Search and Rescue Dogs
Hi… My name is Barley, and I’m a Search and Rescue Dog, or SAR – for short. It’s my job to find people who are lost and that’s not always easy. For one thing, it’s not just any dog that can join in the search; they have to have special training but I have a great handler. What usually takes two years I’ve learned in just 21 months. I started training as a Golden Retriever puppy just 8 weeks old.
All SAR dogs have to be obedient at all times and get along with other dogs. We have to be friendly to people we meet every day; that’s why we don’t make good ‘guard dogs’. We have to be a good citizen; that means all these things, and also being kind to other critters like cats, squirrels and birds. That’s the easy part.
I have to stay in good shape practicing my climbing, running and jumping every day. I didn’t have to learn how to retrieve things for my owner because this was instinct… just throw anything and I’m halfway onto it before you can say “fetch”… even in water.
Patience was often my challenge – saying in a car, truck or van for long periods of time with other people and their dogs… waiting to get to wherever we were needed next.
It was my nose that was the hardest to train… following a scent and then learning to signal my handler that I was “onto it” -- even squeezing into small spaces to follow the scent once I did find it.
Balancing has been difficult for other dogs but I took to it quickly. I’m not afraid of high places – especially if my handler gives me directions, even climbing a ladder. It’s all in preparation because we don’t know what will be our job during any one search, so we have to be prepared. That means no hesitation – just do it.
Becoming a team with my owner/handler is sort of like training together. He reads my signals and I read his. We were both taught special skills and we both learn our commands and practice on each other until we almost act like one – and that’s called trust. Something we both will need on our first real assignment.
SAR dogs and their handlers have formed partnerships with many law enforcement and search agencies, hoping to meet the challenges of creating a national SAR dog resource list.
My name has just joined the list.
Esther Smith, author
For Barley – SAR supreme
Smith has researched Golden Retrievers and enjoys writing Articles with each new discovery.
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