Northstar Search and Rescue K9 handlers will update their skills and knowledge on a continuous basis.  Our team requires the following training for each handler:

  • CPR & First Aid
  • K9 Field Trauma First Aid
  • Map and Compass navigation
  • Radio communications
  • Crime Scene Preservation
  • Scent Theory
  • Mantracking

Northstar SAR members train their dogs to recognize and alert on human scent that is expelled by our bodies whether we are alive, or dead.  We instruct handlers to practice the following in this order: SEARCH, ALERT, FIND, INDICATE, REFIND.  We have defined each below.

SEARCH – The dog searches off-lead and is either scent specific, or will search for any human scent it can detect. The handler uses directionals to guide the dog through the search area.  Handlers watch their dogs body language for any behavior which indicates that the dog is detecting human scent.

ALERT – A change in behavior that can be observed by a handler and can be reported as a clue to search base.

FIND  Canine detects scent of the subject its seeking, and follows that particular scent to subject.  The dog uses the volume of scent its getting to determine where to find the subject.

INDICATION – After locating the subject, the dog returns to the handler and communicates that the find has been made. This is done by using trained reliable indication, and without that indication, the handler wouldn’t know the find has been made.

REFIND – The dog leads the handler back to the subject after the initial indication has been given that the subject has been found.

Trailing dogs are trained to follow the path that a lost person has taken. Similar to traditional “tracking” dogs, these dogs also work on long lines. The dogs require a properly preserved scent article (i.e., a scent article like a sock or glove) and are not distracted by other people in the area.

Area Search dogs work mostly off-lead and can cover large areas. Area search dogs are trained to find specific human scent in the area. Scent articles are used to assist area search dogs.

After certifying in one of these disciplines, teams may certify in any combination of the following specialties:

Land Cadaver dogs are trained in the location of human decomposition such as tissue, blood, bones etc.

Water Cadaver search dogs trained to locate human decomposition which emanates from under the water. These dogs work along the shore and in boats to locate the scent as it rises through the water.

Disaster dogs are trained to locate victims of many natural disasters that may be buried in rubble from collapsed buildings. This type of dog is used most often in the Midwest after tornados or flooding has ravaged an area.

Evidence search dogs help recover missing items lost or evidence needed by law enforcement.