April 16th Event! Search and Rescue Dogs with Kathryn Stewart!

Our next chapter event will be a talk and demonstration on search and rescue dogs by Kathryn Stewart, a certified Mission Ready Handler for CARDA (California Rescue Dog Association), on the site of Orion Academy, in Moraga CA. Please come on out!

April 16 (Sat) 11:30-1:00
Kathryn Stewart, Training Search & Rescue Dogs
Orion Academy
350 Rheem Blvd
Moraga, CA 94556


Here is a brief Q/A with Dr. Stewart, originally published in the April 2016 newsletter:

1. What separates a search and rescue dog from all other dogs? Are they a certain breed? Do they need to be trained as pups?

The difference between SAR dogs and pet dogs (not necessarily other “working dogs”) is drive and temperament.  Working dogs of all types need to be what is called high drive, and for our work, especially high in HUNT drive, and to a lesser degree, PREY drive. These dogs do not make the best PET dogs because they are more difficult to manage at home, need lots of stimulation and exercise and take time to train.  Temperament includes strong nerves – not scared, not anxious, not overly hyper-vigilant (except in some military and police dogs, where this might be a plus.)  Breeds need to be large enough for strenuous physical activity but not so large they wear out or can not manage the heat and cold.  Highly trainable and able to work independently.  This has translated to herding breeds (German shepherds, border collies especially) and some sporting breeds (labs and goldens) and for tracking, hounds.

2. You do corpse-finding—what sort of special training does that involve?

Training the dog to identify and alert on human remains. This includes bone, tissue and decomposition matter and blood.

3. What’s the most disturbing thing you’ve ever found on a job?

I can’t say I have experienced our deceased finds as disturbing. It’s very rewarding to have a find and know the family has closure.

4. What’s the ONE thing mystery writers should know about search and rescue that TV and films always get wrong?

The ONE thing 😉  Well – it’s harder than it looks.  When you see the dogs work, it may look easy, or like they are not doing anything but walking through a room or a field.  Sometimes it may seem like “magic.”  It’s not.  Dogs are managing a huge amount of data and the ability of that dog to translate the data depends on the dog, the training and the conditions.  Each search has different conditions and those conditions impact the find.   Having a dog search an area and find NOTHING is also valuable information.