Training the Handler

Unpaid professionals

Search and Rescue personnel often call themselves unpaid professionals to emphasize the amount of dedication, commitment and training every canine handler and support person puts into this profession.

Our team consists of individuals from all over the Puget Sound Region of Washington state. Our canine handlers need to be physically and mentally able to work long hours in difficult terrain. They need to be able to travel on short notice to be deployed to natural and man-made disasters all over the country.

Each team member needs to complete multiple certifications to become mission-ready. Some of our canine handlers double as members of the FEMA Washington Task Force 1 and undergo many hours of training and testing to became fully deployable canine search specialists.

Along with training our dogs, we are constantly training and challenging each other during our group sessions. Whether setting up a search problem that challenges the handler to think “outside the box”, working together to set up a rope and harness system to raise a dog to a third-story window, or helping to overcome a dog’s fear of heights, experienced handlers and support personnel mentor and guide newer handlers through the ups and downs of learning to work their dogs in a safe and effective manner for disaster search.

We all have a strong bond with our dogs and spend as much time with them as possible. Most NDSD members can take their dog to work and all dog handlers spend many hours a week on training their dogs. It is not enough to just run the dogs at NDSD’s official training. Dog handler need to work with their dogs every day. Handlers are strongly encouraged to participate in outside training classes, seminars and workshops.

Disaster dogs and handlers need to travel! This enures that dogs and handlers are able to work new search areas and rubble piles, and are able to work in different weather conditions. All NDSD dogs and handlers need to participate in open trainings and seminars around the country.