Do you want to work as a search & rescue dog trainer?
- Read about the most important info you need to decide on following this career.
- Follow the 7 points below and search for a tertiary institution near you for future studies. If you already are graduated, you may also search through our list of Jobs in the main menu.
- If you want to PLAN the way you need to prepare, then join our community where you will learn everything, while chatting with other potential trainers and experts from around the world. Prepare to be amazed!
UPDATED: 27 October 2020
1. What is a Search & Rescue Dog trainer?
Search & Rescue (SAR) Dog Trainers use their skills to train dogs to use scent to find humans that may be lost or difficult to find.
Although the SAR dogs are classified as K9, there are trainers that only work with SAR dogs.
2. What do they do?
Animal Care/ Law & Enforcement
Search & Rescue dog trainers focus on training dogs to use their excellent sense of smell to locate people who have gone missing, or who are trapped under stuff. Some of the dogs are even trained to pull drowning people from water.
- train the animals in the specific tasks required
- monitor the animals to ensure they learn
- ensure the safety of the animals while training
- create habitats that will help with training
- mentally stimulate some species with toys or challenges
- communicate with animal owners
- run business
Where they work:
Animal trainers mainly work outdoors, and in most cases within a simulated setup of what the dog might expect in real life.
Places of Employment –
They are mostly employed by government, and private search and rescue organizations. They may also decide to start their own business and find work through contracts.
The average yearly salary of animal trainers is US$29,000.
Advancement in the field typically depends on work experience. First year practitioners often begin on a part-time basis, fitting their training commitments around other work demands. Promotion to senior levels are available in all related careers. The levels of each promotion might differ from organization to organization, but generally are the following:
Intern > Junior Trainer > Senior Trainer > Supervisor
Animal training careers often experience difficulties associated with aggressive or frightened animals that may bite, kick or scratch, causing injuries. You may also be required to work irregular hours including evenings, weekends, and holidays. SAR dog trainers might also need to go through some of the difficult conditions (searching in extremely bad weather) while training.
Future Growth and Possibilities:
The prospects of future growth in this industry is good.
3. Which Skills are required?
The skills required for a career as a Search & Rescue dog trainer can be divided into two very important groups. The first is the group containing life skills, which are the core skills that are necessary or desirable for full participation in everyday life. The second group is career skills, or the specific skills required to allow a person to enter and operate effectively within a specific career. Some or maybe even all of the life skills can assist in strengthening the career skills, and they might even be the same for specific careers.
- Critical thinking
- Creative thinking
- Decision making
- Problem Solving
- Effective communication
- Interpersonal relationship
- Basic animal handling and care techniques
- Basic instructing techniques
- Basic customer service skills
- Basic wilderness survival skills
- Basic first aid and CPR
- Good health and physical fitness
- Basic computer literacy
4. Which Subjects must I have at School?
These subjects are recognized around the world. The subjects you choose at school are important as they lay the foundation for further studies at college or university. While still at school, it’s also important to learn more about the animals you will work with, as well as gain some experience.
OZT has a list of various tertiary institutions where you can study further, after school. Each of these institutions also have their own Group page on OZT where you will find the exact subjects they require of you to have passed in school. Keep these requirements in mind, and discuss it with your school, guidance counselor and parents to ensure that you are prepared!
5. What will I need to Study?
The minimum requirements for entering this careers is a High School Certificate, but most of the best trainers have furthered their studies with a College Diploma, or excellent Short Courses.
A diploma or Short Courses with a focus in training, survival, emergency rescue, animal behaviour, or a closely related area is preferred.
The duration of most diplomas are between 3 and 4 years full time. The duration of short courses differ, but can range from a few days to a few months.
Possible Career Preparation Paths:
If this is your dream career that you want to pursue, then it’s important to plan the way forward.
Why is planning important?
To ensure that you understand the requirements for your career, and that you are always prepared for the next step on the road towards your dream. A Preparation Path is like your road map to where you want to be.
Possible Combined Career Paths:
It is possible to sometimes combine two or more related careers. This normally happens when you study and practice a specific main career, but the knowledge and experience gained also help you to have a paying hobby or secondary income career.
Stepping Stone Career:
Being an animal trainer can also be used as a stepping stone career. A stepping stone career is one which is used to help you get to another career, normally because the other career is too difficult to reach (sometimes due to things like high fees etc).
You can begin as an intern dog trainer after basic short courses and expert guidance (maybe working under a mentor). The money made can then be used to pay for studies towards a promotion or another career, and the experience helps in gaining knowledge. One paying to help get to the other.
Some of the possible paths:
Training and apprenticeship:
Even though it is important to study to get into some of the animal caregiver careers, most of the skills you will need will be acquired through on-the-job training. This means that you will learn how to perform some of the daily tasks by actually doing it a few times and learning the steps.
In some cases entry level positions (or junior positions) require training sessions even before you are allowed to actually perform your job duties. These sessions are offered by the place of employment, after you have successfully applied.
Apprenticeship as a SAR dog trainer is extremely important where you need to learn skills from a more senior person or expert. In general it takes at least 600 working hours before a dog is even ready to go into the field!
Join the Search & Rescue Dog Trainer Group in STEP 8 to learn more and even interact with the educational institutions that will help you secure your dream career!
Average level of education of those entering the career:
6. Licenses, Certificate, Registration and Professional Associations
Certain animal careers require some form of legal certification to prove that you can indeed do the work, and work with the necessary equipment.
Although not required by law, certifications may help SAR dog trainers to establish their credentials and enhance their skills in certain conditions, such as working with avalanche rescue situations.
Learn more about requirements by joining OZT in STEP 8.
7. Where can I study further?
All of the above information will help you understand more about the Career, including the fact that there are different paths to take to reach it. But if you are almost done with High School (Grades 11 or 12), you also need to start thinking about further studies, and WHERE you will study.
See the List of Universities, Colleges and Online Training Academies who offer courses towards animal care and training.
8. Join the OZT community
Join us as a special member and learn more about becoming a Search & Rescue dog trainer.
Members of the Platform have special access to:
- Info on the best places where you can study (colleges, universities and online)
- Expertly designed advice to prepare you for the career, and links to places where you can gain valuable experience. For some career experience is necessary, otherwise you wont get the job!
- Top notch info on each of the different species you will work with
- Make friends around the world and share knowledge
- Compete and win points, badges, games, prizes and certificates. Be the best of the best, while you learn and prepare!
If you have decided on being a Search & Rescue Dog Trainer, please click on the JOIN GROUP button. Members will be directed to the Group, while non-members will be assisted to register first.
If this career is NOT the career for you, then you may return to the MAIN CAREER menu.
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