What to Expect


GSSD holds 2 workouts a month, on Saturdays.

New members with dogs CANNOT bring their dog until they become a Candidate and the dog passes an Evaluation.*

To train our dogs, we setup problems where someone hides in the wilderness while a searcher and their dog work to find the hider. There are several types of problems we setup:

  • Runaways - the dog sees the hider run away until they are out of sight. Used with newer dogs to build drive.

  • Trails - the hider walks down a trail and hides somewhere off trail. The dog searches along the trail.

  • Area - the hider is in a general area, the searcher does not always know where the hider entered the area. The searcher needs to pick an initial route/search pattern based on search knowledge.

Until you have a dog in training, you will either be hiding or following a searcher as they work a problem. Once you are training with a dog expect to continue hiding and following as well as working with your dog.

A typical workouts schedule for a Guest looks like:

  • 07:00 - Rendezvous at meetup location, sign in

  • 07:10 - Hand out maps and radios, depart for Base

  • 08:30 - Receive hiding assignment, depart for hiding area

  • 09:00 - Radio to base that you are in position

  • 11:00 - Dog finds you, return to base

  • 11:30 - Break

  • 12:30 - Follow searcher for a problem

  • 14:30 - Return to base

  • 15:00 - Perform runaway or trail problems with newer dogs

  • 16:00 - Return to Base

  • 16:30 - Sign out, Go Home

The hide/search times have much more variance. But this should give you an idea of how long you will be in the woods.

* Depending on the situation and our assessment of you and your dog, your evaluation period may be extended, or terminated at the discretion of the Onboarding or Training Committees, or the Board

Hiding for Dogs

You may be hiding in the wilderness anywhere from 1-3+hours.

Please keep the following in mind to stay comfortable:

  • Dress comfortably. You will be sitting/lying down. Don't wear clothes that will squeeze/pinch/stretch funny while lying down.

    • DO NOT WEAR COTTON. Cotton Kills.

  • Bring a (non-cotton) layering system. You will get cold once you stop moving and have been hiding for a while.

    • Rain layer

    • Insulated vest/jacket - not necessary for everyone.

    • Fleece vest/jacket

    • Base layer

  • Be prepared for getting we in our PNW weather. Bring extra socks and clothes.

    • Keep extra clothes/shoes in your car

    • Keep extra socks and base layers in your pack

      • Keep extra clothes in a water-tight bag (ex: Ziploc)

  • Pack a pad for sitting on. Sitting on the cold, hard, wet ground is no fun.

    • Sit pad

    • Sleeping pad

    • Old yoga pad

    • Folding camp chair

  • Find a good/cheap waterproof tarp, ideally one that will blend in with the wilderness and not get shredded. You will want to hide under or on top of this tarp depending on the weather and they are useful for missions.

    • All weather blankets

    • Reflective Tarps

    • Emergency/Survival Tarps (Not space blankets or Mylar as they are flimsy)

    • Brown/Green/Blue tarps from a hardware store

  • Entertainment.

    • Books or an eReader (be ready for rain)

    • Sketchpad (again, rain)

    • Needle crafts - knitting, crochet, etc.

If you need gear, let GSSD know before the workout and you might be able to borrow some stuff.

Environmental Protection

In SAR, especially on dog teams, we do a significant amount of off-trail travel. This means you will be fighting through brambles, thistle, bogs, swamps, snow, and lots of PNW rain.

Consider bringing these items along for protection:

  • Durable and/or cheap rain gear, examples:

    • Gore-Tex gets holes easily, especially with brambles

      • You may want repair tape if you use Gortex

    • Fishing rain gear - specifically Alaska Fishing Gear

    • Military Surplus rain gear (Army Surplus stores offer inexpensive gear options)

    • Check out thrift stores for cheap options

    • A cheap poncho for brambles

  • Plastic bags and a garbage bag to protect pack contents

    • Large garbage bags can be used as pack liners

    • Plastic bags can be used to protect extra clothes, electronics, etc

  • Bramble protection

    • Protective goggles or sunglasses

    • Leather work gloves

    • Loose fitting, long-sleeved outer layer to catch brambles (if you aren't wearing a rain jacket)

  • Knee-high boot gaiters

    • Serve as good protection from brambles, mud, and water

  • Tick Key

  • At home:

    • Poisonous plant salve


You will not be able to go on real search missions until you are an Apprentice and have completed certain Core Competencies and Training and have been approved to go out by our Operations Team. GSSD is primarily responsible for missions in Pierce County, but we do respond to call from other counties or the state.

GSSD participates in the following types of missions:

  • Urban and Rural

  • Wilderness

  • Human Remains Detection (HRD)

  • Avalanche

  • Water

We are generally searching for one or more of the following:

  • Lost persons

  • Deceased subjects

  • Evidence

Each type has its own set of training requirements and may be limited to specific-member participation. Direction and instruction will come from the Operations Committee.


You will need to have a car to get to base and then from one area to another. Occasionally you can ride with other members, but it is not guaranteed.

Your car should be able to accommodate the following:

  • Driving in snow

    • Have snow chains and know how to put them on

  • Driving through slick/muddy roads

  • Driving on uneven terrain (high clearance may be required)

  • Driving up/down steep terrain

  • Driving on narrow forest roads around partially cleared fallen trees (your car may get scratched up or damaged)

Note: We mostly only travel on back-country roads, we DO NOT travel on hardcore off-roading and 4x4 trails. A 4WD car is not mandatory, but that or an AWD car is nicer and more reliable to have.