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Anyone know about Search & Rescue dogs?


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  • Anyone know about Search & Rescue dogs?

    Thanks for all the advice posted to my other query. Everyone I've talked to has horror stories about their dogs when first brought home, so I guess it's just a matter of proper training. I've been lucky with the dogs I've had all my life--none of them ever exhibited destructive behavior. I've been giving her lots of attention and exercise the last couple of days and she seems very happy. I think this is going to work out just fine.

    Re crating--I always thought you had to crate train a dog while still a puppy; don't know how it will work with a (large, muscular) 1 1/2 year old. Anyone ever try it with a dog this age?

    Here's the other thing. I just found out that she's probably a Carolina Dog, a rare breed developed from wild dogs from South Carolina. There's a great article on this breed in the Smithsonian Inst. magazine at www.carolinadogs.org/smith.html

    This breed is very gentle, good with children, adults and other dogs, and exhibits hierarchical pack behavior (which is good for training--they will listen to a leader). The Carolina Dog homepage says that they are currently being maintained in several types of enclosures, such as fenced-in back yards, etc. They are not likely to try to dig out or jump over as long as they are happy and stimulated inside their enclosure. They are not as inclined as many other primitive type dogs to escape or "be free", but do have a strong hunting instinct.

    I've noticed all this and more--when walking around the nearby lakes at night this dog picks up scents on the ground and sounds in the air (that I can't hear), and senses people, even in the dark. I'm thinking she might be a good search and rescue dog. I found a website for the AZ Search & Rescue organization, but before I contact them, does anyone know what characteristics are required for a good S&R dog? Also is the training very expensive?

    Thanks again for all your input. I know many of you have extensive experience with dogs.

  • #2
    I do beleive you would have to donate the dog and you don't get the dog back if the accept him. You can contact your local animal training facilities and ask them for more info on what is available in your area. They will teach your animal. I love dog training, and the whole crate training is pretty good when they are young. I can generally train a dog to pee outside within two weeks. its a lot of time consuming effort on the owners part. And can be very expensive depending on how much training you want the dog to have.
    Oh... Oh... I know you di-int!


    • #3
      Try this site:


      Go to handler and search dog requirements on the left side of the screen. This is a very reputable company, you may can even email them for more info if you'd like.

      Hope this helps.
      In valor there is hope - Tacitus


      • #4
        Well Sandy,

        I guess it's possible to do, but why would you want to search a rescue dog? Certainly they are trained to be the good guys eh?

        But to answer your question, yes, it's possible to search rescue dogs, and there would be no need to read them any rights, but for sure the officer would have to have at minimum enough legal justification to protect his actions in court.

        Strange question, though...

        Jim Burnes


        • #5

          You'd have to have probable cause that a crime was being commited, I suppose. But then, who would have jurisdiction, the local police or animal control?

          Good site, Shorty. There's a ton of helpful information.

          And I certainly don't want to donate my dog. I was thinking we could both train as a team then volunteer where necessary. I'm in good shape, I've done triathalons and like to hike, etc., so I thought the extra training would be good for me too.


          • #6
            Speaking of search dogs...do you get promoted to become a canine officer?
            "Hope for the best and prepare for the worst."


            • #7
              Mrs. Fish,

              It would depend on the department and what their particular standards are. Some large depts have a specific K-9 division just like the patrol div, detetive div, etc.

              When I was The K-9 unit, you didn't receive any special raises or promotions. You were an officer just like anyone else except you had a partner. I spent alot of time training and out searching. The main thing is your dept has to realize that if you don't do a lot of vigorous training, you and your dog will suffer. My dog was trained in building searches, handler protection, drug detection, tracking, article search, obediance, so it took a lot of training time to keep us both on our feet. Other than that, when we weren't training or working a problem... I was a regular officer with regular duties.
              In valor there is hope - Tacitus


              • #8
                My wife is currently a member of a volunteer SAR group and is currently training her second dog.

                From what I've seen, SAR is less a hobby and more of a lifestyle choice. To have a dog that will do a what's expected of it (whether it be scent tracking, water search, cadaver recovery, trailing, disaster search or whatever) requires a lot of training and dedication, on both the dog's and the handler's part. You're looking at spending many nights and weekends training, traveling to different locations and practicing regardless of weather and heading out on searches halfway across the state at a moment's notice. If you think you're ready for the commitment, that's the first step.

                Then there's the expense. Sure, you can cut corners, but ultimately you're looking at several hundred dollars worth of equipment purchases (backpacks, GPS, radio, pager, hiking gear, dog gear, first aid supplies - human and canine - for starters). Don't forget about the expense of quality dog food and regular vet visits to keep the dog in top physical condition (there's a reason top athletes don't eat a lot of McDonald's). And traveling expenses which, as a volunteer, might be your responsibility. And seminars, books and tapes to educate yourself on being a better handler. OK with all that? That's step two.

                Then there's the dog. No offense intended, but everyone thinks their dog would be a good SAR dog because it can sniff things out. But that's how dogs work -- a nose is to a dog what eyes are to you and me. Just because a dog has a good nose (and there ARE breeds with better noses than others) doesn't make it right for SAR work. The dog also has to be trainable, well-socialized (both with dogs and humans), physically fit, sized right (a Great Dane that is expected to bound through thick, low brush is going to have a hard go of it) and have good temperment. With dogs that come from a shelter or breed rescue, you're taking your chances. Sure, the dog could work out great. But without knowing a lot about the dogs background and lineage it's a crap shoot. A purebred, especially from working or rescue dog stock, increases your chances of getting a dog that is genetically predisposed to what you want it to do. Of course, now you're talking more expense. If you really think you've got a dog that is right for SAR, that's step three.

                Then there's the organization you become part of. In our neck of the woods there is no state-wide volunteer organization. So people who are interested in SAR have gravitated to each other and started their own groups. In our part of the state there are at least 4-5 volunteer SAR groups in operation. All have different levels of training and member involvement. My wife started with one, then got discouraged at their lack of training. Her current organization is made up primarily of LE and emergency personnel who do this in their spare time. They have a rigorous training schedule and have the contacts with local LE that leads to them being called before most other organizations. You have to check out the organization and make sure it fits your schedule and goals. That's step four.

                Have I scared you away yet? If not, then maybe SAR is for you. Posting here is a good first step, but I'd start doing some serious research if I were you. My wife's organization actually requires probationary members to serve as "scouts" for at least a year before becoming a handler, even if the person has a fully trained dog. The scouts assist the handlers during a search, taking care of radio communications, GPS coordination and serving as a general packmule. It gives the new member a true feeling for what SAR is about and shows the team that the person is serious about getting involved.

                Sorry for the length of the post, but I hope I've provided some useful information.
                Caution and worry never accomplished anything.


                • #9
                  This is about what I expected, but probably not for me. I wonder how SAR people fit this in with their regular commitments. Thanks, Kirsch.


                  • #10
                    You're welcome. And I applaud you for making the determination early on that it may not be for you. SAR coordinators will tell you that, at just about any natural disaster, lots of people show up with dogs looking to help out. When asked about their qualifications, many say things like, "Well, Rover here is really good at finding the kids when they're hiding in the back yard, so I thought he'd be able to do the same out here." If these "unqualified" dogs are actually allowed in to help with the search (believe it or not, it happens), you'll often get the following results:

                    1. Dog finds a cadaver, turns tail and runs back to hide under the owner's vehicle. Dog is scarred for life.

                    2. Dog thinks it's play time and is bounding around the scene, screwing up other searches and messing with other dogs.

                    3. Dog attacks another dog, resulting in serious injury to the attacked.

                    4. Dog finds a cadaver, starts munching on the remains (I have it on good authority that this was not uncommon at Ground Zero).

                    All of the above have either been witnessed by me, my wife or others I know involved in SAR.

                    K-9 SAR is still in its infancy and so there's quite a bit of misinformation and misunderstanding out there. As it grows in popularity I believe organizations will mature and you will eventually start seeing some national or international standard requirements for SAR dogs. Until then, it's pretty much up to the individual handler.

                    BTW, it's Kirch (German for 'church'), not Kirsch (German for 'cherry') [Wink]
                    Caution and worry never accomplished anything.


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