Why does a search dog want to be a search dog?

  • The bottom line is a search dog wants to work because once they find their "victim" in training that victim rewards them with play time and the dog's favorite toy!!! 


What toy(s) provides such a tremendous amount of motivation, drive and focus?

  • We ask our dogs...each pup that enters are group is given their choice from bags and bags full of toys.
  • Most of our dogs pick a stuffed toy duck...please remember we do work Labrador Retrievers...or a jute tug or rope toy.


Where does a disaster search dog live?

Our dogs are part of their handler's family. They live inside our homes, go to work with us and while on duty are part of the crew and go into a kennel only when we have to leave on a call or training that is not dog related. Once they are past the puppy stage our newer stations have individual dorm rooms so most dogs have dog beds placed under our bunks and are happy to catch a short nap when we have to leave them behind while at work.


What does a search dog cost?

To really explain you would need to stop by our weekly training and talk in person. You cannot put a value on your time and training does not just happen at our rubble sites. To do this right and at a professional level it is a life style...very similar to raising a child. You are never done and there is always more you want to teach your dog. While each handler donates their time there is a dollar value. Best estimate would be approximately $15,000...Initial purchase/rescue of a pup or young adult, Vet care, food, toys, equipment, travel for training and testing and an occasional couch or car seat adds up :>). Hitting that donate button at the bottom of our Home page helps a lot!!!!!!!!!!


Rescue vs. Recovery

Rescue involves locating and extrication of victims. Recovery missions are intended to locate victims that did not survive the disaster and bring them home to their family and friends. We do not cross train our dogs. We have dedicated dogs that search for live victims and recovery dogs that are specifically trained to alert on deceased victims. 


Where do our dogs work?

Our dogs are attached to Arizona Task Force 1, an Urban Search and Rescue Team. They deploy to disasters such as The World Trade Center and Hurricane Ike on Galveston Island along with local wide area searches from neighborhoods in Show Low to wilderness settings outside Globe and Sierra Vista.


When is a pup old enough to start training?

We start training right away. We try to fly to the pup and bring them home in cabin on the plane. We want to control each experience and watch over them morning, noon and night. We let them progress at their own speed and make sure we do not make any mistakes. Fear is something that can stay with a pup their entire life. They may grow out of certain aspects of a negative experience with another dog or a fall for example, but they never completely forget fear. If we do not know the outcome of an exposure to a new dog or moderate rubble we do not put them in that position. Meeting a new dog is accomplished with a team dog where we know it will be a fun and rewarding adventure for the pup. Exposure to rubble is taken in baby steps...the pup progresses at their own pace.


When does a handler have to start training their next dog?

That is a difficult question. We cannot have a group of seniors retire at once and expect pups to fill their shoes. We try to layer in our dogs at different ages and levels of experience. Once a disaster search dog turns 8 years old a handler should consider adding a pup to their family. 


What is a dog mobile?

A dog mobile...that can start as the family car. Most times a new handler gets a pup and a few items are placed in the trunk and the dog sits on a towel on the front seat. Then summer hits and when you are done training this excited search monster jumps into your tuck, misses the seat with the towel and plants his face in front of the coldest A/C vent. Dog slobber is then blown all over your truck, the dog shakes and spit and dust goes everywhere and once home you find the remnants of wet stuffed toy ducks all over the back seat. You are issued additional equipment and the next thing you know there is barely room for you and your dog to fit inside your vehicle. The next change you notice in this building of a dedicated dog vehicle is no one else wants to ride in your truck anymore. Hair is everywhere even 30 minutes after you run a shop vac and on rig day you will find things under the seats that make you smile...ripped up dog toys, pieces of what you hope is dog biscuits, and probably a collar you have not seen in months. 


How do our dogs deploy?

In a perfect world our dogs deploy as a search team...

  • A STM (Search Team Manager)
  • Two Canine Search Specialist Teams (Dog and handler equals one Search Specialist Team)
  • Other positions that are mission specific. This could include a Haz Mat Technician. If infrastructure is not intact a Logistics Specialist might be needed. If limited Rescue capabilities, Rescue Specialists might be necessary to work along with a search team both as searchers and to extricate any identified victims. By staying with a search team concept handlers are able to monitor and care for their dogs. 


Could a search team be a combination of Live Find and Human Remains (HR) search dogs?

If there is a chance there are savable victims time is extremely important and all available resources are put towards Rescue!!!!! Once the opportunity for rescue has absolutely passed Command makes the decision to move to a Recovery Mode. While severe injuries to our dogs are rare, fatigue and smaller injures like worn pads and mild hypo or hyperthermia are always a challenge. Many times a Search Team will temporarily lose a dog, yet continue to clear their assigned search area. Once rehab is accomplished a Search Team will be back up to two dogs or reserve dogs will be brought forward. Without two dogs per Search Team all operations would cease for something as minor as a pulled toenail or an abrasion.   


What does it take to support a dog in the field?

Depends!!!!!!! During Katrina and Rita deployments heat and humidity were serious challenges. A search dog giving you 100% from the time you land at a remote Landing Zone till you are picked up at sunset miles away can easily require 3 gallons of water and Sub Q fluids. Water is 8.34 pounds/gallon. You should have a harness available to fly and if the dogs are working close to a fall hazard a harness and tag line is important. With a significant increase in their physical activity most dogs are challenged to take in enough calories during long searches. Since pick up at the end of the day is not guaranteed a handler always needs to carry food for an additional 24 hours. Add in a radio, extra battery, GPS, food for handler, possibly a sleeping bag, ground cloth, rain and/or cold weather gear, first aid kit and possibly a dry pad for your dog to lay on during rest periods.