Resources When You Want to Join the Team

Let us provide you with information for becoming a K9 SAR team. Search and Rescue Dogs of the United States offers advice, so you understand what you’re getting into before you take the plunge:

I have a Dog to Donate …

SARDUS does not generally take dogs for donation from individuals, breeders, or rescue shelters. SAR dogs are highly trained search resources, so only a very small percentage of dogs meet the specific requirements. Almost all SAR dogs are handler-owned-and-operated, meaning the handler works with a local group and trains the dog themselves, often taking up to two years. Most dogs do not make the final certification requirements. Thank you for thinking of SARDUS and best of luck finding a home for your dog.

Will You Train my Dog for SAR Work?

Training a search and rescue dog is a process that takes up to two years of weekly training. There are no provisions for sending your dog away for training or taking a class to learn how to train your dog for SAR. In fact, dogs that have been trained for professional service can cost about $10,000. Instead, SAR dogs are owner-trained-and-operated. It takes a team to train a dog, and a mentor is absolutely necessary to assist you on your journey. This means you also must meet the requirements for being a searcher. You first must find a local SAR dog and begin to volunteer. Best of luck!

How do I get Started?

Welcome! By asking the question, “How do I get started?” you have taken the first step. Then, you need to understand what it takes to develop a highly trained life-saving resource:

  • It’s a Volunteer Job – Almost all SAR dog handlers are volunteers. They literally give thousands of hours to the cause of training a dog, training themselves, and then eventually using their dogs to find lost or missing people.
  • Prepare to Donate Your Time and Money – As a volunteer, you carry all of the financial burden for purchasing equipment, canines, training, and the cost of transport to searches. This literally costs thousands of dollars in equipment and travel to volunteer to save lives.
  • Find the Right Dog – Unless you start with a dog that has all of the right characteristics for becoming a SAR dog you have a high likelihood of failing. These dogs are super-athletes that have the highest level of training a dog can receive.
  • Ensure Support – You must have a family and work that support while being gone for the thousands of hours it takes to be a SAR dog handler. Calls always start around dinner time, on the holidays and weekends. Training clinics typically require a week away at some remote location.

If you have made it this far and think you have the time and money to give to this honorable public service read on.

Before You Even Start Training

The first step to success is finding a local group to train with. You need a mentor to develop your dog into a search resource. It’s important to understand that many of these local groups get inundated by individuals who don’t know the basics. You must be patient, persistent, and courteous and come with a willingness to give of yourself freely. If you’re still determined, do a Google search to find a local group or reach out local law enforcement to see who they use for canine search services.

Remember that one member of the search and rescue dog team is you – the human. Before you get a canine, picture yourself actually performing search and rescue functions. To do this, you need basic life support training – CPR/First Aid. Most groups have requirements for members to have NIMS classes and introduction to incident management. Depending on what area you’re interested in, you’ll need intensive navigation, backcountry survival, disaster operations, and HAZMAT training.

Another essential requirement – you must be physically fit. Many groups required NASAR SAR tech courses. After all, you’re going into environments where others had to be rescued. It’s wise to check with your local group to see what your team requires.

Once you are ready to search, then it’s time to get a dog. Get some help picking out the best dog to start. After all, this heroic canine must have certain characteristics for successful search.