How do I get started?

Welcome!  Well by asking the question how do I get started you have taken the first step.  First you must understand what it takes to develop a highly trained life saving resource.


  • Volunteer- almost all SAR dog handlers are volunteers.  They literally give thousands of hours to the cause of training a dog, training themselves and then eventually using their dogs to find lost or missing people.
  • As a volunteer you carry all of finacial burden of purchasing equipment, canines, training, cost of transport to searches.  This literally costs thousands of dollars in equipment and travel to volunteer to save lives.
  • Unless you start off with a dog that has all of the right characteristics for becoming a SAR dog you have a high likelihood of failing.  These dogs are super athletes combined with the highest level of training a dog can receive.
  • You must have a family and work that will support you being gone for the thousands of hours it takes to be a SAR dog handler.  Calls always start around dinner time, on the holidays and weekends.  Training clincs are usually a week away at some remote location.


If you have made it this far and think you have the time and money to give to this honerable public service read on!.


  • The first step to success is finding a local group to train with.  You need a mentor to develop your dog into a search resource.  You must understand that many of these local group get inundated by individuals that have not realized what has been listed above.  You must be patient, persistent, courteous and come with a willingness to give of yourself freely.  So do a Google search to find a local group or contact your local law enforcement to see who they use for canine search services.
  • First start with you... before you get a dog please realize that you are the one that must be able to perform search and rescue functions.  This means you need basic life support training, CPR/First Aid.  Most groups have requirements for members to have NIMS classes and introduction to incident management.  Depending on what are you are looking to enter you will need intensive navigation, back country survival, disaster operations, Haz Mat training and must be physically fit.  Many groups required NASAR SAR tech courses. Remember you are entering environments where others have gotten into trouble and need to be rescued.  Please check with your local group to see what your team will require.
  • Once you are ready to search then get a dog.  Get some help picking out the best dog to start with.  There are some characteristics that you will want to have to be as sucessful as possible.