SARDOC is unique among canine SAR teams in that our handlers are required to be a member in good standing of a Search and Rescue fielding agency. For most of our handlers this is their county Search and Rescue team (eg: Larimer County SAR, Alpine Rescue Team, Summit Rescue Group). Our belief is that our handlers should be able to participate in the non-canine elements of SAR when they are not participating as a canine resource. This SAR training prepares handlers for any eventuality in the field. It also allows them to train closely with the team that will be calling them out the most often.
It is very costly and time-consuming to train a search dog to the level required for them to pass the certification tests. We generally suggest that prospective handlers work with their local SARDOC group before they acquire a dog as there are many considerations that go into selection of a SAR canine. It is also quite beneficial to observe trained dogs working, learn about navigation, and experience what it is like to be found by a dog. Once a handler and dog begin the training, it usually takes the team 2-4 years to achieve certification, if they make it. Handlers usually start with very young dogs or puppies so that they have years of working life left after certification is achieved. SARDOC handlers must spend several days a week training with their dogs without any financial support, often driving hundreds of miles to attend various training opportunities.
Once certified, the handler and dog must be able to respond to missions day or night, in any weather, in moderate to arduous alpine terrain.