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Here's a question for you SARers...

1534 Views 9 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  dog27
Camper, my GSD, is a natural at air-scenting (we started "find it" and similar games with him when he was tiny to keep his brain occupied). My trainer wants us to pursue SAR. Dh would LOVE to do it, and the county needs trained dogs. But he's my service dog, and I just don't want to risk his being injured, as well as the fact that he'd be away from me for so long, if Dh went on runs with him.

Ok... this really is a serious question...
... We just got a beagle puppy, just as a pet. But beagles being beagles, and this one clearly has QUITE a nose on her already, would it just be CRAZY to think about getting her into SAR? Is it done? I know that GSDs, labs, blood hounds....but beagles? She's only 10 weeks old, so we could start all the training right now. My trainer does air scent and tracking training as well as obedience, so I could start puppy tomorrow, if I wanted to.

I realize that beagles get distracted easily
, but I have a beagle/spaniel mix that I've trained (on my own) to stop pursuing a scent/critter and return to me. So I know that with a lot of training, it IS possible. (Well, for some dogs, at least.) Dh wants to try it, if it makes sense.

Is this a crazy idea?
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Well, I wouldn't say that you're crazy, just reaching a bit

From what I understand, and you've acknowledged it yourself in your post, beagles are VERY easily distracted by the scents of small animals. They were bred to hunt, so this isn't surprising. Of course, I'm sure that within the breed you'll find some beagles who are more interested in "hunting" than others (just like I have one working GSD and one couch potato GSD) but in general I would say no, beagles wouldn't be suited to serious search work.

Now, if you're just looking for something fun to do with your dog on weekends, then by all means go for it! But if you're looking to get heavily and seriously involved in real-life SAR work, I would choose a breed already proven to possess the qualities needed for such a task.

A beagle may have the physical ability to search, but the police officers and detectives aren't going to like it very much when he or she runs off in the middle of a search for a missing Boy Scout to chase a squirrel

I sure do get a kick out of the mental image though!
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It is not common, but there are some beagles that are serious SAR dogs. The ones I know of are trained for trailing or cadaver. I do not know of any trained for air scenting.

It would be fun and educational to train your beagle for tracking with your trainer while DH plans a future avocation in SAR. But don't expect to train your current dog (beagle or otherwise) with a private trainer and then become an operational team with your county SAR unit. The way it usually works is you join a unit, they evaluate you and your dog, and then they train you with their methods. There are many reasons why your dog might not be appropriate for the types of searches they do.
I remembered I saw this recently, enjoy:
SAR beagle video
I, too, know of some beagles that are legitimate SAR dogs. I also know of a dachshund (sp?) that is on a SAR team and used in Rhododendron thickets etc. [Kids, Altzheimers]

If the unit has experience working hounds, then you might be able to pull it off, but working any kind of hound is different [more exasperating] than working the herding breeds for sure. I think number one is the beagle is NEVER allowed to chase critters starting from now, its only "game" is humans [I imagine this will be a food driven dog]

Is your "trainer" on a SAR team? If not many dog trainers don't EVEN have a clue. Does your county WANT volunteer dogs? Whose perception is it that they are needed?

I agree with the original suggestion of find out what the team requirements [is there a team] are. A lot of people want to bring "different" "challenging" breeds into this and the old "tried and true" breeds or comparable mixes are easier to get up and operational more quickly.

Another consideration if there is not a team - our LE often ask to see our insurance coverage [liability] because dogs = liability and they don't cover us on a search. Now a beagle may not be something to be concerned about but you mess up on a search and you could get sued. Once you get specialized training the "good samaritan" stuff changes.

I definitely would not risk your Service dog.
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Thanks for the info, and the great video.

Yes, my trainer is on a SAR team. She used to volunteer for one county, now is on the adjacent county's team (I think she moved...). So she's not just some lady that thinks she knows what she's doing in terms of tracking but doesn't have a clue what's going on in the real world. We live right near the county line. She indicated there is a need. I spoke to a woman in my obedience class who had gone through the process (but her dog washed out, failing the test the maximum amount of times) who indicated that there's a need in one of the counties, and there's a whole application process website as well. So, I'm guessing there's a need. Obviously, we didn't want to call anyone and pursue this if beagles would cause them to

And I do understand the idea of a team, which is why I don't like at all the idea of Dh and my GSD doing SAR work, even if I were willing to risk him. My GSD and *I* are a team, as he's MY service dog. Teams are dog/one person teams as far as I'm concerned, and I understand that concept well.

With regard to insurance, is there special insurance for SAR work? We have tons of liability insurance (homeowners and an umbrella). But I know that, for example, therapy dog organizations want (and provide) their own insurance on top of that.

Having a working dog of my own, I'm not one of those people who thinks that every dog I have is perfectly capable of any task that I put in front of him. I do understand that most dogs are bred to be wonderful pets, or perhaps beautiful show dogs, but nothing more. But if there's a need, and if my dog has a great nose, and if she can be trained, and since my Dh has the time and he does have the wilderness skills. Well, still, that's a lot of Ifs.

That's why I came to you...because I trust that you'd steer me straight, and give me the good information. When I looked at the dog I met in my obedience class, he could barely hold a stay, and I wondered if the owner just kind of wasted a couple years on training a dog that wasn't the right material for SAR work. I'd rather not waste everyone's time if this isn't a good idea, and do something more constructive with her, or at least, something fun like agility, and not waste other people's time. But if she can do good in the world, well, that would be really nice.

So...thanks... I appreciate your insight.
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You would have to check with your homeowners insurance to see if they would cover you.

The team concept in SAR goes well beyond a dog and a handler. On any given deployment the dog + handler + flankers must work as a cohesive unit as well as coordination with other teams being deployed. We have our insurance through VFIS, [they cover volunteer fire departments] as do many K9 teams. Some states provide the coverage you need.

The dog that could barely hold a stay. Some of the best SAR dogs have ADD [except when they are working] - lots of time too much obedience results in a dog that won't range away from the handler and actively search. [I do need a dog to be able to hold a stay, but many SAR dogs do NOT have much in the way of formal obedience]

I made the comment about asking whether or not she was on a team because I HAVE met a number of dog trainers who really do have no idea yet talk to people about search and rescue.
Originally Posted By: Nancy JI made the comment about asking whether or not she was on a team because I HAVE met a number of dog trainers who really do have no idea yet talk to people about search and rescue.
My working dog has far different requirements of him than most dogs. But many alleged "professional" trainers don't get that at all. So I completely understand what you're saying.

Again, thanks for your insight and help.
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One of the handlers on the SAR team I was had Rotties and did airscent but bought a Beagle and did tracking with him. I'm not sure if he ever become operational or not (I left and came to KY) but the team seemed supportive and interested, so I wouldn't think you'd be laughed out of there or anything. Plenty of Border Collies and even some Aussies aren't much bigger than a Beagle and do a terrific job in SAR.

I would definitely be thinking more along the lines of doing trailing than air scent though. I've fostered quite a few Beagles and while they had many many wonderful qualities, they were much more interested in following their noses than coming when called.
Originally Posted By: 3K9MomYes, my trainer is on a SAR team. She used to volunteer for one county, now is on the adjacent county's team.
I just saw your Loc. Small world, this trainer is a good friend and she does know what she is talking about.

My general advice is that if somebody is serious about becoming a SAR dog handler, that they suspend any decision about what particular dog or breed that they are going to partner with until after joining a unit and watching the experienced dog teams at work, for six months or so. You will learn a lot from this and your preconceived ideas about your possible partner may change--mine did. Then make your decision from the perspective of how you can best serve the unit, which may mean getting a new dog instead of using one that you happen to already have.
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