| by Melissa
There are many things dogs can be trained
to do but, of all the tasks a working dog can perform,
search and rescue ranks the highest for needing qualified,
professional trainers. A Search and Rescue (SAR) dog's
performance, quite literally, can determine life or death
to a human in need.
As shocking as it may sound, there is no
set of standards for rescue dog training. Subsequently,
rescue clubs, teams, and individuals emerge as trainers,
when, in fact, they may know little, or nothing at all,
about training a SAR dog. Attending seminars and reading
books on the subject are worthwhile endeavors, but they
do not constitute being a SAR dog trainer. Sadly, in a
large percentage of cases, this is an assumption not only
made, but followed, and replicated. In some cases, those
touting themselves as SAR dog trainers scarcely have enough
knowledge to teach a dog simple parlor tricks, let alone
promptly and accurately scenting or tracking skills, where
a human life hangs in the balance.
Even when the topical qualifications are
in place, this is no substitute for failing to research
the validity of those qualifications. You will hear the
term "qualified instructor" often from those with police/military
backgrounds. While this sounds impressive, keep in mind
that there is no "qualification" standard to begin with,
so the very title is misleading. Further, there may be
a very good reason that the individual is no longer training/handling
outside of the police/military venues. That reason may
be a desire for work in the private sector, or it could
be indicative of poor performance.
Now, I'm not trying to paint a bleak picture;
there are a number of incredible SAR dog trainers out
there. All of these great instructors hold one thing in
common: they can bear your scrutiny with flying colors.
If you're making the huge step towards training your dog
for SAR, then you really need to make the right choices.
Here are the top things to consider when choosing a SAR
There is no substitute and there is no better gauge of
a trainer's value. Look for trainers who have years of
experience in a wide variety of disciplines, not just
SAR. Demonstrated ability, in more than a single focus,
means that the trainer will be able to administer a wide
variety of training methods to accomplish the end goal.
Other potential disciplines to look for include: agility,
obedience, hunting, or herding. This experience is easily
verified by titles such as: Companion Dog (CD, CDX) Agility
Dog (AD, MACH, NATCH), Schutzhund (I, II, II) to name
2. Actual SAR experience is a must.
SAR dogs perform a number of tasks that your instructor
MUST have real-world experience with. They need to be
well-versed, from first-hand experience, on how lost or
fleeing people will act, how a crime scene needs to be
preserved in cadaver searches resulting from criminal
The trainer should be well-versed on all breeds and capable
of assessing and advising on the limitations and capacity
of that breed.
4. Separate marketing from proven performance.
If your trainer is good, you can bet he or she will have
references. Contact those agencies and inquire about the
specific services the trainer was hired for and their
thoughts regarding the trainer's services. Just because
they have a polished web site, well-designed brochures,
etc., does not mean they're the best pick, by default.
In some cases, a smaller organization may
actually yield better references. The decision for you,
and your dog, to become involved in SAR is a big one.
Take the time to do your homework. Your success and enjoyment
will not only be richer but it may, in fact, save a life!
About the Author
Melissa Buhmeyer has been involved in dog training for
two years and is the co-founder of http://www.dogtraining-school.com,
a resource for aspiring professional dog trainers and
all dog enthusiasts.