Jobs in Search and Rescue Dog Training: Options and Requirements

Search and rescue dog training requires handlers to become certified members of rescue teams. They must undergo training in search and rescue with and without a dog and have experience on a rescue team before being able to train and evaluate others. Search and rescue dog training is done on a predominately volunteer basis.

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Options

To become a search and rescue (SAR) dog trainer, it is first necessary to become a certified dog handler or field assistant. Numerous certification options are available, the most appropriate ones specializing in SAR training. SAR dog handler training programs are offered by federal and state governments, as well as specific SAR organizations. Aspiring SAR dog handlers and trainers may consider starting their training with a relatively young dog that they can train along side of while seeking out other credentials. Required training to work as a SAR dog handler can include emergency response and CPR certification, SAR strategies, wilderness survival skills and helicopter safety.

Training programs typically offer specific classes aimed at different aspects of SAR, and aspiring dog trainers can expect to train for several years to become officially designated members of a SAR team. Some training organizations require handlers to demonstrate ability in SAR and SAR dog tactics by becoming a certified field assistant. Either way, those looking to train SAR dogs will need to go through a rigorous training process first and receive credentials as a part of a SAR team.

In comparison to all occupations, there's a faster-than-average rise (15%) in animal trainer jobs from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau reported that these workers earned a mean wage of $31,030 as of 2013.

Requirements

Licensed SAR dog handlers or field assistants can become actual trainers. One way is through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) task forces, in which both dogs and their handlers are trained and tested to become part of a US&R team. FEMA's requirements consist of being a SAR dog handler for three years, completing FEMA's Canine Search Specialist Training Course and evaluation to become a US&R team member and shadowing at least two evaluations (www.fema.gov). This qualifies individuals as FEMA US&R task force evaluators, where they will be part of training and evaluating new candidates for the many task forces across the nation.

SAR dog teams and their training facilities are almost always offered on a volunteer basis. Most handlers, trainers and evaluators for SAR organizations actually end up paying money rather than making it. SAR dog training is a field appropriate for people who want to serve their communities while making money elsewhere.

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