Each member of our team, both handler and canine, are held to strict training standards. This is to ensure that we have the skills and experience we need when deployed in an emergency situation. Our training standards meet or exceed those set by the Virginia Search and Rescue Counsel (VASARCO). Our canine teams must pass a series of tests before becoming operational and deploying on search missions. These tests include: several search evaluations ranging from 20 to 160 acres for air-scent, written evaluations, advanced obedience, agility, survival, land navigation, and night operations. We also train on topics such as lost person behavior, crime scene preservation, incident command, wilderness first aid, technical rescue, and more.
Like many things, canine search and rescue takes practice, lots of practice! On average it takes 1 year to 18 months for a canine team to become operational. We train every weekend at a minimum, there is also a lot of training that our teams do outside of official GARD training. After a team becomes operational the work does not stop, we must continue to train weekly and recertify every two years.
Our team trains for as many scenarios as we can, because of this we train at a wide variety of locations and environments. We train during the day and at night, rain or shine, hot or cold. We utilize a variety of training locations to simulate a range of real work situations. These include wilderness and urban settings, as well as disaster like conditions. Our members and their canine partners subject themselves to everything from rubble piles to swamps in training so that in real world situations they are prepared.
More information about our group’s training standards and procedures can be found by reading our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) located below.GARD SOP 2015