So you have a dog and are interested in getting into Search and Rescue. Here’s what you can expect when looking for a group, how to tell if you dog is even suitable for evaluation, and how to tell if you (the human) is right for Search and Rescue. Getting involved with Search and Rescue is not like joining an obedience club. It is not for everyone, and does require a lot of time, money and resources. There are two types of Search and Rescue groups. The first one is attached to your local sheriff and the second is a third party, most often a non-profit group. Usually people choose by the group that is closest to their area. Since it is not uncommon to be training 2-3 times a week, you will want to find a group close by. But first, let’s talk about your dog.
If you don’t yet have a dog, that is a good thing! I would encourage you to join a group as a volunteer first, hide for the other member’s dogs, and learn all you can about Search and 올인구조대 (SAR). A good SAR dog needs to have high drives, (goes crazy over food or toys) and somewhat obedient! But the most important thing are the dog’s drives. If you throw a tennis ball, and your dog just watches it or totally ignores it, SAR will not be his thing. It is usually a good idea to start SAR training as soon as you get your puppy, in most cases at 8 weeks old. It takes about a year to certify your dog, so there needs to be some level of commitment. If you have an older (like 4 or older) dog, it’s not impossible to train for SAR, but you probably don’t have too many more good working years left. Most commonly used dogs in SAR are German Shepherds, Labradors, some types of Spaniels, and even mixed breeds. It really doesn’t matter the breed, as long as they are able to handle the work load and have the drive to do it. There are different areas in SAR that your dog can be involved with. Many people have a dog that is a “specialist” in one area or another. There are Airscent, which is finding any human scent and following it to the strongest source. This is usually done off leash. Trailing is on leash, usually a 30 ft trailing lead and requires the handler to follow behind. The trailing dog follows a trail left by the victim, but can cut corners if there is a stronger scent coming from a certain direction. Water Searches are done with a boat on the water. the dog leads the boat party to the strongest scent in the water, then usually a dive team takes over. Cadaver or HRD is having the dog look for human remains. This is usually a less pressing search and involves the dog finding the remains, but not touching or disturbing them. A forensics team usually come in after the dog makes a find and takes it from there.
AKC and Schutzhund tracking are done a little differently in that the dog follows the track on the footfall, rather than the strongest scent source. Most of the time in Search and Rescue, the search needs to be quick if there is a missing person. The sooner you find the person the better, especially if they may be injured. This calls for a faster track, and sometimes AKC style tracking can take too long.