Where are you based out of?
Pierce County, Washington State
Do I need to live in Pierce County to join?
No; roughly 30% of our members are in King County, several come from Thurston County.
How much does SAR Training cost?
Nothing*. GSSD provides free SAR training for humans and their dogs. We only train SAR skills for dogs though, not basic obedience; handlers are expected to provide basic obedience training for their dogs on their own time.
* Note: We do have annual membership fees of $10 for active members. Membership is only required if you want to assist GSSD on search missions as a Ready Searcher with K9 or Ready Searcher (Support).
Do I need a dog?
No, you can attend workouts and participate by hiding for dogs and in any non-dog activities. For missions you can serve as support for dog teams. If you want to go the no-dog route as a searcher, the attendance requirements are lower.
If you get a dog later, it will need to pass an Evaluation.
Do you only accept German Shepherds?
Nope, we accept dogs with all kinds of ears - pointy, blunt, or floppy. The dog must show the drive and willingness to work as well as pass our Evaluation and be capable of searching in the Pacific Northwest terrain and our weather for long hours.
What types of SAR dogs do you train?
GSSD primarily trains and deploys airscent dogs. We also have self-directed specialty programs in Human Remains Detection (HRD) and Trailing (scent specific) training that members pursue independently as a secondary discipline after they've completed their initial training in airscent.
What types of searches do you get official calls for?
Lost persons, deceased subjects, crime scenes, and the occasional evidence search.
How often do you get called out on missions?
We generally participate in over 50-70 missions per year. Calls may come 24/7/365.
How often do you train?
From January to October GSSD trains on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month. November and December training days are on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays due to the holidays. Secondary disciplines train on additional days of the month.
What is the time commitment like?
We have two workouts a month that will probably take one whole Saturday (~10-14hrs) after you factor in travel time. There are numerous missions a month for deployable Searchers, but deployable Searchers are not required to attend all missions, just a percentage to retain active status. We also require attendance to our general meetings.
Where does your training occur?
Normally within an hour or so of Pierce County. About 1-2+ hours of Seattle.
Where do your searches occur?
Generally in Pierce, Thurston, Mason, and Kitsap Counties. We help out in other counties as needed - for example, in 2017 we participated in missions across 8 different counties in Washington.
What type of car do I need?
Anything with high clearance that can handle rough terrain and snow will work. 4 wheel drive is not necessary, but 4WD/AWD is good to have. We frequently hold workouts on old forest roads and in back-country terrain, and searchers can be in a wide variety of areas.
You should also be comfortable with the idea of backing up on uphill/downhill terrain along heavily forested single car roads - you may find yourself with nowhere to go on a road and require careful maneuvering in reverse in order to reach a safe spot to turn around. Additionally, you need to be prepared for your vehicle's paint to occasionally be scratched up by branches on narrow forest roads as that is a part of PNW living.
Most SUVs or trucks are adequate. As examples, our searchers have/have had: Toyota (RAV4, Highlander, 4Runner, Tacoma, FJ Cruiser), Jeep (Cherokee, Liberty, Wrangler), Subaru (wagons + crossovers).