The following is a press release written in 1996.
Anyone participating in Search and Rescue knows the importance of the
right equipment for the job. For members of German Shepherd Search Dogs of
Washington State (GSSD) the right equipment includes a four-footed
partner. Our canine friends bring a different level of skills and
abilities to the search for lost or missing persons.
Originally formed in the 1960's as an offshoot of a German Shepherd breed
club, German Shepherd Search Dogs has expanded their original charter to
include dogs outside the original breed. All dogs in GSSD, regardless of
breed, are hard working, physically fit, and friendly animals. Usually
trained and raised from the time they are young puppies, they also share
their handler's desire to help find lost people.
Many breeds of dogs are used in search and rescue throughout the country.
GSSD qualified search teams can be found fielding Doberman Pinschers,
Border Collies, Golden Retrievers, and of course, German Shepherds. Other
breeds are currently in training with their human partners. Search work
isn't for every dog, however. Physical stamina and strength, trainability,
socialization (both with people and other dogs) are just a few of the
factors that make a good search dog.
How the Dogs and Handlers Work
The most important component of working with a search dog is teamwork.
Both the handler and the dog offer skills that, when combined, result in
an effective tool for finding the subject of a search. It's the handler's
job to run the radio, know first aid, be able to navigate safely and
accurately in wilderness and off trails, and be able to "read" their dog's
behavior. The dog's task is to work confidently and quickly, covering
terrain in areas that are difficult for people to get into. The dog must
also be motivated enough to inform the human partner when he has located
someone. A dog's detection ability (i.e. the nose!) is significantly
better than the human partner's. In fact, it's possible for a dog to
indicate the presence of a person up to a quarter mile away!
GSSD dogs work mainly as air scent dogs. This means that they don't take
scent from an article of clothing to look for a specific person. When air
scent dogs search, they will indicate the presence of any person in an
area. Human scent is not only deposited on the ground as a person moves
down a trail or through a forest -- it is constantly shed even when still.
As a breeze or wind moves through an area, it carries scent particles that
can then be detected by a search dog. When the dog detects these
particles, they can be followed upwind to the source.
Types of Searches
GSSD participates in a wide variety of searches. These can be anywhere
from the deepest wilderness to the heart of a city. In any weather, day or
night, GSSD search teams are called to locations through Washington (and
sometimes out of state). Traditional training focused mainly on wilderness
type searches, where GSSD has been called to search for lost hikers,
hunters or mushroom pickers. Increasingly, agencies have requested search
dog services in urban and suburban areas to help locate missing young children
or elderly family members. Whatever the situation, GSSD search teams
are trained and ready to respond.
GSSD search teams also train for water and
Mission of GSSD
The purpose of German Shepherd Search Dogs is to provide, day and night,
as a free public service, trained dog and handler teams for search and
rescue at the request of any official agency, and to provide continuous
training and education for members and their dogs to insure a competent
and capable service.
GSSD training sessions are held twice a month in various locations in
western Washington. In winter, avalanche workouts are held twice a month
in mountainous areas. "Ready Searcher" status (capability of performing
actual search duties) is contingent upon certification from GSSD's
Operation Leaders that the handler has attained a proficient level of
expertise in the skills of navigation, first aid, radio communications,
and basic search dog handling. The dog must demonstrate skills in locating
persons under many conditions and in varied terrain as well as being
physically and mentally sound.
For more information about GSSD, contact GSSD Information
If you're outside of Western Washington, and need help
finding more about nearby units, check the info at the SAR-DOGS list
Back to GSSD Info page
Last updated February 27, 1997
Copyright, German Shepherd Search Dogs of Washington State, 1997-1999
Seattle, WA, USA
Email -- firstname.lastname@example.org