What is Involved?
Are There Costs?
Search and rescue is a labor of love for the people and dogs who spend so much of their time training and working together. It can appear as a romantic activity or something “cool or fun” to do with your dog, but behind all the training is a lot of hard work. People volunteer their time and money to provide a professional level of expertise to help save a human life and return them to their family and friends. Searchers usually hold full-time jobs in fields unrelated to emergency services, and dedicate their free time to training themselves and in the case of K9 handlers, to training their dog. Due to the requirements of the commitment, search work can easily become a second full-time job.
A good guideline for people who want to train a dog for search and rescue is that they should love working with dogs almost more than anything else. They will be developing the dog’s overall stability, obedience, agility and confidence in a large variety of situations. People who work search dogs cherish the extremely close bonds they develop with their dogs, and love the work.
Most searchers feel that the service they provide with their dogs is the most valuable contribution they can offer.
Vermont terrain is rugged. The weather can be challenging. You will need to be physically capable of working in this environment day or night, sometimes by yourself. Wilderness search and rescue teams are likely to be deployed into unfamiliar and remote areas to search usually in the middle of the night, and sometimes in extreme inclement weather. Solid navigation skills using a map, compass and GPS are mandatory. You will learn about search strategy, search management, scent theory and radio protocol.
If you are a canine handler, you will learn about canine learning theories, how to train for obedience as well as how to train your dog to follow human scent. You will be expected to have a current CPR and SOLO Wilderness First Aid certification and a NCIC (criminal background check). We also train for drowned victims, so you will need to be comfortable in boats and around water.
Yes there are costs. You will need to have a good vehicle and be able to pay for fuel and driving expenses. If you are a K9 handler, this will need to include a crate for your dog.
There are uniforms and equipment which you will be expected to purchase. Several pairs of good hiking boots are an essential part of any searcher’s wardrobe. You will need a backpack, compass,
GPS, raingear, headlamp, etc. If you are a K9 handler you will need a SAR vest/harness for your dog, leashes, and reward toys.