FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How often does LaSAR train?
What are the costs involved?
All I will learn to do is train my dog, right?
How do I apply for membership?
How do I get started in canine search and rescue training?
What type of canine is best suited for search and rescue?
How old should the canine be when training begins?
How often do I train?
How long does it take for a canine to be ready for searches?
Once my dog is able to respond to searches, will the training end?
Will my dog be asked to do anything else other than search training?
Are there any dog temperaments that are not allowed on the team?
Is it important to have a registered dog?
Q. How often does LaSAR train?
Our formal team training sessions are held on each Saturday, usually in St. Tammany Parish, and our business meetings are held on the first Saturday of each month prior to training. Training never stops as we and our dogs are continuously striving for improvement and, as you might imagine, everything has to be taught in a logical and orderly procession so the dog, and the team (handler and dog), can easily absorb what is being taught and can build upon it. The handler must continue to practice at home with his or her dog to be at all effective. This takes a lot of time. The puppy or foundation stages of training is the most important part and it is reasonable to expect that you will be working with your puppy or beginning dog at least once daily during the early stages of training (i.e. for the first two years or so!). We keep logs of hours worked and it is not uncommon for us to log 60-80 hours a month on activities related to Search and Rescue.
Q. What are the costs involved?
Since we are a volunteer organization, we pay for our own equipment, veterinary bills, vehicle and gas costs, etc. Mileage will obviously vary with where practice is held, and how close you live to the area. For example, if you live in the New Orleans area you may expect to average approximately 500 miles a month.
We purchase our own uniforms which include for dress wear: navy blue BDU blouse and pants, shoes appropriate for the terrain, blue LaSAR T-shirt for under the BDU blouse, insignia, and hat. For field wear blue BDU pants, shoes appropriate for the terrain, and orange polo or button down shirt. The material of the BDU's is up to the member, but you can expect to average $60 per set.
Water work requires wearing a USCG approved floatation device, cost varies by type.
After you are accepted as a member you will pay dues of $15.00 per month.
LaSAR requires its members to be NASAR SARTech II certified (see question regarding what you will learn). Preparation for SARTech II testing includes purchasing a suitable search pack and equipment, study materials and testing fees. You should be prepared to spend $200 or more on the above.
LaSAR uses HAM radio for communications. Testing fees currently are $10. Materials to prepare for the test can be found on webpages, or books can be purchased, at the member's expense.
Q. All I will learn to do is train my dog, right?
Wrong!!! Because we are a SEARCH AND RESCUE dog team, we cannot stress the importance of search and rescue training for the handlers, not just search training for the dog. It will do the victim no good if your dog makes the find but you cannot find your way out, or communicate your whereabouts to the authorities. Therefore every member must pass NASAR SAR Tech II. LaSAR provides the training necessary for you to successfully challenge the test. Further, LaSAR recognizes NASAR's standards for canine certification, which require that handlers have Tech II before certifying their dogs. Please understand that before you will be eligible to become field operational with your dog, you will need to have a solid knowledge and skill in land navigation, communications, rope work, tracking and search theory. Team members take courses in hazmat awareness, bloodborne pathegeons, K-9 field first aid, and basic field first aid for humans.
Q. How do I apply for membership?
The number of members is limited primarily to assure that our trainers are able to devote the quality time to each member as may be needed to properly train them and their dogs. Therefore please understand that simply submitting an application does not guarantee you membership.
When your application is received, and assuming that membership is still open (from time to time it is closed when the executive board determines that we have reached a maximum capacity for training handlers and dogs), you will be invited to train with the LaSAR team and attend the business meetings. After attending approximately 1 - 2 months of trainings, you will be interviewed by the Membership Committee.
The Membership Committee is composed of three members from the general membership, one trainer, and the Membership Chairman. We conduct this interview after you have been with us a few weeks so that you can determine if you still are interested. It also allows you to begin to get a feeling for what is involved in training for Search and Rescue. After your interview, the Committee will vote on whether to recommend your application and we will present our recommendations to the members at large during the next business meeting. The membership will then vote on whether to accept our recommendations. If accepted, your application will then be read at the next three business meetings, for a total of four readings. After which time the general membership will vote on whether to accept you as a full-fledged member.
As you can see, you can expect 4-6 months to go by before you become a full member of LaSAR. During this interim, you will be expected to attend practices and invited to attend our business meetings, although you will not have voting privileges. The purpose of this membership process is so we can all get to know each other. Since we often work very close together, it is imperative that we all work effectively and harmoniously for our common goal of finding the lost person. We try to ensure that we spend our time training and developing the skills of those really dedicated to the entire Search and Rescue effort.
Finally, because we work so closely with law enforcement agencies, a background check is done on all prospective members.
Q. How do I get started in canine search and rescue training?
Prior to purchasing a puppy for search and rescue work, we would ask that you join us for several training sessions. Our trainings are held on Saturdays for approximately 6 hours.
The process continues by providing you with the opportunity to meet our members, understand the level of commitment, and feel that you are interested in further pursuing membership, then you should request an application for membership. Upon LaSAR receiving the completed application, we would then do an NCIC background check followed by an interview with the membership committee. If after the background check and interview, the membership committee believes you would be an asset to the team and a dedicated handler; the committee would recommend you to the general membership. Upon being approved by the general membership, you would be accepted to the team on a 4-month probation period. It would be at this time that you would be assisted by the instructors in locating a suitable puppy for the program.
Q. What type of canine is best suited for search and rescue?
Several breeds in the sporting, hound, and working groups can be very suitable for search and rescue. We suggest that the handler determine which breed(s) they believe would best suit their lifestyle as this puppy will be a member of their household for the life of the puppy. A list of breeds often found working search and rescue is:
Q. How old should the canine be when training begins?
It is preferred to begin with 8-week-old puppies, as they have not developed any bad habits that would make the puppy unsuitable for search and rescue, such as chasing animals, etc. The oldest we would consider a canine for training is one year old. Once you have decided upon the breed you would be interested in training, you would then begin looking for suitable litters. As litters are located, you should contact one of the instructors to go with you to evaluate the litter. Should one of the puppies be deemed suitable, you would arrange to pick up the puppy no earlier than 7 weeks of age.
Q. How often do I train?
The puppy is trained everyday (7 days a week) and you are expected to attend every Saturday training session that lasts approximately 6 hours. The puppy will be placed on a training regimen that you are expected to maintain. Moving ahead too quickly in training can cause problems with the puppy's foundation and hinder the dogs training as he/she advances through the program.
Q. How long does it take for a canine to be ready for searches?
It takes anywhere from 1 to 3 years of training before the canine is considered for certification. Prior to the canine being tested, the handler must pass the NASAR SAR Tech II course, ham radio test and CPR/First Responder course. The handler and canine must then complete the NASAR Canine SARTech III test to be considered field operative for "live" searches. It will then be determined what other disciplines the handler and dog will be trained in.
Q. Once my dog is able to respond to searches, will the training end?
No, training is on going for as long as the dog is on the team. Handlers are encouraged to attend all trainings and special events that the team is involved in, as well as attending seminars across the country. Our dogs are asked to save lives and recover remains of the missing, it is vitally important that the dogs stay as sharp as possible which can only occur through training.
Q. Will my dog be asked to do anything else other than search training?
Yes, in addition to our regular training, we also talk to area youth regarding special techniques they can use should they ever become lost. During these sessions, the dogs do demonstrations and at the end we allow all the youth to come up and meet the dogs. Our dogs must be able to handle crowds and numerous youth (up to 200) petting them without showing signs of aggression. Additionally, our handlers and dogs receive specialized training with the US Coast Guard, which provides helicopter flight safety, flight time, and basket lift training to our team.
Q. Are there any dog temperaments that are not allowed on the team?
Yes, we do not want dogs that show aggression nor shyness toward humans or other dogs. We want dogs that are even tempered, and are capable of handling any situation we present to them.
Q. Is it important to have a registered dog?
Should you ever have to go to court based upon the work your dog did in the field, it could be seen as an additional qualification. Even though it is not mandatory, it is strongly suggested.