In times of crisis, we often rely on first-responders to help provide safety and help when they’re able to. The actions of these select few can be the difference between life and death in the worst case scenario, and while they can normally be seen working in teams or groups to accomplish their objective, they also employ the help of a few smaller individuals who specialize in crisis response. These individuals are known as Search and Rescue - or SAR - dogs. Consisting of a variety of breeds, these dogs may be present in a number of emergency situations and excel in assisting their handlers with the tasks necessary to ensure public safety.
These dogs are not selected at random, however. They possess incredibly sound temperament, a love for work and play, and acute focus on their goal. While there are several breeds likely to be better suited than others, look no further than the ever dedicated Beagle. A member of the hound group, their sense of smell is incredibly suited to tracking: a necessary skill required in Search and Rescue.
Teaching your Beagle to perform Search and Rescue is no easy feat. It takes early temperament testing, mastering of typical obedience, and a further dedication to the actual work involved. A SAR Beagle must be heavily reward and play-motivated and it’s said that SAR dogs must be able to work in a variety of rough conditions for long or sporadic amounts of time and most importantly, under stress. Search and Rescue is not for every dog and takes commitment and practice to perfect.
While an older Beagle may be capable of learning SAR, you must consider his health restrictions. For this reason, it’s better to begin SAR training with a puppy in order to solidify commands and obedience, as training can take anywhere from six months up to a year. Beginning with a game and play environment is good for puppies to acclimate to the behavior, allowing them to move up to more complicated task training.
Ensure your dog is evaluated by a veterinarian and temperament tested. A shy or aggressive dog is not a suitable candidate for Search and Rescue as they will be working with strangers, nor is it fair to ask a disabled or ill dog to perform under stress.
To begin training, you’ll need a long leash that ranges from 20-30 feet. Your dog will need to be independent, so a longer leash is ideal. You’ll also need some toys and treats to use as a reward as well as another person or two to assist with the training. Search and rescue is all about finding live people in emergency situations, so it’s important to use other people in the training. Socialize your puppy early on to many different things. Preparation for different environments and situations is key.