Can a dog of any breed become a SAR K9?
Probably, yes—and mixed breeds are also often successful. Some breeds are physically and mentally better suited for the work than others and thus are more easily and quickly trained. Short-legged breeds must naturally work harder to cover large areas of difficult terrain; dogs with shorter muzzles—and thus fewer olfactory lobes for processing scent—usually do less well than dogs with larger muzzles, like bloodhounds.
How long does it take to train the dog?
It depends on how often the dog is exposed to appropriate training opportunities and how quickly he learns. It usually takes a minimum of a year’s conscientious training, a willing and eager dog, and experienced mentorship to help prepare a SAR K-9 handler-dog team to challenge a certification test. Some experts recommend a minimum of 1000 hours of training prior to testing.
How old do you have to be to help?
People of all ages can be helpful volunteers: Even small children, accompanied by their parent or guardian, can come to observe, meet the dogs, learn about and participate in their training.
How much are you paid?
MSSARDA members are not paid; we are a non-profit volunteer group. Members are solely responsible for all costs relating to their training, equipment, and care of their canine.
Who can participate in K9 Search & Rescue?
There’s a place for you in K9 SAR—with or without a dog. Like other community service volunteer work, you can offer support at whatever level and to whatever degree you are able. Field work is for volunteers who are physically fit and willing to participate in wilderness training activities over challenging terrain. Others can help by assisting with administrative duties at the command post.
To learn more about how to train and earn certification as a skilled searcher, click here Brochure (pdf)
What is SAR?
“SAR” is an acronym for Search and Rescue—the search for and provision of aid to people who are in distress or eminent danger. K9 Search and Rescue is one of many specialty sub-fields of search and rescue.
How old do you have to be to become a SAR dog handler?
Although you must be 18 or older to certify with your dog as a SAR K9 team with MSSARDA, younger people may begin learning by observing and providing volunteer support at training, when accompanied by a parent or guardian. Some SAR K9 organizations offer a junior cadet training program for aspiring handlers under the age of 18.
How often do you train?
Training is offered year-round, in a variety of environments and weather conditions. Usually training opportunities for MSSARDA team members and guests are available at least once a week. Click here for the calendar / schedule
Do SAR K9 teams have to pass a test (certification) every year?
Standards and certification requirements vary, depending on the certifying agency, but most accredited national certifying organizations require annual or biennial re-certification for SAR K9 teams. Some, like the National Association for Search & Rescue (NASAR), also require a separate certification for the K9 handler. Check each agency’s website for their current requirements.
Are the dogs and handlers certified in different specialties or only one?
Most SAR K-9 teams specialize in one job that they do best, and certify in that discipline. Dogs that show aptitude and enthusiasm for more than one specialty may also attempt certifications in those additional fields. It typically requires an exceptional dog—and an experienced and committed handler with adequate time for the additional training and preparation required.
What if I train with my dog and one or both of us fails?
We learn by making mistakes, correcting them, and progressing toward our goals. If you discover that you and/or your dog are not suited for any of K9 SAR’s several specialized disciplines, there are many recreational avenues open to you for partnering with your dog. If you are committed to training a SAR K9 and your dog shows no aptitude, you may consider choosing another dog better suited for SAR K9 training.
Do dogs get too old for SAR?
The active life of a working SAR K9 is relatively short. Their job—saving the lives of those lost, often in rugged terrain--requires them to be at their best, strongest and fastest. Depending on the breed, the individual dog, and the demands of his job, a dog who becomes mission-ready at age two may expect to continue working for five to eight years before he is ready to retire.
How long does it take to find a missing person?
Depending on the circumstances, environment, and weather conditions, missing person searches can take from a few minutes to many years; and sometimes, especially when a subject has been transported from the point last seen, they may never be found by a SAR K9. Fortunately, law enforcement agencies rely on other resources and search methodologies they can employ, as needed.
How long have you been doing this?
Most MSSARDA members have been involved in K9 SAR for 10 years or more, and have worked with more than one K9 partner, in more than one specialized K9 discipline, and have experience in mentoring others less experienced or new to K9 SAR.
If my friend/family member is missing, can I call you?
MSSARDA does not respond to private requests for assistance. We serve and work in cooperation with law enforcement and emergency services agencies who initiate and manage lost and missing person searches. If you have a missing friend or family member, report it promptly to the authorities, who will request assistance from us or another K9 resource, if the situation requires it.