Meet the Avalanche Dogs of Zermatt

If the worst occurs and an avalanche catches some skiers and snowboarders, then every minute counts.

According to the American Avalanche Association, an avalanche victims’ chances of survival are 92% if found in the first 15 minutes. Within 45 minutes, three-quarters of victims are dead.

Every minute counts

This is why Zermatt’s avalanche dogs are so important. It’s estimated that a dog’s sense of smell is between 10,000 and 100,000 times better than humans.

They can use that to our advantage as with this skill, it means they can find people (and equipment) below the snow far more quickly.

Large dogs, but not too heavy

Zermatt’s avalanche dogs include a Labrador, Appenzeller and Australian Shepherd. All are large enough dogs to be able to get around in deep snow, but not so heavy that they will sink into it.

These specialist dogs are trained using unique snow caves formed by special balloons, with simulated avalanche victims, skis and backpacks placed within them.

Training starts with puppies

Training starts when the dogs are just puppies. The first steps are to desensitise them from loud noises, such as helicopters.

The next stage in training is building the ability to find humans, which starts with their owners, and then moves on to strangers. Training to this top level usually takes three years and dogs are re-tested every two years.

Dog friendly accommodation in Zermatt

Thanks to these teams of dog and handler, lives are saved every winter. On behalf of everyone using the mountain, we say thank you to these dogs that truly are ‘man’s best friend’.

If you are a dog lover and want to bring your dog with you to Zermatt, then we can help. We offer several dog-friendly options for accommodation in resort.

For advice on choosing the right property for you and your dog, please contact Matterhorn Chalets on +41 79 247 15 88

Poppy on the slopes with Suzanne

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