How to Train Ordinary Dogs to Become Search and Rescue Dogs

There are few dogs as remarkable as search and rescue dogs; their intelligence, drive, and vitality will astound you. In this article we will learn how to train a search and rescue dog.

A search and rescue dog is said to be self-driven because it acts on its own accord when given the order to locate a person hiding in the underbrush or among the trees.

It uses its nostrils to search for clues, sniffing the air and vanishing into the underbrush before reappearing with a frantic noise, as if to report that it has found what it was instructed to look for.

If you knew the dog before it was trained as a search and rescue dog, you might be surprised by the drastic change that has taken place in it to make it into the great smart dog that it is today, rather than the dumb dog you remember from a few months ago.

While search and rescue dogs may not be particularly intelligent or talented, they make up for it with boundless enthusiasm and a strong desire to please their human companions.

A search and rescue dog’s expertise is honed over the course of months of training,, dedication, practice and patience.

Making Ordinary Dogs Proficient in Search and Rescue:

Here are a few of the methods how regular dogs become SAR specialists.

1. Dog Selection

The search and rescue transformation process begins and ends with the selection of dog breed. It’s the most crucial phase of the cycle.

The first step in becoming a successful search and rescue trainer is selecting the ideal canine candidate for training. German Shepherds are ideal rescue dogs because of their high levels of intellect, loyalty, stamina, and other desirable traits.


Due to the time-sensitive nature of their work, search and rescue dogs are expected to exhibit these traits at a high level. Dogs of either sex may be equally effective search and rescue companions, thus trainers don’t discriminate based on gender.

Not only have trainers discovered that some other dog breeds may be just as successful as German Shepherds in search and rescue missions, but they have shown that they can do it with comparable efficiency.

Choosing the proper dog breed is only the first step; you also need to select a dog with the right personality.

The best search and rescue dogs are high-energy, eager-to-please dogs. Dogs that have a high “ball drive,” or an intense desire to play, are ideal candidates for search and rescue work.

The formation of a link with the SAR training is a vital step before beginning the programme itself. It is thus advised that you establish a strong relationship with the dog when it is still a puppy.

When the dog is about six or eight months old, it’s time to start training, and it’s a good idea to introduce the puppy to the person who will be helping you.

However, once the dogs reach 12 months of age, they are considered to be at the optimal age for SAR training.

While there is no hard and fast rule about how long a dog can be trained to be a search and rescue dog, it is important to take into account the time commitment involved in training (which can be a year or more) when estimating the dog’s potential usefulness.

You should consider whether or not there is enough time for your dog to be of service as a SAR dog after it has fully grasped the abilities.

2. Getting started with training

You can now start search and rescue training with the right dog and the right attitude.


– The Run-away

The “Run-away” is the very first thing your dog will do in his or her training to become a search and rescue dog. At this point, you’ll need the help of another individual to finish the job.

While you face the dog, your helper will hold it in place by placing one arms underneath his belly and the other under its collar.

Catching the dog’s attention with a reassuring stroke to the face or ears and some encouraging words will help. When you notice the dog perking up with enthusiasm, you should sprint for around 15 paces before collapsing to the floor.

Your helper should unleash the dog and command it to “Go Find!” as you lie on the ground. The dog will come running towards you, as predicted.

In addition to giving it lots of attention and praise, you might also offer it a treat like one of its favourite toys if it behaves well. The practise should be repeated several times until you are certain that your pet has learned the game.

When practicing, have your helper hold the dog for a longer period of time before releasing it with the “Go Find!” command, gradually increasing the distance of the run-aways.

There will come a day when you’ll want to hide from your dog behind a bush and see if he can track you down. You shouldn’t raise the bar until you’re sure your pet has learned the current lesson. Read more here…

– The Blind run-away

Now that your pet has mastered the regular run-aways, it’s time to challenge it with the blind run-away.

When teaching a dog to “run away” while blindfolded, it helps to have a light breeze blow from your direction and toward the dog’s hiding place. You may put your dog or cat’s natural nose to work this way.

Start by making the dog excited as usual, then sprint 40 feet into the wind and hide behind a bush. Now, when your helper steers the dog in the other way, you can switch to a new location near your original cover. Verify that, from your current location, the wind is still blowing in the direction of the dog.


The dog will be sent back to its previous location and told to “Go Find!” by your assistance after it has seen you vanish behind the bushes.

Your dog’s natural tendency will be to run towards the direction from where it last saw you, but it may veer off in a different direction if it detects your smell elsewhere. A dog’s keen sense of smell will amaze you when it locates his owner or another person.

Once again, you should reward your dog whenever it locates you, since doing so will teach him to correlate his success in his search efforts with positive reinforcement from you.

– The Switch

The training system’s last stage consists of a role reversal between you and the assistance. At this point, you’ll need to hold the dog until your assistant excites him, at which point he’ll need to rush away.

Most dogs will have no trouble making the change, and you can look forward to the start of an exciting new phase in which your pet delights in the thrill of the hunt.

Your dog can use the rest of the training to become a true pro at what it’s learning. Run-aways may be given at progressively greater distances, and after the dog has completed the task, you can phase out the run-aways in favour of simply giving him a search order. Keep in mind that it must be powered on before any search can begin.

Training a dog for search and rescue is a marathon that will test not just your dog’s stamina but also your own. Training a search and rescue dog requires the same attention, drive, and patience as training any dog.


Becoming a proud and successful owner comes from knowing that you have done something beneficial for humanity by converting your regular pet into a saver of human lives through SAR training.