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What to Expect - from the Training Director

We train in areas of Virginia bounded primarily by Manassas, Front Royal, Charlottesville and Richmond, and King George. We train in a wide range of areas because we search in all areas of Virginia and adjoining states. If you look at our "Training Calendar" you will see how often we train. One day of the weekend is designated for regular training and another may be for specialty training (labeled SCAT, these sessions are for advanced dogs and handlers only).

You are welcome to join us in a training session to see if this is really what you want to do. If you do want to join us for the day, please let me know ahead of time when to expect you. You may contact us at the phone number or email address listed at the bottom of this page. By contacting us ahead of time, we can also obtain YOUR contact information. That way, if the training session is canceled (due to a search) we can call and tell you not to come that weekend and arrange a new time to meet.

Please do NOT bring your dog to your first visit with us. This will give you maximum opportunity to observe others and ask questions. Plan on staying the entire training session (about 6 hours). At your first visit, you MUST bring a copy of your dog's shot record with you. This policy protects our dogs as well as yours. We require Distemper, Parvo, Rabies, and Bordetella (most dogs don't have this one unless they are boarded).

Following is some info to help you decide if you really want to become a search team with your dog.

1. This will be a major time consuming effort. We train once a week on most weekends of the year. At times you may need to help both days of the weekend. Expect to have additional expenses above and beyond normal pet care, such as, transportation, equipment, and your time.

2. It takes 1 - 2 years to complete all the requirements to become an operational wilderness search team.

3. Dogs-East requires all its members to attend 50% of the scheduled training sessions each quarter. This means you are required to attend usually 5 - 6 training sessions per quarter. When we train varies, during the day on Saturday or Sunday, or at night on Saturday. In reality, to progress at a reasonable rate you will need to achieve 75% attendance and train during the week on your own or with others.

4. In addition to regular training sessions, members are expected to help with testing and demonstrations. These do NOT count toward your attendance requirements.

5. The size and breed of the dog is less important than the dog's desire to play the "game." Generally, dogs that succeed in search and rescue are from the hunting, herding, or working breeds (or mixes of these). They tend to weigh between 35 - 100 pounds. Our only requirements are that the dog cannot be people or dog aggressive and they must be "sound" in body and temperament.

6. The first step is to apply to DOGS-East after attending at least 4 training sessions. If voted in by a majority of voting membership, you will be expected to begin to complete the requirements to become a candidate. Applicants need also become “walkers” so they can attend actual searches to accompany operational handlers for experience.

7. The Candidate Level Tests required to become an candidate wilderness team are:

  •  Walker Check List

  •  Basic Obedience Test

  •  20 Acre Practical Test

8.  The Operational Level Tests for candidates required to become an operational wilderness team are:

  •  Advanced Obedience Test

  •  40 Acre Night

  •  160 Acre Multiple Subject Test

  •  Survival Night Evaluation

  •  Written Test

 9. Once you have passed all the tests and been voted to operational status you will be on call 24/7. Many of our call outs are in the middle of the night, so night searching is common. You are allowed to turn down searches when necessary (work, etc.) but remember, the reason we do this is to assist with searches.

10. Virginia and Maryland both have ticks and snakes in wooded areas. Lyme, Ehrlichia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever are diseases carried by ticks in this area of the country. While most snakes are non-poisonous, there are rattlesnakes and copperheads, and in Southern Virginia, water moccasins. That said, no one has been bitten during a practice or search, that I know of. The ticks are more of an issue.

11. This is physically demanding for both dog and handler. Most people on the team feel that doing some type of routine exercise (in addition to the regular training days) is helpful to be physically fit enough for searches in the more mountainous parts of the state.

12. Doing search and rescue is extremely rewarding but it will take all the free time you think you have, plus a huge amount of time that you didn't know you had. That said, I can't imagine not doing it.

I hope you will feel this is something you would love to do and will come out and join us for a training session. Look at the Training Calendar, directions for the Training Sites are included. If you have any questions about where training will take place, please ask. Feel free to call or write if you have more questions.

Sharon Johnson, Training Director

Our voice mail number is (703) 829-0364.

My e-mail address is Sharon_Johnson[AT]dogseast[DOT]com.

Also see Steps to Becoming an Operational Handler for DOGS-East SAR for more information.