MSART K-9 Services
MSART currently has five operational K9 units (dog and handler) and some dogs in-training. It takes approximately two to three years to train a dog to operational status in Search and Rescue. Using their highly developed sense of smell, these dogs are trained to locate the scent of humans as the scent is conveyed in the air (airscent) or on a foot path (trailing). Some of our dogs are also trained in human remains recovery on land and in water.
The team coordinates at least two team K9 trainings per month, along with some classroom work. Handlers also schedule at least one informal training per week in smaller groups. All K9 units must pass a series of team certifications and also state and/or nationally sanctioned certification tests (e.g. IPWDA, NAPWDA, NASAR, FEMA), as well as the AKC Canine Good Citizen Test. In order to train a canine with MSART, an individual must first qualify as a searcher, which may take up to a year to achieve.
Making the commitment to becoming a SAR K9 Handler:
"Becoming a search and rescue dog handler is not easy. It takes a tremendous amount of work. Volunteers should train in search and rescue to help people, provide a competent and viable resource for searches, and because they like the training, not because they will be the hero at a search, because only a small percentage of SAR dog handlers actually find a missing person at a search. Done properly, search and rescue proficiency requires many hours of handler and dog training each week, maintaining excellent physical condition for the handler and dog, working under adverse conditions in bad weather and after dark, working in remote places or places made “awful” by disasters, dealing with deceased victims, and having to work closely with other people who may not always be agreeable. Being a volunteer SAR dog handler means being part of a SAR unit and helping with the work it takes to maintain such a unit."
-How to Become a Search and Rescue Dog Handler, Deborah Palman, Maine K9 Services, ©2013
Your SAR Dog:
"Choosing the right dog for search and rescue training is crucial to success. If a dog is not suitable for SAR work, no amount of training will create a suitable product. The failure of a SAR team to perform might cost a missing subject their life. Serious SAR handlers may go through several dogs before they find the dog they need for the job. The vast majority of dogs bred in the United States are bred for purposes other than work. They are not bred or selected for their ability to do SAR work, or any other type of serious dog work. Dogs bred from working lines tend to have high drive, intelligence, and high levels of energy and activities that don’t make them good pets, so they are hard for the average breeder to sell. Handlers looking for SAR prospects should start their search with breeds that have been bred to work at a task like herding, hunting, retrieving, searching and tracking. The same breeds that are used for law enforcement work (German shepherds, Malinois), with careful screening, make fine dogs. The hunting retrievers and some of the versatile hunting dogs also do well in SAR. If the SAR handler wants to do trailing only, one of the hound breeds that is bred for hunting large game or bloodhounds bred for human trailing are a good choice."
-Choosing a SAR dog for Search and Rescue, Deborah Palman, Maine K9 Services.
Learn more about Becoming a Search & Rescue Dog Handler by visiting Maine K9 Services.
The on-line course Search and Rescue Dog Handler Training - Basic is an excellent introduction to the field of K9 Search & Rescue!