How do I join the team?
The first step is to come to a team meeting. They're held the second Wednesday of the month. For more information check the How to Join page!
When and where are SBSD Search Dog Team meetings?
Our Team meeting is is held on the second Wednesday of each month (except December when there is no meeting) at 6:30pm at the Sheriff's station at 199 N Hangar Way, San Bernardino. If you are thinking about joining the Team, please see our How to Join page for more information about requirements and the process. If you want to attend a meeting please Contact us first and leave a phone number at which you can easily be reached because Team meetings are sometimes cancelled at the last minute.
How often and where does the SBSD Search Dog Team train?
Team trainings are usually on the Saturday following the team meeting, although occasionally they are held at other times. Team members also work and train their dogs 2-3 times a week on their own or with other team members. Locations vary and we usually decide at a training where the next one will be. Our trainings are held throughout the county, and we have trained in places such as the Cajon pass, Oak Hills, Mt. Baldy, Big Bear, Glen Helen, Highland, Yucaipa and Joshua Tree. USAR training is usually in Mira Loma, occasionally in Pomona or Irvine.
What breeds of dogs does the SBSD Search Dog Team use?
Our current team is made up of a mixture of Labrador Retrievers, Bloodhounds, and Belgian Malinois. Generally Labrador Retrievers, Belgian Malinois, Golden Retrievers, and German Shepherd Dogs will be the most successful. We may consider almost any of the sporting or herding breeds or even mixed breeds, it finally depends on the dogs temperment and drive.
I have a dog that I think would make a good search dog. Can I use this dog with the SBSD Search Dog Team?
We would have to evaluate your dog to know for sure. We look for dogs that have exceptional toy and hunt drive. Perhaps 1 in 100 dogs have the drive that we are looking for. If you join the Team we will help you find the right dog.
What attributes does the SBSD Search Dog Team look for in a dog for search work?
When we evaluate a dog we want to see exceptional toy and hunt drive. We want the dog to be interested in, and want to possess a toy that the dog has never seen before. When the toy is tossed into an area where the dog cannot see it, we want the dog to hunt for the toy without giving up. The dog does not have to find it, but should not give up looking for it. We also want to see confidence and nerve strength. A dog that is skittish, afraid, or does not recover quickly from a disturbance is not going to make a good search dog. The Search Dog Foundation has a Canine Candidate Testing video that goes through some of the same evaluations that we use.
How long does it take to train a search dog?
It depends on the dog, the discipline (Wilderness, HRD, etc.), and how much effort the handler or trainer puts into it. , Area/Wilderness can take a year, HRD 6 months to a year, Tracking-Trailing about 1 to 2 years, USAR can take anywhere from 1 to 2 years. One thing to be aware of is that when you are working with your first search dog, both you and the dog have a lot to be in order to be mission ready, and the process can take longer. Expect it to be 2 years before you are in the field with your dog and able to work.
How often does the SBSD Search Dog Team go out on search missions?
On average about once per month. Sometimes more, sometimes less. HRD is the most common callout.
What types of searching does the SBSD Search Dog Team perform with dogs?
We have certified teams in the disciplines of:
Live find Area/Wilderness
Live find Tracking-Trailing (urban and wilderness)
Live find disaster (Urban Search and Rescue, USAR) under the jurisdiction of FEMA
Human Remains Detection (HRD)
What is Area/Wilderness?
The search canine uses air scenting to locate visible or hidden human subjects. This is non-scent specific, the canine will alert on any live person in the search area. Unlike Tracking-Trailing the canine is not usually following the path that the person walked but is looking for and will follow human scent in the air in the direction of its greatest concentration until the canine locates the person. The canine is usually working off lead and can cover a large area in a small amount of time.
What is Tracking/Trailing?
The search canine uses ground scenting to follow the path taken by a human subject. This is scent specific, the canine should ignore air scent and ground scent from other people in the search area. Unlike Area/Wilderness, this is scent specific and the canine is following the path that the person walked. These dogs are used both in wilderness and urban settings.
Tracking? Trailing? What's the difference?
There are probably as many answers to that question as there are breeds of dog. Everyone seems to have their own opinion. Some consider tracking to be scent specific and trailing to be non-scent specific. Some consider tracking to be all ground scenting and trailing to be a combination of ground and air scenting. Regardless, Tracking-Trailing for us is following the path taken by a specific person. In a wilderness setting, we use Tracking-Trailing to indicate the direction of travel so that SAR resources can be put into the field in a specific direction rather than having them canvassing an entire area in all directions.
What is USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) or disaster search?
The search canine uses air scenting to locate live hidden victims buried in debris. This is similar to Area/Wilderness, the primary difference being that the victims are not visible as they may be buried under debris. The debris may be concrete, wood, vegetation, or some combination. The canine is usually working off lead and can cover a large area in a small amount of time. Our USAR canines and their handlers are also members of various FEMA task forces.
What is HRD (Human Remains Detection)?
The search canine uses air scenting to locate visible or hidden human decomposition. The canine may work on lead in a detailed search of a car for example or off lead to cover large areas.
How do you know if your dog has found someone?
Our Area/Wilderness canines use various alerts depending on the training. Some use a bark and hold alert, others use something called a "refind" where they come back to their handler and signal them through a bark, jump, sit or other distinct behaviour that they have found someone. The handler then follows them back to the person they found. USAR canines alert use a bark and hold. The canine will stay at the subject persons location barking until they are rewarded with a toy by the handler, or the subject if it is a training. Our HRD canines normally have a passive alert, they sit at the spot with the greatest concentration of scent, however, some canines that are also certified in the FEMA system for HRD will alert using a bark and hold at the human remains they have found. Our Tracking-Trailing canines do not always have a distinct alert as the handler is with the canine (the canine is on a lead). Evidence detection dogs are normally trained with a passive alert, where they sit or down at the item they have located; it is important that they do not disturb the evidentiary item.
Where does the team get its dogs?
All dogs are owned privately, not by the deparment; usually they are owned by the person who also handles them. We usually recommend getting a dog from a reputable breeder of hunting, detection or working dogs. Shelter dogs will sometimes work out, but have no health guarantees - it can be difficult to spend two years training a dog only to find out it has an inheritable health issue, and the high drives we need are difficult to find in the correct balance with good temperament and health.