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Getting Started

Do you have what it takes to be a search dog handler?


Are you a team player?

Loyal, honest, trustworthy, ethical?

Do you have the right K9 partner?

Do you have time?

Both training on your own and team training?

Do you have a willingness to learn?

Do you have an understanding family?

Do you have reliable transportation?

Do you have physical stamina?

Do you have mental toughness? Not all searches end well.

Do you love being outdoors in all weather conditions?

Do you have the finances to afford gear, travel and training?

Can you pass a criminal background check?


Keep in mind that working a search and rescue dog requires commitment. Most of the training required is for the handler. Training the handler to work with the dog effectively usually takes 1.5 to 2 years, and continues for the entire operational life of the dog.The reason you get into search and rescue is very important. Giving the new family pet something to do is not a good reason. Having bragging rights to your friends and community that you have a search dog is definitely NOT a good reason. Dedication to the lost or missing person for whom you will search, so that others may live is a slogan that many SAR K9 handlers live by.


What kind of dog should I have?

Whether you are selecting a puppy or getting a young dog, make sure they are tested by an experienced K9 handler for the correct drive and focus BEFORE you bring them home with you. Not all dogs make good search dogs. Selecting a puppy just because he is cute or you had a special feeling about him means you are not selecting especially for search work. 

Some of the traits you are looking for in a great search dog include high intelligence, physical stamina, learning easily, willingness to please, strong prey, hunt or toy drive and an excellent nose for scenting. Search and rescue dogs also need focus (work ethic), as they will spend long hours searching for a specific scent. They must get along well with people and other canines. Some handlers can spend thousands on a pedigree puppy and some can find a treasure at the local humane society. Wherever you get them, be sure to have them tested first! The most common breeds used for search work are Working Breeds such as German Shepherd, Belgian Malinois, Border Collie, Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever. Breed alone doesn't determine a good search dog, but they must possess the necessary traits.


Your Training Started....


Introduction to Hazardous Materials.

Introduction to Incident Command ICS-100. ICS for Single Resources and Initial Action Incidents.

IS-200.B National Incident Management System (NIMS) An Introduction

IS-700.A: Emergency Support Function (ESF) #9  Search and Rescue

IS-809 National Response Framework, An Introduction

IS-800.B NASAR SAR TECH II - Visit the NASAR website for information about NASAR SAR TECH II and testing locations. 

Fundamentals of Search and Rescue - A good book to have in your permanent SAR library. Available through Amazon but cheaper if you buy from the NASAR website. Click here for NASAR store.

Bloodbourne Pathogens Courses are available online. 

National Incident Management System NIMS Canine Search Specialist Training Course ( A must read for all SAR K9 Handlers.

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