Training with us
In order to be operational, team members must be trained in Search Techniques, Navigation & Radio Communication, Missing Person Behaviour and Human & Canine First Aid. Training takes place in the day and at night, and in all weathers, to ensure it is similar to real searches. All of this provides the skills and confidence required to attend a callout as a member of a search team.
The majority of our dogs are trained as air scenting dogs, as we are most often called to rural and unpopulated areas (where dogs are much faster than humans at searching). Dogs are trained to detect any human scent and the training is built up in stages until the dogs are ready to carry out successful searches.
The key stages are:
- Stage One: Find – positive reward methods are used to encourage the dog to find someone hiding (e.g. in the woods)
- Stage Two: Alert – the dog needs to be trained to return to their handler after they find and give a clear readable ‘alert’ (this can be by jumping up or barking)
- Stage Three: Re-find – at this stage, the dog must find, return, alert and then take the handler back to where they located the ‘missing’ person, all without prompting.
- Stage Four: Performing a full and successful search (Find, Alert & Re-find) for 2 ‘missing’ people, over a 1km distance.
- Stage Five: Performing a full and successful search (Find, Alert & Re-find) for 3 ‘missing’ people, over an increased 2km distance.
Training for all parts of the team requires hard work and commitment. Dogs are accepted onto the training programme following initial behavioural assessments. The dog and their handler will need to pass a nationally accredited assessment to take part in searches. Typically, training takes place weekly, all year round and it will take six months before the dog handler/support achieves qualification standards and around two years before a dog team is ready to be nationally assessed.