Everyone knows Search & Rescue dogs. Most people think of the “original” SAR dog, the Saint Bernard, that burly, lovable furball frequently shown with his tongue hanging out and a cask of brandy under his chin, who braved blizzards in the European Alps to find the wayward travelers who had gotten lost or buried in the snow.
My Search Dog can find your Honor Student!
There is something fundamentally cool about training a dog to find people. Have you ever watched a Bloodhound track someone? Or a police dog find the bad guy? Have you ever witnessed a dog retrieve a child who was drowning? Or watched a USAR K9 dig through the rubble after an earthquake?
Search and Rescue dogs are modern day heroes. They have bragging rights that no other K9 can come close to, because they can do something that very few dogs can do—save human lives. Any dog can chase a ball, and any dog can bite. Any dog can be trained in agility and obedience. But can your dog find someone buried in the snow? Buried under rubble? Track a child for miles through town and into the wilderness?
Best Kinds of Dogs to do Search & Rescue
Any dog can use their nose, but not all dogs have the drive, focus, intelligence, and self-discipline to do Search and Rescue. Is it specific to a breed? No, but some breeds are known for having a strong prey and hunt drive, as well as a body type that is suitable to the different disciplines. You will commonly see working breeds including Retrievers, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, and German Shepherds, as well as mixed breeds working successfully in SAR. Does your dog like a toy so much he’ll do anything to find it and get you to play with him? Is he strong and athletic without health issues? He might be a great search and rescue candidate!
Best Kinds of People to do Search & Rescue
We all love our dogs, but participating in Search and Rescue requires a large commitment. Actually, it’s more than that. It requires a particular lifestyle. Dog training is continuous. There is no break, no time off. And there is also a lot of ongoing training required for the Handler. Do you have the time and the resources to train in K9 SAR? Are you willing to work every day with your dog? Do you have access to other people who will train with you and hide for the dog? Are you okay with the prospect of being the one to find the missing person, regardless of their condition? These are all things you should seriously consider before embarking on this path.
Consider Your Dog, Consider Your Goals, and Consider Your Situation
K9 Search and Rescue is a team effort. Both you and your dog need to want to do it. Your dog needs to be excited every time you put that harness on him. He needs to love the game. Consider for a moment what your circumstances are. Do you live high up in the snowy mountains or in a rural area? Then you may want to train your dog for Avalanche or Wilderness Area SAR. Are you more interested in working scent specific to a missing individual? Or do you live in an urban area? Then you might consider training your dog in tracking or trailing. Do you want to deploy to disaster areas after a tornado or earthquake? Then consider training your dog for rubble.