Western NY SearchDogs will help you to learn the skills needed to be successful as a Search Team Member.  To be an effective Team Member each person must have a certain skill set to be able to safely navigate an be comfortable in the woods where we spend most of our time.

To meet the basic level you will learn to become a Searcher. A searcher is a person who participates on a grid team. Has basic first Aid Skills and Navigation Skills and will have taken the DEC Wildlands Navigation Course.

Once you are comfortable as a Searcher, you will progress to helping the dog handlers by becoming a Flanker.  A flanker is a person who goes into the field with the handler/K9 team and performs the navigation and communications so the handler can devote full attention to their dog.  A Flanker will also be another set of eyes and ears that may make the search for our subjects faster and more efficient.

Advanced training will include getting certified as a Crew Boss.  This will require a weekend training with the NYS DEC Rangers and proficiency with Map and Compass, GPS navigation and familiarity with the  FEMA Incidence Management System.

Searcher/Flanker Training

  • Map & compass training
  • GPS training
  • Radio communications and usage
  • Equipment selection and use
  • Search procedures
  • Woodsman skills

 K9 team training

  • Puppy starter training to complete operational level
  • K9 search techniques and strategies
  • Scent movement and theory
  • Both live and cadaver training

We train our dogs in air scenting, not tracking/trailing. An air scenting dog works by picking up human scent that is primarily airborne (hence the term). They will range away from their handler, sometimes out of sight, but always under verbal control. Once the dog finds the scent cone, he follows the scent to its source. Once he finds the subject, he will return to his handler, give a trained alert (bark, jump, etc.) then do a “refind” taking his handler back to the subject.



New York State Federation of


Search and Rescue Teams


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