The Puppy as SAR Prospect: An Overview
A responsible breeder of quality "working" dogs will honestly evaluate the sire and dam of each carefully planned litter to insure that both are of correct conformation and breed type, are physically and genetically sound, and have character and working ability.
Puppies may be evaluated by formal puppy testing techniques and by careful observation. Experienced handler/trainers can assist in this process. A SAR prospect should have these basic characteristics:
A strong retrieve instinct is a definite asset. The vast majority of successful SAR dogs are motivated by a prey or play drive. Retrieving is a common reward used for search dogs.
The SAR prospect must not be aggressive toward other animals. SAR training and actual search work is done off-lead and in the presence of other SAR dogs and wildlife.
Puppy level work on agility obstacles and basic obedience (i.e., "sit", "down", "stay", and "come") using only positive reinforcement with praise, toys and food may begin as soon as you bring your puppy home. The first weeks with you and your family is a very important time in the puppy's development. It's important to spend plenty of time with the dog in order to establish a strong and lasting bond.
House manners can be taught quickly and easily using environmental control and distractions in lieu of corrections.
Socialization of your puppy with all kinds of people, especially children and the elderly, is extremely important. You must expose your young SAR prospect to many different environments, different terrain, still and moving water, and slick and unstable surfaces. Your puppy must be able to ride comfortably and quietly in cars, boats and other vehicles. Introduction to new experiences should not be forced on a dog if it's too young.
An excellent foundation for serious SAR training will be realized after several weeks of socialization and training as outlined above. An active SAR unit will provide access to organized training sessions, wilderness navigation, survival training, radio operation, first aid training and other necessary skills. It will also provide the contacts required for you to be "called out" on actual searches once you and your partner are field qualified!
There are many excellent books on the subject of basic obedience and socialization training. Puppy and general obedience classes will help strengthen the working bond as well as make your partner a pleasure to live with. Don't ignore the experience and help that other members within the SAR group can provide.
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