Alaska Search and Rescue Dogs (ASARD) is a volunteer search dog unit on call 24 hours a day to assist law enforcement and other official agencies. We respond to approximately 20 - 30 missions per year.
No, ASARD is not a dog training club. For SAR dog teams, we are looking for people who have the time, persistence and drive to spend many long hours training to achieve and maintain a mission-ready search dog team.
Membership progression is from Support to Field Support to Training to Operational Team status. Support members are not necessarily dog team handlers, but provide essential functions which help keep the organization running smoothly.
No. In fact, we prefer you start your journey with ASARD without a dog so you can learn the skills necessary for you to succeed before you add a dog to the mix. ASARD needs volunteer support people to do a whole range of activities including: fundraising, base camp support, public relations, dispatching, assisting teams during SAR missions and many other activities. You do not need to be a dog handler to be an effective member of this organization. Support members are valuable as dog team members!
Prospective members are admitted as Support members. From there, they work on Foundation Skills that will get them to the next level of membership, Field Support Status. Some members stay at Field Support permanently and others obtain their dog and start working towards Training Status and eventually an Operational Handler. Time spent in each stage depends a lot on the individual. but each stage allows the individual to evaluate their own interest and commitment before attaining the next level. From start to finish, it typically takes a dog 1-3 years of training to become Operational, and the dog enters the picture after the human is trained.
Most breeds are capable of doing SAR work. Dogs that are very large or small generally do not work well for this type of work. Dogs that fall into a "working" dog class are most often seen working in SAR, though and breed/dog that is intelligent, bidable, curious, confident dogs with a strong play/prey drive and a good sense of smell can be a good candidate.
Yes, this is preferable. You can start with an older dog also, however its working career will be shorter. All dogs must be proficient in basic obedience prior to starting their training membership period.
We spend much time training our teams as well as helping newcomers. Informal training sessions are held during the week and at least one formal full-day training workout is conducted per month. We will assist you, but not hold your hand, through the initial candidacy process. You must demonstrate interest, teamwork, initiative, a willingness to learn and to assist others.
We expect the following from all new dog team members:
• Attend at least one or two training sessions per week.
• Train in all types of weather.
• Attend outside classes (obedience, agility, first aid & specialty classes).
• Work with other handlers on practice search problems.
• Volunteer to be a subject for ASARD training and tests.
• Have a positive and constructive attitude.
• Develop/demonstrate adequate physical fitness.
• Be willing to train up to 2 years to achieve mission-ready status.
• Be willing to train independently.
• Purchase necessary personal equipment.
• Work with your dog every day outside of unit training.
• Maintain a written daily training log.
Yes! Expect to train 3-4 times per week when starting out. You will need a significant amount of support from your spouse, family and employer. This is a serious commitment of your time and resources. In most cases, teams who train inconsistently do not advance towards mission-ready status.
We strongly encourage all members to cross train in several different types of searching. Most mission-ready teams are certified in several of the following areas: Wilderness, tracking/trailing, avalanche, cadaver, drowned victim and disaster. Each of the categories has two proficiency levels.
There are many good books on SAR dog training. The following books provide a basic overview of what is required:
Search Dog Training
by: Sandy Bryson
The Boxwood Press
Ready! A Step by Step Guide for Training the Search & Rescue Dog
by: Susan Bulanda
2nd edition ISBN: 978-1-62187-104-0
Search and Rescue Dogs: Training Methods
by: American Rescue Dog Association
Maxwell Publishing Company