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Canine's Role in Urban Search and Rescue

Canine and Handler Certification - Learn about the rigorous certification process each Canine Search Team must pass in the National US&R Response System.

Canine Search Specialist Certification Process - This document describes the National US&R Response System process  that can also be used by Federal, state, and local organizations to determine Canine Search Team readiness levels.

Urban Search & Rescue Canine Photos - View photos of National US&R Response System Canine Search Teams responding to disasters.

Urban Search and Rescue Dog Training – USAR, Disaster or Urban Search and Rescue Dogs are trained to search for live humans in various environments. These dogs are utilized to search collapsed buildings and other structures after, tornados, earthquakes as well as other natural and man made disasters. Urban search and rescue dogs take a considerable amount of training and require a huge commitment on the part of the handler to maintain. These search dogs are trained to be comfortable on collapsed buildings and other unstable footings such as roofing and rubble. USAR dogs are typically trained in agility, on and off leash obedience as well as distance (directional) control. Disaster dogs are capable of performing in the rigorous and harsh environments that are created by the disaster scenes that they are required to perform in. Our Urban Search and Rescue Dog handler courses include training in search methods and strategies, understanding training variables, basic and advanced scent theory, managing disasters and critical incidents, K-9 First Aid and CPR, record keeping and maintenance training.

Did You Know?

FEMA US&R canine handlers are comprised of civilians, firefighters, and police department members. Most of the certified canines are Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Belgian Malinois, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers.
Canines with high "toy drive" are used for urban search and rescue. It is a game of "hide and seek" for the dog. In training, people run from the dog and hide with the toy, playing with the dog when found. By the time the dog is on a real search, he is looking willingly for trapped survivors.
Few search dogs wear "booties" when working on a rubble pile. Despite the hazards of sharp metal and broken glass, the dogs often need to perform what is called a "soft walk" where they splay their paws for maximum traction. Collars and booties can actually add to the canine's risk of injury when searching in tight or obstructed spaces.


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