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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
It's just not like everybody says it is.

Training once a month, IF you get to train with the team at all. Most of the time you have no guidance whatsoever and how are you supposed to learn if nobody shows you how to do it?
Training that doesn't even last an hour.
No Structure
No search tactics, techniques or anywhere near what is claimed it'd be like.

No Ruckmarches
No Physical Tests

Dogs that shouldn't do it. Dogs with weak nerves. Soft Low Drive Dogs.
No Health Checks
Almost no Map and Compass or GPS training... (if it wasn't for the Grid Search Team you'd probably be on your own)
Last but not least: LOTS AND LOTS OF DRAMA! More Drama than I've ever witnessed before...

To be honest, I'm very dissappointed about the reality of what is going on in quite a few SAR teams.

There is so much talk about how much training SAR takes. How much work it is. The reality is there are just a few good teams out there. Teams that really know what they are doing. The majority, however, seems to have no clue what they are doing. They call themselves a K9 Team but in reality they are far away from being real SAR K9 Handlers.

So if you are looking for a Team. Look closely. Don't make a hasty decision. Visit their training for a couple of months without the dogs. You'll learn about how they deal with each other, if they have a structure or simply meet up, let the dogs run for about five minutes and then leave after an hour or two.
Find out if they have standards and stick to them or if they let anybody in.

Be very selective and if you have a single doubt, chances are your gut is right so don't join. Save yourself the heartache, money and time. Do something else instead or become a Grid Searcher.
 

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Wow... Recently I was put in the position of having to choose between the local Schutzhund club and trying out the local SAR group. By chance I had met a couple at our vet that were both members of LaSAR. They gave me their number and wanted me to come out. Ultimately however, I didn't even go out to meet the SAR team because I liked the SchH club so much.

Sucks it didn't work out for you...
 

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I think your guidance is well taken and, certainly your experience is real for many teams but I also think there are many more solid teams than you lead folks to believe. And I say that because even in my area we have supported each other on searches and learned from each other and I see a heck of a lot of professionalism.

I feel my team is a good team which pushes its members - to train train train and provides training on all the required skills. Our weekend trainings are usually a minimum of 6 hours twice a month with at least weekly night training among subgroups of the team. We are all expected to train on our own as well and keep training logs.

Are there problems? I would say any team that does not have problems is lying to itself. We can all do better. What makes a team good, I think, is to always ask "what did we do right, what did we do wrong" and adjust.

We actually do require folks to train for 3 months with us before even bringing a dog and the dog only comes in if we have an opening AND if it passes the selection test which is based on the FEMA test for adults and the PAWS test for puppies (or something in between for older pups) and that includes new dogs belonging to long term members. Members have to pass all requirements for ground searchers before being operational and going on any search.

Then there are deadlines to accomplish training goals. Exceptions may be granted but only with concurrence from the officers and are based on situation.

We do not have specific physical requirements to be on the team but we do make hard decisions based on peoples condition and have told some folks that they can only work at base. I opted to work at base but *can* work field and will if the conditions are such that I feel comfortable (for example flanking for an air scent team in moderate terrain - I won't flank for a trailing dog - too brutal). The reality is we have a lot of base work because of how we work with our sherrifs' departments so there is room for everyone willing to do what is needed even if it is not working a dog.

(Of course I do work a cadaver dog so I get to work a dog but most of those calls are separate, small, and without radios, central command, etc)

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Some of the folks on LaSAR are highly respected for their contribution to SAR and have helped many on other teams (Lisa Higgins and Dee Wild) though I don't know much about the team as a whole.
 

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Some of the folks on LaSAR are highly respected for their contribution to SAR and have helped many on other teams (Lisa Higgins and Dee Wild) though I don't know much about the team as a whole.
Yeah, they seemed very well put together and professional. However, both clubs train on Saturday...

I really like my SchH club and am very glad to be a part of it (Abbie loves it too). Still, I would like to go out and meet the LaSAR group. If nothing else perhaps I could volunteer some time to be a lost person or something.
 

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Discussion Starter #5 (Edited)
Oh yah, I know that there are solid teams out there. But the reality is that there are quite a few teams out there that have no clue what the heck they are doing and that is something that needs to be talked about as well and people need to know what to look for to avoid these kind of teams.

We can't just sit there and be quiet about these kind of experiences. We don't have to name them but at least say what to look out for and to be cautious.

I'm specifically talking about K9 teams. The Grid Searching Teams, I've seen are very well organized and trained. If some of those K9 teams were half as organized and well trained there wouldn't be the kind of dissappointment I'm feeling. I've been expecting a lot more than that.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Some of the folks on LaSAR are highly respected for their contribution to SAR and have helped many on other teams (Lisa Higgins and Dee Wild) though I don't know much about the team as a whole.
Even I heard about these names before I joined the K9 team, so that means something that their names traveled as far as Germany :)
 

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Mrs K sorry to hear about your group , especially since you seem to be so enthusiastic. Here is one of my local SAR groups, working under the direction and responsible to our provincial police. Ontario Search and Rescue Volunteer Association
As jocoyn said - there is a long period of activity without a dog and after they make you come out 2 to 3 times a week . This is not a hobby. Dogs must be certified as are the handlers and the team is required to be available and ready at any time.
There are requirements of the handler as far as their physical ability to get around -- one team would not certify because the owner needed to loose weight which slowed her down. She did , passed the physical test and was certified .
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Our K9 team needs a LOT of work but we'll get there. We are in the process of getting private lessons from a very knowledgable trainer regarding directionals etc. and two of us will drive to a different team that is really really good at least once or twice a month and work with them to bring back what we can learn. We had no choice but to reach out and ask for help and sometimes that is the only thing you can do is to be honest about what is going on and ask for help to get up on your feet. However it's a couple of teams in general I came across that don't give any guidance to newbies or do not have a structure in general.
 

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We got a lot of money thrpugh the akc car grant program. A lot of work to write and accounting for how theoney is spemt but it allowed us to bring in top notch trainers....though always ask folks to pay in part because they value it more if it costs something
 

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Discussion Starter #10
yeah, that is what we've done too and will do in the next year too so we can continue to work with the trainer.
 

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So if you are looking for a Team. Look closely. Don't make a hasty decision. Visit their training for a couple of months without the dogs. You'll learn about how they deal with each other, if they have a structure or simply meet up, let the dogs run for about five minutes and then leave after an hour or two.
Find out if they have standards and stick to them or if they let anybody in.
*********************

Very good advice. I can tell you that there are a ton of good teams out there and just as many that need a new hobby. Teams with NO national certifications, inhouse worthless evals etc. Anybody wanting to join a team or an "org" needs to ask serious questions about training, proper certifications, expertise of "trainers" etc.
I called in a bunch of teams a couple of weeks ago here for a local search. All civilians with excellent dogs,professional handlers. Recovery made. So there ARE good folks out there but you had better do some research
 

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I tried for a couple of months myself and moved to Sch. I had a great, high-drive pup and they said they wanted to start them young. So twice a week, after work out to training. I spent countless hours hiding in the bushes for the established team members. They only had one or two certified dogs and maybe five established members with dogs in training. So newcomers were just treated like crap. If my dogs got out of a car for five minutes during the several hours of training, we were lucky. Beyond sitting in the bushes and entertaining mosquitoes, I learned nothing, period. Sometimes the old-timers would just hand out with their dogs and nobody bothered to tell us what we were doing, we were just the lower races.

I went to Sch training and it was a difference like night and day. The sch group was enthusiastic loved dogs, loved training and teaching us. I learned a ton. It was an easy choice.

I was very disappointed in sar, the people and the way they treated the dogs. Also there was the incredible level of arrogance and superiority. I heard of several people who have tried and had the same experience as I.

I think one thing newcomers should assess is whether they stand a chance of becoming active member of whether the established team only needs subjects to hide.
 

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At the risk of being labeled arrogant, I'll present a different perspective on your account of your experience with SAR. I expect the reality is somewhere between these two extremes.

Many teams do not allow newcomers to bring their dog to training at all in the first few months, for good reason. For my team it is 5 months. You were lucky that you were given the opportunity to bring your dog to training at all in the first two months, even if it was for just a five minutes at a time. It does not sound like you were grateful for that training opportunity.

I learned a tremendous amount by hiding for other dog teams. Pay attention to the wind, predict where the dog might pick up your scent, and watch their behavior as they close in on you. Observing that is the best way I know of to learn about scent. Of course you should have also been given the opportunity to observe by following experienced dog teams so you could learn from that perspective as well. Your statement that you learned nothing while hiding for dogs (period) tells me that you were not open to learning anything.

I can't make any judgements about the particular SAR group that you tried out with. If they did indeed treat you like crap then I'm sorry to hear that. In general I will suggest that if you start out in SAR with a "what's in it for me" attitude then you will be disappointed and will not get very far. But if you go in with a "how can I best help this team" attitude then you will be on the path to eventually certifying your own dog and helping to find missing people.

If my dogs got out of a car for five minutes during the several hours of training, we were lucky. Beyond sitting in the bushes and entertaining mosquitoes, I learned nothing, period.
 

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Jonathan, I think that was an excellent post and see it from both sides...and realize RebelGSD may truly have had an awful experience...as there are good and bad teams.

I think many teams have gone through the phase of bending over backwards for new folks just to have them fail to make it to a search because of the weather, or a holiday, etc. and have tightened up because if someone is really into it because they want to do search and rescue they will do whatever it takes.

Most teams are not particularly welcoming with open arms because of the large number of membership inquiries (particularly after some disaster) by folks who really just want a dog sport. (Dog sport is fine but it is not SAR)

Actually I love hiding for dogs because if you position yourself properly you can learn an awful lot about how search dogs work by watching from a distance and after a few hours of quiet in the woods you get to see some neat wildlife. I will admit I do NOT like being a victim for night problems though - a few hours alone at night in the woods is still unsettling to me...all those little eyes creep me out...and once I saw a big black shadow that I am certain was a bear because the dogs went wonky in the same area I saw the shadow.

We require a three month wait before someone can bring a dog. It is not arrogance. Training a dog for this (and the handler which is more work) is a TREMENDOUS team effort. Time spent on a team that will not ultimately be operational is time taken from a team that is or should be.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
Well, let's just say that up here, in general, quite a few teams are a mess. It's not a secret at all that in this area, there are major, major issues. Some on here have heard about it and not from me. It came from a very well respected man in the SAR Community who is trying to help to fix the problem. It's going to be a long road. That is for sure but I'm hoping that we are on the right path.

In December I'll be with this team for a year and I definitely did a lot of soul searching and continue to do soul searching. The problem is that you can only take so much and at some point you really have to ask yourself if it's worth it. I love Search and Rescue but I don't have to be a K9 Handler. There are other Jobs within SAR, such as Grid Searching.

I can help find missing people that way. I can be a flanker... there are so many jobs, that if you have your heart in SAR you'll be able to help find missing people regardless of being a K9 handler or not.

I know I've got some good dogs but I'd rather put my money into a trainer where I get my moneys worth out of it instead of training three or four years for something and never get anywhere at all. For that, my dogs are just too valuable. I'd rather title my dogs in Schutzhund then. Heck, if I had sticked with Schutzhund instead, she'd have her show result, BH, AD and probably be titled in Schutzhund 1 by now....or pretty darn close to being titled. Instead I'm stuck at a point and don't know how to go from here because I really do not want to regress. I'm waiting for our new trainer to set up a schedule and it looks like it's not going to be anywhere before Christmas. Indra has been worked 1 within the past month and it was a disaster and I don't dare to do anything without anyone who really knows what he's doing.
So close to two months, and NO SAR TRAINING whatsoever... two months is a lot of time. A lot of things can be accomplished within two months...

It's not wrong wanting to get something out of it. If you want to do K9 you've got to do it right or not at all!
She's getting older and older and older, all the while all her brothers and sisters are already titled in either Schutzhund or the RH itself... I don't want her to end up like the other dogs from the team that are five and six years old and had to be washed... so I'd rather switch while she's two years old instead of waiting too long until it's too late.
 

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I think that a lot of time is wasted by harassing people away after 5-6 months. As to my learning, my entire life has been devoted to it. And I encountered many teachers on the path, good ones and bad ones. And these sar teachers were bad. Anyway, reading more about it, sar is not for me. Sucking up to people for years for "maybe" one day being "allowed" to train a dog - I am sorry, I lack the masochism for that. I prefer to devote my energy and enthusiasm to a group that is friendly and welcoming. I think it is great that there are people who make it, but statements here confirm that this is an activity I prefer to stay away from.
I preferred the positive attitude and reception and the treatment of the dogs in sch.
So for those who want to start, they need to know that they may or may not ever earn the right to train a dog, that they may or may not end up being called to a search. And they may never belong to the in crowd. So if people chose to spend years of time trying to fit in and "earn" some status, then go for it. I know of several enthusiastic people who were successfully harassed away after many months of trying. In hindsight, I am grateful that it happened the way it happened as leaving sar led me to something positive and rewarding.
 

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Mrs K and RebelGSD - Sorry you had such bad experiences.
The whole SAR thing is very much one of the more stressful volunteer things and dealing with new folks is often very difficult.

I have seen the evolution of our team and our response to managing new folks while giving existing folks who have proven their dedication the attention they need is to simply close the doors to new dog handlers. I can guarantee that when slots open those whodecided to join anyway are already operational ground support staff have first priority at bringing in a new dog.

I can also say, that as a cadaver dog handler and an officer, my training MY dog often is at the end of the pile. We usually just train the cadaver dogs separately because we are too busy either hiding for or flanking for teams (dog+handler) working on becoming operational. When folks are looking at teams perhaps talking with some of the newer members about how they get integrated and made operatoinal would be another good thing to do.

Unfortunately, the typical inquiry is from someone who is looking for something to do with a dog they already have or a dog they purchased to do SAR and gets very frustated when they realize we are not going to stop the works to help train their dog for them no matter how good their dog is because we know a great member/dedicated member will make it happen and won't take it personal if we wash out their dog (as is every single officer on the team has washed out at least one of their own dogs over the years)

Just trying to give a perspective from the other side.
 

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Discussion Starter #18 (Edited)
ROFL... not going to stop the works to help train a new dog? If we were working I could understand, but we are not! There is whether a structure nor is there any form or kind of plan of what we are doing.

We meet, then it's decided who is going out as a helper, the helper is going out, not even hidden for two minutes and then the dogs are sent. Then the helper hides in a different spot for the other dogs. When I still lived in the old house I drove two hours for an hour training and that was it. IF we even worked an hour. Most of the time it was half an hour, half an hour talk about random stuff. Now I'm driving an hour... still not acceptable. If it was like Debbie Zappia training where you really get something out of it, it'd be a difference.

There is no plan whatsoever about any kind or form of search problem. There is absolutely no guidance for any new handler, there is no explaining, no theory, no search tactics.

As for washing dogs out, pretty much every dog except for mine would have to be washed. My dogs are the only dogs that come with a suitable drive, rock solid nerves, the health and propper socialization.


As for new members. I wished a certain person would have joined our team instead of quitting completely. Mainly because that person has talent and has the same view on training as my teammate and I. It would have given us tremendous backup to have three handlers of the same caliber but I can understand why she did not. I wouldn't want my to join my team either if I knew what I know now.

I do not think that your team is anywhere comparable with our team, Nancy.
Open slots? Planned through training, structure, knowing what you are doing.
You can't compare that to a team that is nothing but chaos, has no plan whatsoever and that isn't actually working and hasn't had any certified dog in five years, despite the training.
 

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Sorry you have had so many issues with your team. Honestly, I would take my concerns up the line as your state dos have a SAR council so it does not stop with your teams BOD.

One comment before I pass because I assume when you say "grid searcher" you mean "ground searcher" - i.e. for anyone else - grid searching should be the very last resort in a search effort. Something that is done after containment, after hasty searches, after mantrackers, after canine searchers. Just an informational thing.
 

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Discussion Starter #20 (Edited)
We don't have dogs. We have to call them in from other teams and from what I've experienced with the searches I've been to, the dogs are the last ones to go out.
 
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