Search and Rescue is much more than just a fun hobby and it is not something that suits everyone.  The rewards are great but there are a lot of sacrifices in terms of time, energy, and money.  This is part of a handout that we distribute to people who express an interest in Canine Search & Rescue.

The original text was written by Heather Houlahan of Allegheny Mountain Rescue Group and modified by WNYSD for our team use.

Questions to ask yourself if you think you want to be involved in Search & Rescue work:

Am I cut out for SAR work?

  • Am I willing to spend 1 to 2 years training 3 times a week before my dog and I are ready to participate in a search?
  • Am I willing to continue training once or twice a week; sometimes for full days, indefinitely?
  • Am I (and my family) ready to be a member of an organization that spent approximately 1400 hours training, 131 hours searching and 32 hours in public demonstrations in one year?
  • Am I physically and mentally prepared to spend long hours, day and night in some of the worst weather and terrain conditions?  Do I have a high tolerance for physical discomfort?
  • Is my job flexible enough to allow me leave for a search?  Am I willing to get up at 3am and drive for 5-6 hours?
  • Can I afford thousands of dollars in search equipment, gas, training courses and seminars?
  • Am I mentally prepared to find a deceased victim?  Am I prepared to reward my dog happily when he leads me to a cadaver?
  • Am I willing to undergo medical training and other specialized training for search work and learn skills unrelated to dog handling?
  • If I do not already have a dog am I (and my family) willing to welcome one into our home and commit to his care whether or not he or I succeed in SAR?
  • Am I willing to acquire a new puppy specifically for search work and train for several years?

Is My Dog Cut Out For Search Work?

  •  Is he an appropriate breed (or mix) and age?  Sometimes an older dog takes to searching, but the training may be more difficult and time consuming and the working life of the dog is much shorter.  Often handlers must spend considerable time correcting behaviors that are not compatible with the requirements of searching.  Many breeds and mixes are suitable for search work but small dogs (under 40 pounds), sighthouds and giant breeds are usually inappropriate.  Herding dogs, retrievers and working breeds have all proven to be successful but remember – the individual dog must have the determination and the drive to search coupled with a completely stable and gentle temperament with both people and animals and must be physically capable to perform the task.  This can be a rare combination and you must be realistic about your own dog.
  • Does he have a rock solid temperament, outgoing, confident, calm and non-aggressive to all types of people and animals?
  • Does he show intelligence and persistence in solving problems?  Does he tend to use his nose to locate things?
  • Is he in excellent health?
  • Is he closely bonded to me, he does he prefer my company to other activity?  Is he reliable off-leash?
  • Is he a well mannered, obedient dog?  Does he have or could he pass the AKC’s Canine Good Citizen test?
  • Am I willing to expose him to a certain level of shared risk?

Still interested?   Click here to search for a SAR team near you or if in our area (western NY), see our contact page.> Additional Information on Learning SAR


New York State Federation of


Search and Rescue Teams


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