and Rescue Dogs
search and rescue (SAR) began years ago, with fairly informal
teams looking for lost campers and hikers in wilderness settings.
Training for a SAR dog begins when the pup is born. An obedience
trainer, recognizing a dog's agility and focus as a pup, may
recommend him for search and rescue training.
SAR dog is a working dog, and it needs many of the applicable
traits. In fact, most good SAR dogs are generally smart dogs,
and do equally well in other working disciplines. A SAR dog
should be amiable, comfortable working around people, and
have a pleasant personality. A SAR dog should not be inclined
to bite, or be vicious or aggressive towards people, dogs
or other animals. Many breeds and mixes can be appropriate
for SAR, but not have all of the physical or psychological
makeup the work requires. No compromise can be accepted as
the SAR dog must be of impeccable temperament and stability
even before training commences.
addition, a SAR dog will have to be independent; often they
have to work without constant direction from their handler.
SAR dogs must have a long attention span and be able to concentrate
and stay on task without needing constant reminders and correction.
A field-ready SAR dog can focus on the task at hand, despite
the conditions and difficulty of the task.
general approach to training a dog for search and rescue is
no different from training a dog to complete any other task.
In fact, excellent obedience control is required for disaster
SAR situations to help prevent the dog from hurting itself.
SAR dogs require and undergo serious obedience training: the
SAR dog is a master of many talents, an independent thinker
and a team player. Training and certifying a SAR team takes
a big commitment of time. The people that choose to train
SAR must be as dedicated as the dogs are. The handler also
needs to be trained, to prevent confusion and damage. Individuals
interested in pursuing SAR work should be physically fit and
have an ongoing fitness program; the job can be physically
taxing at times. Almost every state has SAR groups or K9 handlers
that will help civilians train SAR dogs.
relationship between dog and handler is a critical factor
to a successful SAR team. Teamwork is vital between a handler
and a SAR dog. The dogs are taught the necessary skills as
a "game" of increasing difficulty, in partnership with their
handler. SAR dogs generally live and train with their handler,
and it takes about 600 hours of training for a dog to be field
ready. Training is given in a variety of skills necessary
to conduct safe and effective searches.
central jobs of a SAR dog are to find human scent and effectively
alert his handler to the location of the scent. Once in search
mode, SAR dogs will actively and enthusiastically seek out
the source of human scent. The SAR dog's task is to find the
"victim" and to perform a bark alert in order to bring the
can work in most weather conditions, but heavy or long-lasting
rains are the only natural enemies of the SAR. However, it
is rare for an SAR operation to break during good weather
rewarding work, it should be noted that most search and rescue
personnel, ground pounders in SAR terms, are volunteers and
not paid for their work. In times of disaster, SAR dogs are
looked upon as sources of hope, courage, and comfort. It takes
a special kind of animal to be a SAR dog, one who is obedient,
agile, and above all, eager to please.
Francesca Black has worked in the emergency services field
for more than 10 years. More information available at Prepare
for Emergency http://www.prepare-for-emergency.com