i have a 3 mo old shepherd and would really like to get into SAR, i live in NJ where do i start. how old should she be when i start training, ect...
we already take long hikes through the woods on varied terrain.
The first thing you need to do is identify teams in your area. Teams are usually spread out several hours apart because there is not enough demand to have one in every town. I know there is a USAR team in New Jersey and am sure there are several wilderness only teams. Google works pretty well in that respect. Most teams have some kind of web presence.
It can be a bit discouraging trying to get onto a SAR team because many folks want to join to have something to do with their pet and not because of an interest in SAR. This is one area where, if you are truly interested in Search and Rescue, persistence will pay off. email, then call the team number if you don't get an answer in a few weeks. Teams are volunteer organizations who do a LOT of training and most folks work day jobs so they can get overwhelemed with keeping up with inquiries along with requests for demos, searches, training etc. so patience pays off.
In the meanwhile go ahead and knock out your ICS 100,200,700,800, and 809 courses at the Emergency Management Institute - FEMA Independent Study Program These courses are online, free, and required by every state and by national certifying agencies. Save the PDF certificates to your hard drive and print them off. There is a lot of other training you can do outside of the team, but they all have their own specific requirements for this. Also be prepared for a fingerprint criminal background check.
Right now, socialize the dickens out of the puppy and that does NOT mean puppy play time; it means get the pup used to be in all kinds of different environments, surfaces, people, around types of animals, etc. Teams vary but our team and most teams we work with want to see "dog neutral" dogs - dogs not so interested in playing with other dogs but crazy to play ball or tug. Build what is there in ball and tug, BTW.
Be prepared that the puppy may or may not be a suitable candidate - once again - most solid teams expect that if your pup or dog does not work out you will either get another or stay and perform some other role with the team. It may be they are not even interested in working with the pup until it is older (once again different teams) but will give you helpful suggestions along the way.