Thinking about starting SAR - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 09:47 PM Thread Starter
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Thinking about starting SAR

Hello everyone, I have a ten month old male Dobe/GSD that I have lately considered starting into some kind of activity. We do regular hikes in a preserve by the house and love it. I do treasure hunts around the house, he is an ace at it. I know these things don't necessarily mean anything as far as suitability for SAR but there is a local organization that holds weekly training sessions very close to me, and they welcome anyone and everyone who is interested to participate. I also feel if we could potentially help others, it really gives a true purpose. That being said he is a very one on one kind of individual, when around other people and dogs he loses focus and becomes subdued. He also gets reactive to certain dogs. We work on it every day on our walks and he does get better. However when we are on our own he is very in tune with me and our surroundings. That being said I have zero experience with SAR, so I'm not sure if these qualities are a no deal. Also I wanted to know if we are to pursue this, what kind of equipment is necessary? Thank you in advance and posts are always better with a picture so here is my sweet boy.

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post #2 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 10:00 PM
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I would get with the local group and see what they have to say. My girl and I will be starting SAR training aftsr the holidays. I took a few weeks to tighten up some obedience that I wanted to wrap up prior. Idk about the dog reactivity and losing focus while distracted. Maybe the group can help straighten some of these things up. I guess all I really have to offer is good luck.
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post #3 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 10:29 PM
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I would highly recommend looking into what is required of you as the handler if you're interested in doing SAR. It's much more than just doing the training with your dog- I'm going through a ton of training currently because, even if your ultimate goal is to work with your dog, you still need to have all the skills that would be required of a non-canine SAR volunteer. It's definitely a compete lifestyle overhaul, and is not a casual weekends-only or just for fun thing. People's lives depend on both you and the dog being available and being able to reliably perform at any time, in any conditions.

Definitely get with your local group, and talk with them about the time commitment and expenses associated with actually doing SAR. It's not just the equipment, you also have to consider time off of work if you get called on a search, gas to get to both searches and training/seminars, and all the unexpected expenses that can pop up (not to mention time away from family for both training and searches, if that applies to you). There are also a number of very experienced SAR folks here who might have additional input.

It's important to consider not only whether SAR is a good fit for your dog, but whether it's a good fit for you as a person, and that will be easiest to figure out if you talk more to the group in your area. They'll also likely be able to help evaluate whether your dog would be a good candidate and assist with getting him started on some training exercises best of luck, keep us updated!

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post #4 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 11:41 PM
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I think Kekipi hit the nail on the head.

First your dog. Many GSDs and working dogs have good nose capabilities. They also need to have drive in the hunt (some just wrap this up with prey drive). That is, they love the game and don't give up until they find it. They will charge through brush, steep hills, rock slopes for 4-8 hours. They need to have good nerves, not distressed by the conditions and stuff that is happening around them at all. Most searches are in crap conditions of one sort or another so they need some level of toughness. They need to be able to work around other dogs and relax around other dogs. I have seen mildly reactive dogs on SAR but they are very manageable. Your dog is VERY young. The distractibllity is likely puppy brain. A good recall is a must but you don't want to put too much obedience on them. They need to think for themselves and not be too handler dependent. This is a first dog. Many seasoned handlers like the really drivey dogs. The best SAR dogs are often nightmare puppies, in motion, drivey, curious and active.

Keep in mind there are different "disciplines": area (wilderness) air scent, tracking, trailing, human remains detection, and FEMA (natural disaster).

But like what has been said, by far the greater limitations are found in handlers. Good SAR work demands training 1-2 times per week. In CA a first dog team usually takes 2 years to certify running them through training until they are 100%, some obedience and agility, fitness and then all the sigh offs that you have to have: fitness, navigation, crime scene management, radio comms, scent theory, etc. Two years of training, driving, stomping in rain storms and getting stung by bees. Got to be okay with poison oak in my area and ticks (Yuck!!). Bears, coyotes and rattlers too (but ticks freak me out more). One of my summer searches two juvenile mountains crossed the road 1/2 mile from the trailhead where we were searching.... umm where is momma? That is a lifestyle choice. You have to have the heart for it and love working in difficult conditions. You have to have some aptitude for navigation. If you can't master a GPS and a compass and a map you are a danger out there. You might have to sleep in the dirt and it might be cold. You will definitely sleep in your car. You have to be fit to keep up with your dog. Good SAR dogs move quickly. I'm guessing I drive around 5-6000 miles a year (and I think that can be a low number for some).

Gear is expensive but tends to be upfront costs. It includes is everything a backpacker has plus a decent first aid kit (you will need some first aid... the amount depends on the certifying organization). I have a Subaru Forester and the back cargo area and back seat is full of equipment: backpacks, radios, gps, maps, multiple boots, climbing gear, now snowshoes, poles, emergency shelters, water purification, water, clothes (expensive some of them like my recent $450 rain jacket), tarps, food, dog gear, dog and crate.

The best thing is to find out who runs your local SAR group. Often under the county sheriffs but there are independent groups as well. Get with one of their K9 handlers to get the skinny. Different states do different things to accept, train and certify K9 handlers so you really need to check that out first. Then find out who is doing this training and are they affiliated with the SAR team.

I'm not trying to scare you off but it often is much less about the dog and much more about the handler.
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Karin
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post #5 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-22-2016, 11:47 PM
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One last thing. If your dog is reactive, get with a GOOD trainer now for one on one to nip this in the bud. These SAR folks should be able to give you some trainer recommendations. That is for regardless if you do SAR or not.

Also if all I wrote is too much, consider nose work and nose work competitions. I bet these are way fun. When you have a working dog and you tap into their abilities it is so cool to see them work and see how well they do with the mental stimulation.

Karin
Dutch Shepherd - Ptygo (Tee-Go) de las Flores
Rescue GSD - Freyja (Husband's Dog)
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post #6 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-23-2016, 12:31 AM Thread Starter
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Wow, some really thorough and excellent information here. I am in my mid 20s, good shape, and I have grown up hunting and basically anything outdoors. I am not bothered by and am knowledgeable of the native critters, and I also am no stranger to inclement weather. I admittedly have the worst natural sense of direction, but I am familiar with gps and mapping due to my sportsman upbringing. I live in Florida so there is no snow, the heat is the main concern here. We regularly hike in the woods four or more times a week in between 3-5 miles typically, it might be December but it is still hot and I don't want to push him too much physically as he is young. I will ask him and introduce him to natural obstacles which he tackles with gusto, going through various brush, navigating tricky trails, clearing logs/obstructions and the like. If he is uncertain of something new all I have to do is encourage him, after one time he has the confidence every time thereafter.

I do believe much of his ADD is due to immaturity, he is a big baby in many ways lol. I do believe he needs to be more solid in his behavior around other dogs. He lives with two pit bulls and is perfect with them, it's just "new" dogs he gets over excited about. I think he is a little insecure in that department to be honest. I only spoke tentatively to the organization leader through email and went through their website and I believe they are independent, i don't think our local sheriffs office has a designated SAR unit.

Mostly SAR appealed to me because we both love to hike, and he also loves to use his nose. I thought if we could combine this with potentially saving somebody's life, what more could you want to do? I have not written SAR off by any means but I do think we have some legging up to do before realistically approaching it. His social skills needs to be fine tuned and I also believe training in nosework to see if he has a real aptitude for that portion of the job would be greatly beneficial too.

I don't work so as far as time commitment that is not a problem. But it is still something I'd have to discuss with my partner, as I think I did kind of have this weekend warrior kind of thought process about it. Maybe I just didn't really realize that there would be that high of a demand, I'm not sure but seriously thank you to all who have responded as I truly treasure your input.
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post #7 of 7 (permalink) Old 12-23-2016, 05:26 AM
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I don't really have any advice to add as you have been given great advice. You sound like a potentially ideal candidate; people with hunting experience often do really well because you are, after all, hunting when you are searching. If things don't work out with the dog, you could still offer to be a "victim" for them and learn a lot that way to determine if it might be a future thing. At one time I had 2 washouts and 1 working dog .

Nancy



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