Surrounded on three sides by sparkling blue coastal waters, Italy boasts some of the best beaches in the world. However, with so much coastline to cover, the country’s coast guards have a much larger area to traverse. They realized early on that their unit needed a special type of a lifeguard, one with four legs instead of two.
Having sailed aboard ships since ancient times, the Newfoundland breed has become an ideal rescue companion for Italy’s K9 Lifeguard unit. Their fur is waterproof, and their bodies are designed to be excellent swimmers. They are agile enough to leap from helicopters into the water below and strong enough to tow their targets to safety. Additionally, the breed’s docile nature and high intelligent level makes them easy to train.
Roberto Gasparri, the Coordinator for the Italian School of Water Rescue Dogs, said, “The dog becomes a sort of intelligent lifebuoy.”
Italy’s elite unit is made up of about 300 dogs, who accompany their handlers on patrol and rescue missions throughout the year. In total, these dogs rescue about 3,000 people from the surrounding waters.
Fabio Moro, a first marshal harbor coachman for the Italian Coast Guard, said, “Rescue dogs help us keep the [coastal] areas under control.”
Typically, the coast guard’s K9 unit undergoes a minimum of three years for training. They are taught to jump from hovering helicopters and speeding boats. Additionally, civilians can undergo a year-long rescue dog program to get their dogs certified. They then donate their time and their dog’s skills to whoever is in need.
So if you’ve ever been concerned about swimming in Italy’s coastal waters, never fear, these incredible dogs will be there to keep you safe.