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I am seriously considering getting into S&R (search and rescue) work. It's a great passion for me and I would love to do it.

But I have several questions for anyone who has answers.

-How hard is it to do? I know that it take a lot of work and dedication but how hard is it to train a dog and how many dogs 'fail'.

-What other dogs would be good for S&R besides retrievers. No offense but they aren't 'my' type of dogs

-Could an ABPT or other bully breed be a good S&R dog?
 

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I taught my Mastiff S&R. People thought I was daft a bit. We figured that we go do nature stuff all the time so it's best to teach him things that is helpful to us and to help his curious and bored mind. Really difficult with him since he was not a natural sniffer of scent trails but we started with my scent and taught him to be fascinated with smells by doing some food rescues in the house (like I hide a slice of cheese and let him smell and taste another slice) then onto distinct items. I think there's just more learning curve for animals that have not used their nose, but I don't think it's impossible for a intelligent dog of any breed to learn.

Mind you, we did it to keep all us safe in the woods, for him to know our scents and want to find it. We never did it to where he tracked to many strange people for us except once which is a pretty unlikely scenario- We were in the middle of no where in Joshua Tree and we went off the main road and just picked a clearing. Out in the desert with few lights/camps/houses in the far distances but alone for maybe 3-5 miles. We get scared by some banchee screaming thing and movement in the dark and some random guy runs through our camp from no where super fixated on some other hallucinogen induced world. We just let the crazy go run off and hours later his friends ask for our help since they saw our campfire driving around. Pretty easy to smell out this nag champa smelling dude. Well the night ended with hippies giving us reiki healing, a power crystal necklace which they put on Berlin, and some pretty strong kombucha for us. They also offered us the said hallucinogen but none of us wanted to be like that guy. LOL
 

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Personally I believe all dogs should be taught to track their family members... that of course is me. Even out less than 3 pound dog will track her handler (off lead). That sort of training comes fairly easy...

If you're talking about actual Search & Rescue for the missing, then it takes a deep level of commitment. You have to be ready, willing & able to go out in any kind of weather (to present I've never had anyone get lost in a beautifully mown park when it's sunny & 70 degrees out). So you have to be willing to train in the same conditions you'll be tracking the missing. That means pouring down rain, ice, snow, heat, fog, etc... It means you need to be in fit condition yourself & the dogs need to be kept lean & hard & kept in condition so that the pair of you are ready for the long hard track over every manner of terrain you'll encounter where you track.

That's not even covering the mental preparation & training that's required. You've not ran a track until you've got officers telling you to go one way, a sobbing mother pleading with you & pulling on your shirt, while the father's threatening to sue someone or getting pushy & everyone's shouting directions... ALL of this affects you & therefore affects the dog. You have to get very good at taking in a lot of information yet not letting it affect you or put you into assumptions. It comes down to trusting your dog. Comes down to knowing your dog. Comes down to putting in training & continuing to learn.

I love track work. Love it, love it, love IT!!!

As for breeds, I favor the Malinois, German Shepherd's Dog. I've friends who use Dutch Shepherd's Dogs & I'd trust them with my life if I were lost & they were handling the track lines. I've heard the Airedale (if bred for working) is excellent. I've a Giant Schnauzer who is showing excellent signs of being a good tracker & she's quick enough to go to her nose if she can't find me (which I make sure happens often... sigh... she worries as I seem to get lost often :) ). My collie is a good dog to teach a small child or a very timid person to handle the track line.

I haven't found many members of the bullbreeds that I would use for this work however there was a dog who served in war times, believe his name was Stubby, who was a Pit Bull. I'm not saying it's impossible to bring on a bully breed or others. I'm saying it's not common place & not easy.

Trailing dogs are another subject as you have the bloodhound who is by far top dawg. The old Bloodhound can't hardly be beat as a mantrailer BUT they need someone handling them who is superior in the fitness dept & who really understands how hounds minds work.


You asked about failure rates, often times that has a great deal more to do with everything I've mentioned above. You have to pick the right dog for the job. You have to train as seriously as the seriousness of the job itself (believe me, when a child is missing there's no room for games). You have to keep fit (handler/dog). You have to put in the hours (education, time in the field tracking). You have to be willing to be wrong a lot before the tide changes & you become consistent & the dog becomes consistent. You also tend to get a little obsessed as I've been known to grab an opportunity. Saw a baby drop a toy. Used my dog to track the owner thru the park to return it. The people where I live began to welcome us anywhere.

There's a whole lot more to SAR work... this little dab scratches the very surface.
 
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