All of our team members, both dogs and humans, have undergone significant levels of training to be qualified with Lowland Rescue. Please click on the boxes below to read more about our qualifications, and how we train our dogs to search.
Every Berkshire Search and Rescue Dogs (BSARD) team member is a fully qualified Search and Rescue Technician, meaning we have completed the following competencies:
Additionally, BSARD team members also complete training in:
Furthermore, some members of our team have qualified as:
Broadly speaking there are two methods of a search dog finding a missing person on land: air-scenting and trailing. Additionally, the Team also trains dogs in water-scenting.
Trailing dogs will use a “scent article”, usually an item of clothing or a specified piece of material which has been used to capture the person’s scent, to track a specific missing person. Once they have the scent, a trailing dog will follow the path of the missing person (“misper”) to lead the handler to them.
Conversely, air-scenting dogs seek any human scent across a defined area of land; air-scenting dogs will roam to find a human scent in the air, and will then work more closely to narrow down the location of the misper. Once a dog has located a misper, they will alert their handler and show them where the person is. A dog’s alert may be given at the misper, such as barking until the handler reaches them, or the dog may alert at their handler and then proceed to direct the handler to the misper’s location. The alerts used by the dogs vary, and are expanded upon below. With the exception of dogs in the hound group, which are currently used exclusively for trailing, the dog’s breed does not determine their discipline.
One of the most challenging aspects of training a dog for K9 search and rescue is the “alert” the dog uses to inform its handler that it has found someone. This is particularly critical in air-scenting dogs who are usually separated from their handlers when they locate a missing person (“misper”).
The types of alerts used in search and rescue are many and varied, and can be categorised into three main types:
Less common forms of alert that exist within the Team are:
The location at which the dog performs its alert can also vary, as auditory and body language alerts may occur either at the misper or the handler. Dogs that alert at the handler are required to then perform a “refind” where they guide their handler to the missing person.
A dog’s preferred alert can usually be identified quite early on in its training, and can often be dictated by the dog (who may bark or jump up reliably when frustrated), rather than the handler; though in many cases due to personal preference a handler may decide to train the dog to use an alert of their choosing.
Lowland Rescue provide a 2 year qualification following a single assessment.
In air-scenting, dogs are classified as one of three levels:
Trailing dogs are classified as one of two levels:
Before National Assessment, all dogs and handlers must complete both day and night mock assessments. Lowland Rescue regularly makes internal assessments of their qualified dogs during their time of service. Dogs may be temporarily taken off operational service for a number of reasons, such as: illness of dog/handler; lack of attendance; lack of demonstration to exhibit skill and confidence. All assessments are attended by internal and external assessors from any Lowland Rescue team. No National Assessment can take place without an external assessor present.
Lowland Rescue has prerequisites for a dog to join a training programme. Initial assessments of dog suitability are crucial to offset time wasted and disappointment for all involved. Suitability criteria are clearly set out covering aspects of aggression/drive/behaviour with other dogs and people of all ages, builds, distractibility and health. Only positive methods are used in dog training, and any nervousness or direct dog aggression results in removal from the training programme. All dogs at all times must be secure in their positive response to unfamiliar people. It is a requirement that all dogs are microchipped.