How To Properly Train Search And Rescue Dogs

So far, your tiny kipper has demonstrated a high level of success in tracking down and recovering lost treats from inside of sofa cushions. And you’re now considering that he could just be qualified to advance to search and rescue status. In all honesty, you might be underestimating your dog’s capacity for search and find. Maybe you’re not, though.

See, SAR (Search and Rescue) dogs come in all different sizes and shapes. While the majority favor the Bloodhound, German Shepherd, and Retriever breeds, charisma, a willingness to learn, and a close bond with their handler are also important factors in this sector. If you’re thinking “check, check, and check,” it might be time to investigate the hidden processes involved in training these special dogs.

A Search and Rescue Dog’s Function

It boils down to search and find, then a rescue or recovery, just as the name suggests. In addition to working in the wake of natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, avalanches, and, of course, who can forget the canine teams crawling over the jumbled remnants of the World Trade Center in 2001, these canines are specifically trained to look for lost or missing persons.

SAR canines provide special skills that are suited to scouring broad regions that would otherwise take a search team days to traverse, and they work with qualified handlers (that’s you, by the way). They can focus on a particular scent, speed up the rescue, and ultimately save lives. As a result, this breed of dog is trained specifically in the areas of tracking using a person’s scent, a faint scent on the ground like footprints, or from what is known as “air scent,” which is what would be used in a natural disaster when searching for survivors rather than specific persons.

An SAR dog is trained to either sit, remain, and bark or to go back to the handler and direct them to the area once their objective has been accomplished and the person located.

The Requirements

Recall how we stated that any breed could be eligible for this specific training? Here, we begin to focus on the physical needs your pet will have, the abilities he will need to develop, and the duties he will have to carry out.

Size and Strength: Your dog will need to be in excellent condition, be a medium- to large-sized breed, and have strong legs and a solid physique owing to the likelihood of demanding jobs that may require him to move across rugged terrain. Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd Dogs, and Labrador Retrievers are a few of the better breeds.

Above Average Olfactory Sense: An SAR dog must be able to detect a scent rapidly, follow it over great distances, in any weather, and frequently even days after it was left. Breeds including Basset Hounds, Beagles, and Bloodhounds are some of the better choices.

Motivated and High Energy: Possessing the perseverance and problem-solving abilities to continue a search no matter the weather, the terrain, or the duration. Breeds like Malinois, Coonhounds, and Giant Schnauzers are some of the better choices.

Intelligent and Focused – Since every rescue mission is time-sensitive, the canines in charge of the search must be single-minded, concentrated, and not readily distracted by other animals. Labrador retrievers, German Shepherd dogs, and Border Collies are a few of the breeds that are more acceptable.

An SAR dog must be able to respond rapidly to commands, concentrate on the task at hand, and adjust quickly to changing circumstances in a crisis situation. Breeds including the Standard Poodle, Border Collies, and all varieties of Pointers are among the more acceptable ones.

The Education

Since dogs are naturally curious, enthusiastic “hunters,” and extremely tenacious creatures, it’s probable that you already meet many of these requirements. But as the aforementioned requirements demonstrate, this role requires more than just being a willing participant. And both you and your dog are subject to this. In fact, after passing the fundamentals, the challenging certification process starts. And this is the point at which you need hire qualified trainers.

Before your dog is qualified to work in the field, you both need to complete a national certification exam in urban search and rescue, according to the Federal Emergency Measures Agency (FEMA). In order to make sure your dog is emotionally and physically ready to handle this crucial work, it is normally carried out once he turns 2 years old. And every three years the certification needs to be renewed

Here are a few easy stages that will assist you and your pet get ready for the subsequent, more difficult training. Think of it as a trial run to evaluate if your dog is ready to move on to the next stage.

Five Simple Orders

If your dog has undergone obedience training, he will answer right away to the five orders of Sit, Stay, Lay Down, Leave It, and Heel. This is the first step in making him a superstar SAR dog. Until you move on to the next stage of training, which can take up to 600 hours before your dog is field-ready, you’ve got some work to do if he isn’t there yet.

Following a Smell

This work is similar to the games you play at home to your dog. You have to make him find something before rewarding him. He receives a specific person’s scent through a piece of clothing when tracing their scent, and he then needs to locate that person (who has hidden several yards away). To get your dog to start using ground and air scent tracking, gradually increase the duration and distance.

Overcoming Challenges

Once he has demonstrated his ability to track a scent, you must raise the stakes by introducing obstacles, which can include other dogs or animals, bad weather, and noisy surroundings. Try burying your goodies or hiding them in places where he must dig to find them to encourage his ground scenting.

Your dog will be prepared to start his SAR training once he has mastered these skills. During this training, your dog will be evaluated on his agility, perseverance, willingness to continue in difficult circumstances, and ability to produce a focused bark when communicating back to his handler.

As the handler, you’ll also need training in areas like CPR, orienteering, maintaining crime scenes, and other things. These abilities, as well as your search strategies, mapping abilities, briefing and debriefing abilities, and dog management abilities, will be examined.

After That?

Once you and your dog have gained certification, you must register so that local search and rescue organizations can contact you. You will then be available for duty as needed. The nationally renowned SAR training, certification, and testing organizations are listed below.

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