Underwater sniffer dog to follow in big brother’s footsteps


THE sister of the first Scots sniffer dog trained to find bodies under water is set to follow in his paw-steps.

Owner Ian Marshall, 44, is training 9-month-old Eriskay to search for missing people under water just like her big brother Barra.

The English springer spaniel is undergoing a gruelling regime so that she can become Scotland’s second submerged human remains rescue dog.

Eriskay wearing a special harness during training 

The pup is being trained to sniff out pig meat, in preparation for the real thing.

Ian, who works full-time for the Coastguard, said he decided to train the pup because the demand is growing for underwater sniffer dogs in Scotland.

He said: “The dogs allow us to take rescues further afield. Submerged rescue dogs are quite in demand and we’ve had a lot of request for assistance.

“The reality is that more and more people are going missing each year and we want word to get around that our service is available.”

Eriskay taking a break during training 

Ian spent £5000 training with Barra for over a year with Mick Swindells of Search Dogs UK and David Jones of the International Rescue Training Centre in Wales.

He and two-year-old Barra qualified in October as a Human Remains Detection Dog & Handler trained to find bodies on land, on the shoreline and submerged.

Since then Barra and Ian, who are based in Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, have worked together across the country on rescue missions to find missing people and are training every day to keep the dog’s skills up to date.

But now, Ian is setting his sights on Eriskay joining the team in their recovery operations next year.

Eriskay on her first Dinghy trip 

“We are in training at the moment and she’s coming along very well. I am training her myself and hopefully this time next year she will be fully trained.

“She’s only 9 months old so she has a lot to learn but it’s going well.

“I am in regular contact with Nick and Dave who trained me last year and they offer me advice and assistance with her training which is great.”

Ian is using pig meat to train Eriskay, just as he did with her brother last year.

He hides pigs flesh in cloth and ties it to trees or buries it under water for the pup to sniff out.

Ian with Eriskay, left, and Barra 

But unlike Barra, who is trained to bark when he smells remains, Eriskay is trained to lie flat on her stomach.

“Barra barks and gets busy as I like to call it. When we are out on the boat he moves from side to side of the boat and starts to bark very loudly.

“Eriskay however lies down when she tracks down a scent.”

Speaking about the service he provides, Ian said: “It’s very important for families to have closure if one of their loved one’s goes missing. It can be very difficult for them.

“In an ideal world, we would find every single body, but it can be very hard to pinpoint sometimes.

“There will always be a need for underwater rescue teams but dogs can be very accurate with their sense of smell.

“We are getting requests from police and we are more than happy to assist with any rescue.”