How To Become a SAR K-9 Handler

There are some jobs that offer people the earn while doing the things that they love to do. Why limit yourself to a boring and stifling nine to five job, when you can go out and earn by doing the things you love to do? In order to find a job that you can genuinely enjoy, you have to find things that interest you – if you do so, you’ll never consider your job work.

If you are the kind of person who genuinely enjoys the outdoors, is good with handling dogs, and has a sincere desire to help others, you may want to consider becoming a SAR K-9 handler. An SAR K-9 handler is one in charge of training the dogs for important search and rescue missions – you will work as part of a team with your dog. If you are interested in this career, here are some things that you might want to keep in mind.

  • There are some minimum requirements for any prospective SAR K-9 handler. Since the missions may be sometimes dangerous, you will have to be at least eighteen years of age before you can apply for the position. You must also be certified by a licensed physician to be in perfect health and not suffering from any medical condition – your job will involve a lot of outdoor work training dogs and performing SAR operations.
  • You will have to own a dog that can be trained for SAR missions. This is a requirement that varies from team to team. Most teams require prospective SAR K-9 handlers to own a dog, probably because of the pre-existing connection. Some teams, however, have dogs that they provide for handlers. Dogs that are preferred for K-9 teams are bred for outdoor activity, such as German Shepherds, Labradors and Retrievers, Rotteweilers and Doberman. Smaller dogs may not be appropriate for SAR missions.
  • Your dog must be one that can be trained to follow human scent and follow orders from its handler. Later on, you will have to demonstrate that the dog has the skills and temperament that make it a suitable member of the SAR team. You must be able to discipline your dog and keep it under control.
  • You will have to find your local SAR team. These teams are usually a subsidiary of your local law enforcement agency. If there are no openings there, try inquiring at the fire department or rescue operations headquarters.
  • Before you become part of the SAR team, they will usually require training sessions. Complete all the required training modules, and try to impress the team with the skills that you and your dog possess. The length of training can vary, depending on how quickly you pick up the minimum skills required of SAR team members.
  • You should also learn other important survival skills, basic navigation and first aid, as well as radio communications. Your dog should be trained to follow people based on scent.

After completing the training, there is usually a probationary period that you and your dog will have to complete. The time ranges from a month to a year, depending on your location and the state’s regulations. You will also have to pass several certification tests in order to considered a legitimate SAR K-9 handler.


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