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Lobobear44 01-31-2014 11:59 AM

How fun is SAR? What is your experience like? Would love to do SAR someday while I'm still young and active.

NancyJ 01-31-2014 12:33 PM

SAR is very demanding, rewarding and sobering at times. The training is fun but it is not a sport. I have been within earshot and heard the screaming and crying when a mother has just been told that her child or spouse is gone and looked into the face of a dead person. Walking past family members on the way to the boat while you are looking for a son's body is also very tough. I have also known the sheer joy and tears when a 3 year old is found alive and when grandpa gets another day.

Doing SAR is a lot less about the dog than doing SAR. If you want something to do with the dog, there are plenty of things to do. As far as the dog-human bond, yes it brings it to another level as you are truly working in full partnership. I would think people who herd or hunt with a dog would probably have a similar level of partnership.

Cassidy's Mom 01-31-2014 01:26 PM

SAR isn't something you do for fun, it's a lifestyle. I have a friend who just retired her first SAR dog and is in the process of training her second, which takes up much of her free time.

Nancy has been doing this a long time and I know we have some other SAR people on the board as well, so they can probably answer any specific questions you may have, but in the meantime I can recommend an excellent book called Scent of the Missing, which would give you a good idea of the amount of time and level of commitment involved:

NancyJ 01-31-2014 01:30 PM

The advice I give just about everyone on the board is (a) expect to spend a lot of time and money and (b) get involved BEFORE you get a dog to see if it is for you. I need to read that book; I have heard good things about it.

Cassidy's Mom 01-31-2014 02:02 PM

I really enjoyed it, Nancy, she's a good writer, so it's great from that perspective as well as being informational. I think she does a terrific job capturing both the demands and the rewards of SAR.

kleinenHain 01-31-2014 02:17 PM

I agree with all the above. I just retired my boy Max ( one of the best partners I could ask for ) and am in search for my second SAR dog. SAR takes a great deal of your time and money but I really enjoy it. read the book and loved it.

carmspack 01-31-2014 02:38 PM

agreed , SAR is not a sport or pass time for the dog.

The dog and the person need to qualify. That is the one thing many people are not prepared for . The dog needs to be high skills and reliable . Your current dog may be "washed" --- not deemed suitable for training, or further training as dismissal can happen anywhere along the route to certification. Then what? Are you so committed to SAR that you try another dog , preferably one tested and selected for this purpose at the outset , or do you go to a plan B?

try Nosework for the fun aspect .
Pursue a tracking dog title .

wyoung2153 01-31-2014 02:50 PM

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Great advice/responses above!! I'll try not to repeat but I wanna just add my 2 cents.. As a young active female, I absolutely love SAR. I have been involved for almost 3 years and 2 of those years much more dedicated and committed. I learned in the beginning that it was not a "for fun" sport. It was something I needed to make sure I wanted the committment to.

That being said, if you are interested I encourage you to visit local teams and watch them train.. get a good insight on what it is that you would be doing, with and without a dog. You are able to be certified with out a dog. There is a lot of need for people who can navigate, pay attention to details that may be missed, even as a handler. While I love where I am at now, I would have liked to have bee ninvolved sooner without a dog first.. would have set a foundation instead of learning both how to do things myself then how to train and pay attention to your dog.

Also, be prepared for the reality of situations you may be in. I remember doing my first search and we used cadaver dogs, it was a little much to sum up at first. The most recent search being the hardest for me. A cold case, used cadaver dogs and the family was there with us. I could barely look at the family without getting emotional. That was the first search I had been on where the family was there. btu it is rewarding and a feelign you'll never forget..

Sorry.. long winded.. can't help myself.. How invloved are you thinking? Handler or just volunteer?

Kaimeju 01-31-2014 03:07 PM

Here's a perspective from someone who just joined a team: it is fun if you like to work hard, are an organized person who does well in teams, and are willing to spend a ton of your own money and time for training and equipment. For example, in my area, just to get certified and active takes about a year, and before you can even join you need to take some online classes (which take about a weekend to complete). So far, I have just been helping the K-9 unit set up scent problems and basically tagging along, asking loads of questions, and passively observing. It's great fun. I am not expecting to have a dog for SAR for another three years at least, and I am not expecting that dog to be a part of the team immediately.

You are in an urban area so your experiences might be opposite from mine. We are in a rural area near mountains so the training we do is snow survival, wilderness navigation, things like that. A lot of cold, wet, and tired. My understanding is that urban disaster SAR is a totally different ballgame.

gsdsar 01-31-2014 03:41 PM

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SAR is not something you do for fun with your dog. It is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle. If you cannot commit significant time and money, be totally dedicated, able to respond at all hours for searches( including Christmas morning, your kids soccer game, 3 AM) don't bother. It's not fair to the team to train you so that can decline searches.

Working a SAR dog is amazing. The partnership is fantastic. But it is not for everyone. Find a team, volunteer your time to be a "victim" watch and learn.

And yes. USAR and Wilderness are very different animals, I have done both, and my advice above, stands for both.

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