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So You Want to be a dog handler?

Being a canine handler is a life style and a serious long term commitment.  To  be successful and have the very best search dog, they must be a part of your family or from the dogs point of view, your pack.  Best results come when the dog wants to work for you, wants to please you - the pack leader.  First Response search dogs are treated as family, our handlers routinely take their dog to a variety of public places.  We encourage socialization and exposing the dog to all types of environments so there are no surprises on an actual search mission.  This level of commitment is a necessity if you want to have the best results.

Before you can become a dog handler, you must become a searcher first.  All First Response field searchers are nationally certified as Search and Rescue Technicians (SAR-Tech) through the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR).  In addition, they are also trained in basic first aid, CPR, NIMS/ICS FEMA compliant, and crime scene preservation just to start out.  The training never stops, we meet regularly to practice and perfect your skills and we encourage you to attend seminars to learn from others.  To learn more about our searcher training CLICK HERE.

Training the dog is the easy part.  First you select the right breed for the job, less than 3 years old, typically a hunting breed like the bloodhound or German Shepherd, then just let them be a dog.  Starting with reasonable, basic, consistent, obedience to insure control but not to the point of dominating the puppy.  You want a free thinker that views you as the pack leader and wants to please.  We suggest all dogs go through the AKC Good Citizen program to help with the basic obedience and socialization.  This helps to eliminate any aggressive dogs as they will not be permitted to participate.

Once you get the basics down, we begin weekly canine search training with one of our instructors.  Training will vary depending on the type of technique the dog indicates (air scent, tracking, and/or trailing) and then move to a specialty should you want to focus on human remains detection (HRD), water search, etc.

Canines in Search and Rescue

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Together, we can make a difference.

* Not all dogs pictured are First Response canines

Trained and certified canines are a major part of any search and rescue program.  One canine and handler can perform the work of 30 of more ground searchers in less time and with a higher probability of detection.  This fact has been proven through many studies. 

Law enforcement agencies are familiar with the use of canines in the performance of their duties and they recognize the value of the canine and a well trained handler.  We get many questions about our search dogs.  These animals are our partners and in many cases almost viewed as our children.  If you are not a dog handler this may be hard for you to understand.  But keep an open mind and we will introduce you to this valuable asset that no human can begin to match, when it comes to finding a lost child or Alzhiemer's victim.

First      Response


First Response member Craig Jones and "Gunnie" working a search in Hopkins County.