’ve heard the cynical (and sometimes deep-down honest) joke that a dog’s life might be more important than an over-populated human’s. But most people that put beacons on their pet canines probably wouldn’t sacrifice their dog over a human friend or loved one. Which begs the question, do backcountry skiers who install standard frequency avalanche beacons on fido think all this through? Or are they just doing something that feels good at the moment or even seems somewhat novel and hip? Sort of like the booze barrel on a St. Barnard out on rescue missions in the Alps?

I’ve been there. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s I had a husky named Princess that I loved dearly. For a while I strapped a beacon to her collar during jaunts in avy terrain around Crested Butte and Aspen.

But it didn’t take long for me to realize that placing a standard frequency avalanche beacon on a dog was ridiculous, if not downright criminal. To put it honestly, I value human lives over animal lives. If a dog was buried along with another person, and I dug up the dog first while the person died of suffocation, in my opinion that would be nothing less than negligent homicide. What’s more, anyone who’s been involved in an avalanche rescue with multiple individuals knows that a crux move is getting everyone’s beacon turned to receive, so they’re not transmitting and thus confusing. Having a dog prancing around with a transmitting beacon would just add to that sometimes nearly insurmountable problem.

Considering the above, it concerns me that anyone would beacon a dog, and that applies to trained rescue dogs as well. Sure, SAR dogs are valuable. But if an avalanche hit a rescue party you were with and made a multiple burial, how would you feel if you dug up a dog before you got to a human? I’ve seen a few ski patrol avy dogs with beacons on their harnesses — bogus.

Anyone care to weigh in?


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71 Responses to “Avalanche Beacons on Dogs?”

  1. Tom Gos March 8th, 2010 10:34 am

    I love my dog, but I don’t take her skiing in the backcountry. I’ve seen too many dogs that get cut by skis, stuck on cliffs, etc. Personally I think it is irresponsible of a dog owner to take a dog backcountry skiing – the dog dosen’t understand the risks or running over to the edge of that cornice, etc. I guess in the end it is a totally personal decision to take a dog skiing and to put a beacon on a dog. If everyone in the group is comfortable with the possibility of digging a dog up first in the event of a burial, then why not put a beacon on the dog? If the group isn’t comfortable with it, then there should be a rational group discussion (as with any serious decision in the BC) and some people may not choose to ski with that group. Of course if everyone is skiing (or running) one at a time the dog/human burial scenario shouldn’t be so difficult. I’m curious if there are any documented stories of a dog being dug up before the human, and a human verifiably dying as a result.

  2. Ken March 8th, 2010 10:44 am

    Avy beacons on dogs is pure selfishness.

  3. Scott March 8th, 2010 10:52 am

    I agree, unless a dog can perform a beacon search, probe, and dig it has no business wearing a beacon.

    Old frequency beacons would be okay for a dog as long as people get dug out first.

    The gray line is skiing alone with the pooch, should you put an extra beacon on your dog? If you are alone and cut something loose a person has the knowledge to try to outrun a slide or escape to the sides, a dog does not know this. While I have put a beacon on my dog during solo outings I only do this when I am in an area where NO ONE is. This is for the simple fact that if I get buried, and on the off chance someone sees me they dont dig my dog out first and then find me 20 minutes later dead…..

    Unfortunately, CO mountain town culture seems to put dogs above people. I see SOOO many ill behaved dogs that do what ever they want with out the owners caring what or who their little pooch is destroying. I imagine the owner that puts a beacon on their dog is the same owner that shrugs off their dog dropping a deuce in the skin track or their little monster eating you sandwich you just laid down on you back while you take your skins off.

    Basically dogs rock, but people often times suck. I’d still dig a person out first….

  4. Scott March 8th, 2010 10:53 am

    On another note is there evidence that dogs due to their weight may ride on top of slides more often than their much heavier owners?

  5. ChrisB March 8th, 2010 10:53 am

    I LOVE my dogs and I LOVE touring with my dogs. I, in no way, would ever put a beacon or a transmitter on them. I agree on all counts. It’s just not the prudent thing to do.

    I sure wouldn’t want to dig up a partners pooch when there are people buried.

  6. Phil March 8th, 2010 11:12 am

    I have often thought about this, I agree with most of the previous comments and Lou about how having a beacon on a dog is not the right thing to do.

    I would however happily pay a premium for some sort of solution that would allow me to find my dog after every person had been recovered.

    Some sort of second frequency? Maybe a pair of old beacons at a different frequency, one on the pooch one in the pack?

  7. Ron Rash March 8th, 2010 11:16 am


    My border collie, Samantha, wears an avi. lung. I tape the mouth peice in her mouth and she does just fine. It also keeps her from biting our heels on the downhills.She’s been buried in 2 avalanches, one for an hour and we’ve found her through extensive probing, no problems. We hope to get her a new avi. airbag and toss her in to some really big avalanches. She really loves avalanches. We don’t put a beacon on her, we tie a cell phone on her and just call her up as we’re probing. It’ all great fun, what a dog!

  8. Chris March 8th, 2010 11:20 am

    Moral of the story is, it would really suck to not come home without your entire party. Be smart out there and realize that the risks you put your partners in (dog or human) can take a fun jaunt to a horrible horrible experience in the wag of a tail (bad pun).

  9. Eric Foss March 8th, 2010 11:23 am

    Good read, Lou! You are 100% right. I think the compromise would be to give the dog a beacon that runs on the old frequency or something. Also, you could just leave your pup at home if you’re really worried about his/her safety. God knows there are plenty of other safe things you can do outdoors with your dog. Skijoring is a blast and doesn’t require your enter avy zones.

  10. Lou March 8th, 2010 11:28 am

    Ron, my man!

  11. Michael Coyle March 8th, 2010 11:35 am

    SOS (Survival On Snow) came up with a solution to this several years ago: different frequency.

    This beacon

    and this transmitter

    The transmitter is not a transceiver (it does not receive), and is suitable for attaching to skis, packs, sleds etc.

    It’s an expensive solution (a new transceiver and a new transmitter), but for sled heads and people who love their equipment and dogs it makes sense.

  12. Mike Bromberg March 8th, 2010 10:49 am

    I see your point with this, but it seems a little bit far fetched to suggest “But if an avalanche hit a rescue party you were with and made a multiple burial, how would you feel if you dug up a dog before you got to a human?”

    Given that multiple burial scenarios account for an estimated 2% of avalanche incidents: I’d have to assume that a multiple burial with transceiver equipped canine scenario occurs even less…

  13. Rick March 8th, 2010 12:00 pm

    Survival on Snow (SOS, http://www.sos-find.com) made a product like this for some time: their SOS-SB transceiver and accompanying “SB” (Sled Bug and Snow Bug) transmitters. Steve Achelis’ excellent resource beaconreviews.com briefly discusses it.

    SOS’s website makes no mention of it; however, did find one here: http://www.greatoutdoorsdepot.com/sos-sb-beacon.html

    I suspect JS knows more details, but it seems that the SB devices transmit (only, no receive mode) on a different (2.275 kHz ?) frequency and the SOS-SB transceiver has a mode that allows for searching on that separate frequency.

    This clearly limits choice with respect to transceiver choice (in more ways than one), however it seems the only option commercially available.

  14. Jonathan Shefftz March 8th, 2010 12:00 pm

    “Given that multiple burial scenarios account for an estimated 2% of avalanche incidents: I’d have to assume that a multiple burial with transceiver equipped canine scenario occurs even less…”
    — That 2% figure refers not to the actual percentage of searches that involve more than one buried person, but rather a subjective judgement as to what percentage of searches would have benefited from a beacon with flagging/masking feature.

  15. Elizabeth March 8th, 2010 12:11 pm

    Agreed. I love my dog… but I love my husband and friends more.

  16. Qberry March 8th, 2010 1:01 pm

    I have the SOS system from a few years ago, and find it has some issues. The dog transmitter only “beeps” about once every 4 seconds, which requires a lot of time and patience to line up a flux line or perform a pinpoint search. The on/off switch did not work when I first got it, and had to send it back for warranty. The new switch is not much better. The battery holder and connections are not very strong, and after a long day bouncing around on my dog would work loose and stop transmitting. I had to fix this by wrapping a rubber band around the battery and connecters. All these problems leave me uncertain about the quality of the human beacon; luckily I also have a Tracker. Regardless, I feel responsible for exposing my dog to avalanche risk, and responsible for finding her if she was buried. I would never use a human frequency beacon on a dog, and I only bring her on tours and conditions well suited to dogs.

  17. Matty March 8th, 2010 2:10 pm

    Ron – I just want to see a photo off your border collie, Samantha, all rigged up for avy terrain! Cute

  18. OMR March 8th, 2010 5:33 pm

    This scenario took place in Utah about six years ago. I may have it wrong, but the rumor is that the skier may have suvived were the search not complicated by the buried dog. Anyone know the facts?

  19. Halsted March 8th, 2010 5:35 pm

    When I worked for the CAIC the “offical policy,” was to not recommend putting a beacon on your dog. I have a feeling that they are still saying that.

    All to often I have watched someone start to ski down a slope and their dog jumps right in behind them. If the slope ripped out and the dog had on a transmitting beacon, you would have a multiple burial situation.

    I love dogs a lot. But, I will not ski with anyone’s dog that has on a beacon.


  20. OMR March 8th, 2010 5:54 pm

    See avalanche.org, accidents, 2002-01-31

  21. Cory March 8th, 2010 6:24 pm

    I have an extra avy beacon. My dog doesn’t wear it for pretty much the reason Lou laid out. I do ski with my dog (low angle, shorter tours). If he dies, I’ll be bummed. If I die, he’ll be bummed. We talked it through and neither one of us is ready to give up skiing.

    Other stupid beacon stuff:
    -I was solo, getting ready to ski my little afterwork spot. I was strapping on my beacon and this gal comes up and says, “What’s that for?” and I said “Body recovery, I don’t want my girlfriend to have to wait til spring.” She had this look like I slapped her and went back to her group, where a slew of hushed poisoned darts were thrown at my reasoning.

    What’s worse?
    -Chasing a dog, trying to get it to change its peeps to receive.
    -Watching a splitboarder spend 20 minutes unassembling and reassembling their board while their partner is dying under the snow 40 feet away.

  22. Wyatt March 8th, 2010 6:27 pm

    Interesting read on that incident. I find it surprising that the victim was an avalanche professional and still had a beacon on his dog. It didn’t make a difference in that case, since he died from trauma, but it easily could have.

  23. Jonathan L March 8th, 2010 8:08 pm

    For me, the key line from the accident report, “The first beacon recovered during the rescue was not attached to any victim. Friends of Brian have postulated that this beacon was ripped off of the dog killed in the avalanche.”

    a) Although the victim apparently died of trauma, this is horrific. For rescuer and victim.

    b) Sadly, here is our control group test on why you need to wear a beacon buried as deeply as possible under every layer of clothing. Yes, it will be ripped off. Keep every bit of tensile strength of Goretex and Capaline on your side of the equation.

  24. Lou March 8th, 2010 8:19 pm

    What Jonathan said

  25. Dennis March 8th, 2010 9:35 pm

    Sounds like your typical cluster of responses wherein people think people are God’s choice. Speaking as a biologist, I note that our unique cluster of genes is NO more unique than any other species. And, before you jump to conflusions, “No.” I don’t put a tranciever on my dog. I’m smart enough to not take her where she can become buried or drop down a tree well without my notice. Those who do, well we’re back to that question about whether you think your DNA is better than a dogs. Personally, me thinks you probably have an inflated opinion of your worth in this cosmos. If you’re subjecting your dog to that sort of danger, you’re probably not much smarter than the dog and , thank you, I’d just as soon not go afield with your ‘quality’ of thought process. Where you take any bundle of DNA ought be safe. Use your brain instead of relying on technology. Some of us are still alive today and began exploration of the winter back in the 60’s and 70’s before common use of becons, shovels and probes. Really. This is not to say that I go out w/o my PIEPS or F1 strapped to my waist. But, if you’re so worried about USING or having to use your technology, maybe you ought spend more time assessing your terrain, snowpack, decision making process, etc. And, leave your dog at home if it’s not a safe trip. Oh, and if you get caught in a slide and the rescuers use a dog to find you alive, remember to tell the dog his DNA ain’t worth shit. The dog’ll still lick you and wag his tail unlike any human you’d say that to.

  26. Steven March 8th, 2010 9:49 pm

    Ortovox makes the D1 Doggy. Seen here:

    Anyone ever use one? Seems like a reasonable option.

  27. Edge March 8th, 2010 11:23 pm

    I would add that putting beacons on dogs nowadays is a bigger issue than it used to be. Some of the newer beacons with marking functions have difficulties dealing with moving transmitters, often telling you to “stop” or “stand still” even if you’re only searching for a single victim. If you have a dog running around with a transmitter on, there’s a very good chance you’re going to have problems with the search, depending on which transceiver you’re using.

    My suggestion would be to purchase a pair of used 2.275 kHz transceivers, like some old Skadi or Ramer beacons. Put one on your dog and keep the other one in your pack in case you need to search for your dog. Then use your normal 457 kHz transceiver for finding humans. If you want to find your dog alive, then you’d better practice your grid searching!

  28. Tom Macfarlane March 8th, 2010 11:23 pm

    The problem with the D1 doggy is that it transmits on the 457 kHz frequency the rest of are using. Doesn’t solve any of the issues.

  29. Todd March 9th, 2010 7:09 am

    I frequently ski in the backcountry with my border collie. I don’t put a beacon on her for all of the cited reasons. If the snow conditions make it really tough for her like deep bottomless powder or breakable crust, for example, I leave her home. Or if I’m skiing with a bigger group where I think a dog might be a nuisance I leave her home, but if it’s a buddy, me and our two dogs, and we’re willing to ski at a slower pace then she comes. She loves it, and if she sees me getting ready to go skiing, gets excited. If I then leave her home she looks disappointed. At least as best as I’m able to tell. There seem to be a lot of very judgmental folks out there on the subject of dogs in the backcountry. I know folks who think it’s irresponsible for a 52 y/o man with a wife and kids (me) to ski in the backcountry because of the risk, so should we all just stop doing it? We try to do it responsibly. As to the original question there seems to be agreement. Don’t put a transceiver on your dog!

  30. sherryb March 9th, 2010 10:26 am

    Dear Ron Rash,
    Have you met Hatter from Alice in Wonderland? May I introduce you? You two would make great tea party hosts. That is funny. My face still hurts from smiling so big. http://www.wildsnow.com/wp-content/plugins/smilies-themer/Nomicons%20v2.0/laughing.png

    I have an old analog Ortovox dog beacon that I use for practice searches. (The shop I bought it from practically gave it to me because they couldn’t sell it) My Pieps DSP reads it as a multiple. Heaven forbid I should do something so crazy as to get more than one partner buried, but even though this beacon is “old technology”, how would I know that I was going after the dog and not my two partners buried together?

    Bottom line: if your dog has a beacon on it, I’m not going with you. :angry:

  31. ChrisB March 9th, 2010 11:43 am

    O.K. Cory, Why did this have to go from “avi beacons on dogs” to a bash the splitboarder post? :angry:

  32. Eric March 9th, 2010 1:01 pm

    IMO,If you think the likekyhood of burial is high enough to put a beacon on your dog, you’re doing it wrong. Unless…

    I leave my dog home when I’m skiing, but often take here snowshoeing. These trips are all on low angle terrain that will not slide. I know with a high certainty that I’m safe, but I see an opportunity for her to wonder into trouble without me noticing. I usully wear a beacon on these hikes as a just in case body recovery tool, so if I had an extra laying around I might consider putting it on her since she is the only one with anything but freak chance of burial and since chances of recovering me alive is also extreamly slim. I would reconsider if it were heavily used or if I ever saw anyone carring a shovel in the area.

  33. Lou March 9th, 2010 1:38 pm

    Sherry, I’m not sure why the emoticons are not working for you. You might be trying to drag/drop them. Instead, just place your cursor where you want one then click on the icon. :angel:

    Or, you can enter some codes manually. For example, the angel with the halo is the word “angel” with a colon at each end. The angry face is the word angry with a colon at each end. I put the angry face in there for you.

  34. Cory March 9th, 2010 4:33 pm

    Not a bash, just a realization brought up by a discussion with a winter mountaineering instructor. I guess it was a bit of a leap from a dog confusing a search to a boarder not being able to immediately perform a search. Either way, someone else is being put at risk and those with a head on their shoulder will understand the risk and decide accordingly.

  35. John Minier March 9th, 2010 4:47 pm

    I reference to the avi stat # comment put forth by Jonathon Shefftz –

    “That 2% figure refers not to the actual percentage of searches that involve more than one buried person, but rather a subjective judgement as to what percentage of searches would have benefited from a beacon with flagging/masking feature.”

    The 2% number is not targeting the percentage of burials which would have benefited from a marking/flagging beacon, but rather the percentage of burials that require a special searching technique to locate all buried beacons – a situation in which the victims are completely buried (no visible clues) and close enough that their transmitting signals overlap. These techniques could be 3 circles, micro grid, or – yes – marking/flagging features. The point is that we are not picking on marking/flagging beacons, and there is no need to play the victim.

    Also, the true percentage varies a little bit depending on where you are (multiples are a bit more common in Europe and Canada), but if you look at the research, you will find that 2% is pretty much spot on for the US. There is nothing subjective about it.

  36. Jonathan Shefftz March 9th, 2010 6:03 pm

    I have looked at the research, and my own analysis of the available data is at:
    http://tinyurl.com/yea5coy (see p. 16)
    The original comment (from a different poster) was that, “multiple burial scenarios account for an estimated 2% of avalanche incidents.” Stated as such, this quantitative claim is clearly incorrect. The only way to arrive at 2% is to apply various criteria and employ some subjective judgement. I am not saying that I necessarily disagree with such criteria and judgement, but still, the 2% figure does not represent the actual multiple-burial incident rate.

  37. Jonathan L March 9th, 2010 6:41 pm

    Dogs on splitboards don’t belong in the backcountry. Period.

    At that point I don’t care if they’re wearing a beacon or not.

  38. Mike Bromberg March 9th, 2010 8:14 pm

    Thanks for the follow up research on this Jonathan S. I had read your article back when I received that TAR…
    I was under the impression that any study involving targeted statistical outcomes is inherently somewhat subjective – although that’s more Jonathan S’s bag.

    John M, I appreciate your comment and that statistic (whether subjective or not) is one that I often quote to emphasize the importance of proficiency at single victim rescue scenarios and the fact that if you are dealing with a multiple burial scenario you have “screwed the pooch” in a big way and will have numerous complexities to surmount in order to complete a successful rescue. I think that beacons equipped with a marking/flagging features are great; so are beacons without… like John said “we are not picking on marking/flagging beacons”

    In reference to Lou’s original post: Yes, I would assume that having a transceiver equipped canine interfere with a rescue is could be problematic… To me this is one of the many complex human factor issues that backcountry travelers should figure out amongst their partners. Doggie travel techniques? K9 Terrain guidelines? I ski with my dog often, but with very strict guidelines based on stability, snowpack and terrain. FWIW- he doesn’t have a beacon.

  39. SteveG March 9th, 2010 9:19 pm

    “Dogs on splitboards don’t belong in the backcountry. Period. ”
    I agree. With their lighter weight, dogs on Dynafits make a lot more sense. 🙂

  40. Mark W March 10th, 2010 12:22 am

    People are more important than dogs, or any other animals, but they have such an amazing impact on our lives that sometimes these debates arise.

  41. Mason March 10th, 2010 9:09 am

    One time my hound dog sniffed around on some moose tracks and then couldn’t figure out which skin track to follow me up. He then proceeded to bay and howl for 45 minutes until I skied down. This brings up the issue of which breed is better for backcountry, but, more importantly, it proves hounds may be smarter than the guy from Colorado who used his PLB as a transceiver!

  42. Jim Sogi March 10th, 2010 11:56 am

    Dogs have a great sense of smell. Rememer in the old days they used dogs for mountain rescue. The old St. Bernards had the little keg under their collar. Was there some rum in there? The dogs, properly trained, could smell a human easily under feet of snow, could move fast over debris.

    The dog should not wear a beacon. Also, unless well trained, probably better not to have the dog in the pure wilderness area for wildlife protection. Environmentally humans carry out or bury waste properly. Dogs don’t tho owners should, but I doubt they do.

  43. Hamish Gowans March 10th, 2010 11:20 am

    Anyone remember that irreverent Tami Knight cartoon about Avy Poodles? Where you send the poodle down first and either…nothing happens and you go skiing !woohoo! or…whumpf! ooooh, you need a new poodle.

    D1doggy is a nice thought, but should be a different frequency from human beacons. SAR/Ski Patrol should use these because the dog is such a huge asset in searches.

    I’m ambivalent about dogs in avy terrain and the backcountry in general, but some people really do not think it through and are going to dig up their dog instead of their partner one of these days. The most moronic among them name their dog Avalanche, which is like naming a Secret Service dog “gun” or your child “Fire”.
    There we were, hanging at the top of Dave’s Wave and someone starts yelling “Avy! Avy!” and everyone’s hair stands on end, adrenalin surges and alert levels go to mega. Turns out, some imbecile has his dog with him and the dog doesn’t listen very well so he really has to yell, but he’s sorry so it’s all good, bro. This guy I think was guilty of yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater and made me wish his dog’s last name was Victim -naw, better just to change the dog’s name to something more in line with glisse hopes instead of fears…something like Powder or Chugach.
    Like I said before, some people are not getting it right about dogs and beacons on dogs are another chance for them to get it wrong (so long as there is no dog-specific frequency beacon).

  44. 4everthirsty March 10th, 2010 8:25 pm

    the mutt might poach a sammy out of yer buddy’s pack at lunch, but you know how much PBR yer bro is gonna snag out of your cooler back at the trailhead. you decide…

  45. Hate Dogs? March 10th, 2010 8:31 pm

    For all you dog haters out there, and it seems like there a whole lot of you (just another sign of how colorado has become more east coast than, well, the east coast) why don’t cha just move on up to Salt Lake City and ski the Wasatch, where you can hike, ski, bike and run dog-free, year round.

  46. Lou March 10th, 2010 9:41 pm

    The new fascism, any time one voices an opinion about a sacred cow (or dog), they are a hater. Let’s save those accusations for something serious that actually involves hate.

  47. Jonathan L March 11th, 2010 1:01 am

    My dog’s first name is Avalanche. His middle name is Rock!!!!! His last name is Up Rope. He has an old and new frequency beacon strapped to him. I carry a Ziploc back full of Milkbones and toss them out on the cornices to check if it’s safe.

    Oddly enough, no one will climb or ski with me.

    And yes, he’s a poodle.

    Which is warmer, winter or summer? Is this a trick hemisphere question. Lou?

  48. Lou March 11th, 2010 7:16 am

    Jonathan, now you’ve got me confused. Don’t they call it winter whether you’re in the southern hemi or northern? I’ve been south of the equator once, skiing, and I can’t remember.

  49. sherryb March 11th, 2010 10:41 am

    Thanks, Lou. I don’t remember what I did to get that result.
    After reading all the hate mail about dogs, I just wanted to clarify that if a dog does not wear a beacon, it is welcome to come along.
    However, I have a friend with a Rottweiler that has a really hard time in deep winter snow. We had to take the poor thing back to the car and leave it once. I think maybe consolidated spring snow is more reasonable for dogs and perhaps, less dangerous conditions. 😉

  50. gonzoskijohnny March 11th, 2010 2:28 pm

    For those who are responsible enough to have thier ski dog avy trained, and have enough consideration for thier ski buds to NOT use modern freq. beacons on the 4 legged friends, I have a couple of old Pieps 2.275 beacons lying around.
    If anyone wants one for their avy dog and one for searching for it AFTER all the humans with modern freq. beacons are recovered, they can contact me.

  51. altis March 13th, 2010 3:09 pm

    I’ve never tried one but perhaps you could use a Loc8tor:


  52. Jonathan Shefftz March 13th, 2010 7:07 pm

    A fellow ski patroller and avy instructor bought the Loc8ator out of curiosity. No directional indicators, but impressive signal separation (which points out just how easy marking/flagging could be if a new beacon spec were developed). Unfortunately, the frequency won’t work well under snow.

  53. George W. March 15th, 2010 8:10 am

    Hey GonzoSkiJohnny~
    After reading this discussion I have been considering getting my Golden Retriever “Tuckerman” one of the older frequency units. I would like to take you up on the offer if yours are still available. He is a regular visitor to the ravine from which he takes his name and I would like to try to offer him this protection.

  54. Jim March 16th, 2010 1:33 pm


    Here is a gps tracker for dogs. Maybe this is a good alternative to the beacon for finding the beloved dog? Not sure if it works under snow.

  55. SAR Dog Trainer March 21st, 2011 3:36 pm

    “Considering the above, it concerns me that anyone would beacon a dog, and that applies to trained rescue dogs as well. Sure, SAR dogs are valuable. But if an avalanche hit a rescue party you were with and made a multiple burial, how would you feel if you dug up a dog before you got to a human? I’ve seen a few ski patrol avy dogs with beacons on their harnesses — bogus.”

    We don’t train these dogs so that they can enter danger INSTEAD of us under the pretense that their lives are less valuable than ours. We train them because they can do something we can’t. Unfortunately for you, handlers do NOT put their dogs at risk in order to find you. If there is a threat of danger to either man or dog, the team will not enter the avalanche zone. Which means, IF an avy dog should ever find itself buried it would be only after the utmost caution was already used, unlike humans who throw themselves into the path of danger for a thrill.

    Neither the dog nor the handler looking for you PUT YOU in the situation you might find yourself in one day, buried under the snow. Handlers have a responsibility to maintain the welfare of the animals that work so hard, so loyally and with so much dedication for YEARS towards the possibility of one day saving your life that you alone, by yourself, put at risk. You bet your ass I’m going to dig my dog up first, even if he transmits on the old frequency.

    The only exception might be an urban situation where INNOCENT people who did NOT run themselves out into an avalanche zone for pleasure are buried.

    As for pets wearing transmitters, I’d be inclined to agree with you. However, SAR dogs are an asset to humanity beyond measure. Dig up a SAR dog and more lives will be saved. How many lives are you planning on saving if we dig you up and let my dog die?

  56. climbingranger April 18th, 2011 10:18 am

    Thought I’d add this to the discussion:
    Pieps makes two beacons that one might consider. I have used neither and I would be interested to know if anyone else has experience with these items. The information I found was on http://www.patrollersupply.com. Search “dog”.
    The Pieps Backup Transmitter works on 457 kHz and is only supposed to work if no other transmitter is sending. Obviously this would only be good for finding single burials.
    The second Pieps is the TX600 which the manufacturer says transmits on 457.600 Hz (kHz?). This sounds like a resonable idea in that you could find your friends first on 457 kHz then switch to 457.600 and locate Fido.
    Technology is great but sometimes things like this work better in theory.
    I’d be interested in hearing from anyone that has used either of these items.

  57. Johann Slam October 23rd, 2011 12:05 pm

    Just ordered 2 of the Pieps TX600 units and will put them through some testing.
    I for years have tried many different options for my various working dogs. Orotovox used to make a Ski mouse which worked well when attached to the dog harness/collar, but it does not match the current beacon abilities. I also used the SOS sled bug unit, but not much luck on it. I stopped using the skier freq for my dogs with a variety of send only units years ago, when someone first raised the issue and I agree that although I value the life of my dogs alot- the human life will come first. I’ll also put forth that dogs that are in the mountains must be trained. A dog chasing wildlife, setting it’s own track where I don’t wanna be or raising the risk level for my groups is unacceptable and just like a person- would not be welcome in my group.

  58. canfireskier October 30th, 2011 10:03 pm

    “As for pets wearing transmitters, I’d be inclined to agree with you. However, SAR dogs are an asset to humanity beyond measure. Dig up a SAR dog and more lives will be saved. How many lives are you planning on saving if we dig you up and let my dog die?”

    Hey let me know when your dog can dig me out from under even a meter of snow. I know i they do an improtant job but they are a tool out there and do not take the place of a human and a shovel.

  59. SAR Dog Trainer October 31st, 2011 2:28 am

    canfireskier -“Hey let me know when your dog can dig me out from under even a meter of snow”

    ANSWER: NOW. My dog can find your scent under METERS of snow and will immediately start digging. I guess you didn’t know that. Not just digging but POUNCE digging. There is nothing an ava dog wants more than to unbury the human subject because that is what they are traind to do. By the time we two legged rescuers get there, the dog will be half way to you if not already have reached you. If you are a lucky enough bastard to have an ava dog on your scent.

    I challange anyone who is skeptical on this to go to your local avalanche dog reacue group and volunteer to be buried for an avalanche exercize. Seeing is believing and if you don’t have the education as to what these dogs are and do you really don’t have an educated response to this post.

  60. Lou October 31st, 2011 8:49 am

    SAR, so, avalanche rescue dogs work in the right situation. I agree. But extending your take, are you saying that we all should travel with at least one avy rescue dog in each group of skiers? Otherwise, I don’t understand how dogs can effectively save lives in the case of most avalanche burials, since in most accidents they wouldn’t be there quickly enough.

    As for the philosophical take of sacrificing a human for a dog’s life… I think most people in our culture tend to have the same answer to that perplexing moral dilemma.

    As for digging, I do know that dogs dig and dig well. To an extent. But I’m curious how they would throw snow up out of a 5-foot deep pit on level ground. I’ve had many dogs of my own, and watched them dig in both snow and dirt. The lack of shovel is eventually a problem.

  61. Chris December 26th, 2011 6:04 pm

    Came across this article as I was contemplating putting my old beacon on my dog. All of the reasons in the article were running around in my head, but I think there are a few differences. I ski solo a lot, so it would be nice to be able to find her on my own if needed. Wouldn’t do it with my usual group with me though.

    Also, screw the comments on splitboards. I ski and splitboard, and if it takes any splitboarder 20 mins to switch, they should be practicing a hell of a lot more. It takes me, maybe 2 mins while talking and grabbing a bite to eat. In a search scenario, and I’ve practiced, you can usually board down to the point of last scene and then jump out of the board and get mobile without skis. Or, split the board without skins, which takes about 45 sec to go from board to touring.

    Grow up, that mountaineering instructor just doesnt like snowboarders, that much is obvious.

  62. July June 20th, 2013 11:20 am

    Guys, guys…see…it’s not the question to put a beacon, or not. The question is, if you have of course a avalanche rescue dog with you will you make the stupid mistake to leave it before the run on the slope, or after, ha ?! And YES..I’ll put standard beacon on my Samoyed dog, and yes it can DIG, and first will dig the guys with intellect and may be if I train it, it will leave the stupid ones behind 😉

    Before the other comments follow here is my point below !

    So, in my ava. safety group they teach us to run one by one and that answers all your dummy posts above. If you have multiple burial it will be because you are stupid enough to run all on the same slope 😉 Got it ?

    Yeah, yeah…there will be comments just like…how big is the slope, how much skiers are in it and etc. but if you are smart enough and carry about your life you will follow the damn principles…

  63. Hacksaw June 20th, 2013 12:04 pm

    Well Judy…. I guess I won’t be skiing with you and your dog…..

  64. Amanda February 16th, 2014 5:53 pm

    Pieps have a beacon for your dog / equipment that transmits at a different frequency than people beacons. So in an avalanche situation you can choose to find the people before you find the dog or camera equipment.

    Problem solved!

  65. Todd February 22nd, 2014 11:06 pm

    I think I am sick after reading this article. I would not have even thought this way. I value all life and for the author to say this makes me sick, but as so clearly pointed out others one may if you find yourself in a multiple burial then you are probably not any smarter than the dog.
    Hacksaw, don’t worry I am sure July won’t want to ski with you either, but I find it amusing to think that you thought she wanted to ski with you.

  66. Jack February 23rd, 2014 11:05 am

    I just read this thread and Scott’s comment about dogs searching, probing, and digging left me wondering: with a suitably modified receiver that gives audio clues only allow a dog to search? I mean, I’ve seen my dog encounter the spot where a deer bedded down and do a frenetic spiral search that found the track in a matter of 10 seconds or so, working with another dog. Its a little outlandish, but another searcher is another searcher.

  67. Gwinz January 12th, 2016 10:03 pm

    I read this thread on dogs wearing avi beacons long ago and am now revisiting it see if anyone has tried the Pieps TX 600 Transmitter – for dogs or gear. Can anyone report on how well it performs? Does it require a different receiver? And if not, how does one distiiguish between the dog’s signal and that of a person? Thanks if you can help with these questions!

  68. Jeremy C January 13th, 2016 4:20 am

    @Gwinz, as far as I am aware you need to have a Pieps beacon to pick up the different frequency. From the Pieps website “The PIEPS TX600 can be received with every PIEPS DSP PRO ICE, PIEPS DSP PRO and PIEPS DSP (version 8.2)”.

  69. Gwinz January 13th, 2016 1:58 pm

    Thanks. I read one (negative) product review on a sellers’ website that indicated that there are problems with the system. Just wondering if anyone has first-hand experience.

  70. Gwinz January 18th, 2016 10:48 am

    In case someone out there is wondering — I did get an answer to my question above from BD, which sells the device:

    “After you have found all 457kHz beacon burials, with your beacon still in SEARCH mode hold down the SCAN and ENTER button at the same time for 5 seconds which will put you over to the 456kHz frequency to help you find your furry friend.”

  71. Adam Osuchowski December 8th, 2016 3:17 pm

    I recently introduced my pup to the backcountry, and she loves it! But it also has me worried, it would take a lot less snow to bury a dog, and even a bunch of sluff could potentially get my dog buried in the snow, leaving me with only 1 option – probe until I find her. We all know how long that could take. Worse yet I never find her and she simply sits there until the snow melts out, I shutter at the thought.

    While thinking about this I was struck with an idea – those stupid smartphone avalanche apps! I long ago wrote those off as an awful replacement to a phone, but now I’m thinking that this could be a useful solution to finding my dog and being able to distinguish her from human burial.

    All I would need is an extra smart phone, which I have laying around, and the app on both phones. Phone antennas do not have the long wave frequency that avalanche beacons operate on, I’m believe the phone apps work off bluetooth. I’m sure the phone app is far inferior in accuracy of a legit avalanche beacon, but its the only solution I see to doing something for my dog (besides dropping $500 on pieps beacon and another $200 on their special doggie beacon, I’m currently using the Mammuth Element). In the worse case scenario, where I use this app and fail to find my dog in time, I would at least know I tried.

    So my question now is: Has anyone tried these? Or at least tried using the phone avalanche beacon apps? I never have because previously I saw no use for them, but now with my new pup getting into the backcountry I see some potential…

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