Training, maintaining, and fielding a search dog is a time and resource intensive endeavor. It is also incredibly rewarding. People who have the right dog for the job, and are the right handler for the job, are always a welcome addition to WOOF.
Finding those teams requires a process that lets both WOOF and the prospective handler determine if search and rescue with WOOF is the right fit.
The process outlined below is considered to be strict requirements that must be followed to remain in the program.
When an individual initially approaches WOOF they will be considered as an interested party (IP). Interested parties are not affiliated with WOOF until they are accepted into the unit as a candidate team.
For more specific questions and answers check out the FAQ page.
People who are interested in participating without a dog can learn how here.
Once you have initiated contact with us through our online form and we respond, begin the education process.
When an individual initially approaches WOOF they will be considered an ‘IP’. As an IP there is no formal status with or obligation to WOOF.
The objective of the IP status is for a prospective handler to:
familiarize him/herself with the demands and costs of training, testing, and maintaining themselves and their dog as a certified search dog team.
What happens next?
What should I expect during this time when I'm coming out without my dog, and then when I am invited to possibly bring my dog?
During this time period WOOF handlers will assess the prospective handler and their dog for their aptitude and potential to successfully complete the demands of training, and certifying with WOOF. For this reason it is necessary that a person attend the trainings to progress to candidacy with WOOF.
Ideally an IP does not have an existing canine that he/she hopes to train for search and rescue (SAR). However, if an IP already has a canine they believe would make a suitable working partner, that canine will be evaluated at the discretion of WOOF.
Before any canine will be evaluated, the prospective candidate will provide WOOF with proof of current vaccinations and a letter from a licensed veterinarian stating that there are no physical reasons that would prevent the canine from actively participating in SAR. Canines older than three years or with veterinary conditions or physical impairments will not typically be evaluated.
The potential to become a volunteer with WOOF as a candidate (handler in training) happens after an IP has fulfilled attendance in the first eight trainings, and demonstrated they have the time and resources to commit to continued training towards becoming a WOOF team.
Should WOOF determine the prospective candidate and their dog have the potential to complete training and certify with WOOF including adherence to State of California and Nevada regulations regarding background checks, the following are among the next steps:
1. Review the WOOF Standard Operating Procedures (SOP);
2. Review the WOOF by-laws;
3. Complete and submit the WOOF Application;
4. Undergo and pass federal and state background checks;
5. Complete and submit a signed, notarized, Disaster Service Worker’s Form;
6. Take and pass WOOF’s fitness test;
7. Receive the approval by the WOOF BOD.
After being approved into the unit, the candidate will receive a tailored training plan by WOOF's Master Trainer.
The candidate works closely with the WOOF Master Trainer(s) to progress in training. It is the candidate’s responsibility to implement the lessons that the Master Trainer provides and the candidate is ultimately responsible for their own progress in training.
Candidates are eligible to go on searches with certified handlers, without their dog.
Candidates will need to participate in training and classes outside of and in addition to the regular weekly trainings to fulfill the requirements to become a qualified SAR volunteer.
Candidates adhere to and uphold the requirements outlined in the SOP and by-laws, just as WOOF certified teams do.
Candidates - Teams in training
The candidacy process is WOOF’s way of establishing the qualifications of individuals, and their dog.
Only dogs and handlers that possess the characteristics needed to do the work will be considered for candidate status with WOOF.
Candidate suitability is evaluated over the course of the training, such as
New handlers with a suitable dog should expect to certify between 12-18 months from beginning training.
Handlers - Certified Team
The length of time it takes from starting a dog to final certification varies. Adhering to WOOF's training program and working closely with one's trainer is the means to build a solid foundation on the dog and establish the necessary working relationship between dog and handler. Training continues whether certified or not, to continually maintain field readiness and keep skills sharp.
Certified teams are on WOOF's official roster and respond to calls for teams within their certification discipline(s):
Re-certification is conducted according to the WOOF standards and is on an annual or two-year cycle depending on the skill and discipline.
A candidate's first search dog discipline is either area/wilderness search or trailing.