While I was at the dog show, I spoke with Sheri Johnson from Ohio Search Dog Association (OSDA) about their search and rescue dogs. OSDA is a volunteer, non-profit organization that uses K-9’s for search and rescue. The K-9 search and rescue teams assist in finding missing or lost persons, and detecting human remains.
There is no specific breed of dog that they use. However, the dog should be medium to large sized, trainable, high play drive, and able to get along with people and other dogs. The dogs need to be a larger breed because the workload is too much for smaller breed dogs. She also said that dogs with longer snouts are better search and rescue dogs because their sense of smell is better.
Each dog lives with their handler and both the dog and handler need to be certified. For the dog, training generally takes 12-18 months to become a certified search and rescue dog. The certification for the handler takes around two years. Once trained and certified, the dog must continue to train two to three times a week for the rest of the dogs working career. The handler and dog must renew their certification every two years.
The two types of search and rescue dogs Sheri spoke with me about are human remains dogs (HRD) and live persons rescue dogs. Just like their names sound, the HRD dogs look for human remains and the live person’s rescue dogs look for lost or missing persons that are alive.
Both types of dogs are rewarded the same way when they find what they are looking for. I had always assumed they get some sort of food treat but I was wrong. They have a special toy that they only get to play with when they find the person they were looking for or when they find the human remains. They are trained to think that the person they are looking for has their special toy and when they find that person, they will be able to play with them and their special toy. These dogs love to play and they love affection, so they want to find them so they...