Our training methods are based on those used by ARDA, which are internationally recognized. All training is based on fun and positive reinforcement. You cannot force a dog to find somebody. The dog is working for its reward, not out of love or concern for a person’s well being.
The reward we use is play based because the play drive is a much higher drive than the food drive. All of our dogs are very toy driven, which can sometimes drive you mad!
Training the team will take about 2 years. Yes, you can train a dog in 6 weeks, but it takes 6 years to train the handler. In 90% of evaluations world wide, a team fails because of the handler, not because of the dog. A dog with a high drive and a will to work will understand quite quickly what it needs to do but it is up to us, the handlers, to learn to work with our dogs.
Becoming a search dog team is not only about training your dog. Next to this the handler has to learn about several other subjects. Most of this is self-study but the more experienced dog handlers and trainers give lectures as well. We also get specialists in on subjects, which we cannot teach ourselves. Some of the subjects we need to cover in training are for example: scent and scent behavior, search patterns, how to be a flanker, radio procedures, map and compass reading, victim behavior and dealing with deceased victims.
The dog training we do every Sunday morning. We go out to several training sites where we train the different disciplines. The dogs are first trained for wilderness, mountainous and dense bush searches and after their first evaluation they can qualify for disaster work and water searches. All dogs that are qualified for disaster work are also on permanent standby for international call-outs with Rescue SA. Next to the Search and Rescue training the dogs are well trained in obedience and agility. This training is not provided by K9SARA-SA but it is every handler’s own responsibility to train his/her dog to the required standard.
We also have several training exercises and training camps with other organizations a year and we try to organize training camps ourselves as well. We have at least one evaluation camp a year where the teams which are up for evaluation are tested. The other members and family members will be present as well to organize the exercises and play the victims.