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Canine Search Specialist Training. Unit 1: Canine Selection and Screening. Unit Objective. Upon completion of this unit, students will be able to describe the components of canine selection. Enabling Objectives. Explain why there is a need for a standardized screening process

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Canine Search Specialist Training

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Canine search specialist training

Canine Search Specialist Training

Unit 1:

Canine Selection and Screening

Unit objective

Unit Objective

Upon completion of this unit, students will be able to describe the components of canine selection

Enabling objectives

Enabling Objectives

  • Explain why there is a need for a standardized screening process

  • Identify the pros and cons of choosing a puppy versus a young adult

  • Describe the characteristics of a qualified disaster canine candidate

Introduction canine selection and screening

Introduction—CanineSelection and Screening



  • Select a canine candidate

    • Which will train to CE level in least amount of time

    • With highest likelihood of success

    • That can do the job on deployments

Rationale for standardized selection process

Rationale for Standardized Selection Process

  • Improves Certification Evaluation success rate

  • Reduces training time

  • Is able to be repeated by multiple screeners

  • Gives objective basis for selecting or rejecting a canine candidate

  • Aids in maintaining a viable canine element at all times

  • Provides a means to support a canine-in-training prior to certification

Puppy versus young adult

Puppy Versus Young Adult

Puppy pros


  • More options on breed, sex of dog

  • Control of early training

  • Early exposure to US&R environment

  • Socialization

  • Drive and reward building

Puppy cons


  • Low prediction of success based on puppy tests

  • Intensive training delayed until puppy is 6 to 12 months old

  • Will take longer to train

  • Physical and temperamental problems may develop when puppy matures

Young adult pros

Young Adult—Pros

  • What you see, is what you get

  • High prediction of success

  • Reduced training time

  • Can screen for physical problems

Young adult cons

Young Adult—Cons

  • Dog must be at least 12 months old

  • Limited selection of qualified dogs

  • Unknown early socialization and exposure

  • May not have access to dog’s genetic history (pedigree) if wanting to breed dog

Puppy selection

Puppy Selection

  • Should be based on success and quality of both parents

  • Should be based on success and quality of previous same parent litters

Breed selection

Breed Selection

  • Working breeds statistically more successful

    • Labrador Retrievers

    • German Shepherds

    • Golden Retrievers

    • Border Collies

    • Belgian Malinois

Standardized screening will select best candidate of any breed or mixed breed dog

Standardized screening will select best candidate of any breed or mixed breed dog

Screening and selection process

Screening and Selection Process

Screening process

Screening Process

  • Dog is at least 12 months old

  • In good physical condition

  • Performed in an unfamiliar area

Selection process components

Selection Process Components

  • Sociability

  • Drive

  • Nerve strength

  • Physical screening



  • Comfort around dogs and people

  • Critical for dog’s ability to cope with the pressures of deployment

Sociability test

Sociability Test

  • 1 minute tie out with handler out of sight

  • Person with dog walk by

  • Stranger retrieves dog

Select canines that

Select canines that

  • Attempt to greet or ignore stranger and canine



  • Innate impulse that prompts a canine into action

  • The more instinctive, the more reliable

  • Desire for the reward

Measuring drive

Measuring Drive

  • Independent possession

  • Play drive

  • Hunt drive

Toy possession and play drive test

Toy Possession and Play Drive Test

  • Initially plays with handler and familiar toy

  • Plays with unfamiliar person with favorite toy

  • One minute observation of dog with toy

Independent possession test

Independent Possession Test

  • Determine level of internal motivation for reward article

  • Handler plays with dog on flat ground

  • Once dog is engaged with toy, ignore the dog for 1 minute

Select canine that

Select canine that

  • Plays vigorously with toys, guards or carries

  • Maintains focus on toys

  • Presents toy to play or self-plays with toy

Play drive

Play Drive

  • Performed on rubble

  • Handler plays with dog using familiar toy

  • Hands dog off to stranger

Select canine that1

Select canine that

  • Engages with stranger

  • Plays enthusiastically

  • Never loses interest in toy or play

Hunt drive test

Hunt Drive Test

  • Assesses dog’s willingness to search for non-visible toy

  • Performed on easy to moderate rubble (FSA level)

  • Dog is allowed 15 minutes to acclimate to rubble prior to test

Hunt drive test continued

Hunt Drive Test (continued)

  • Handler holds dog at base of rubble while helper throws toy on rubble

  • Process is repeated and dog is released after varying delay times, from no delay to 1 minute

  • Start point is relocated at least one time

Select canine that2

Select canine that

  • Runs up on and navigates rubble with little or no hesitation

  • Hunts out of sight of handler for at least 1 minute on at least one hunt test

  • Will run directly on rubble from any start point

  • Maintains focus on search

  • Holds toy until returns to handler

Nerve strength

Nerve Strength

Emotional stability in uncomfortable and unfamiliar environment

Incorporated into play and hunt tests

Incorporated into Play and Hunt Tests

  • Willingness to traverse different surfaces

  • Comfort in moving across a moderate rubble environment

  • Will retrieve toy from a hole or depression

Select canines that1

Select canines that

  • Enter the rubble by the most direct route and without delay

  • Hunt for toy at a fast pace

  • Show little or no hesitation on surface changes

  • Search until locates toy or times out (1 minute)

Select canines that con t

Select canines that (con’t)

  • Retrieve toy and carries back to handler

  • Stay in search area and maintains focus on search

Physical screening

Physical Screening

  • Screen for

    • Hips

    • Elbows

    • Other breed specific issues (such as cataracts in Labradors)

Other screening considerations

Other Screening Considerations

  • Trainability of dog

    • Focus on handler

    • Makes eye contact

    • Reacts to handler commands

Specific screening tool

Specific Screening Tool

  • FEMA US&R Proposed Process for Screening Canine Candidates

  • Available on Disasterdog website (



  • Measures

    • Drive

    • Nerve strength

    • Sociability

  • Defines

    • Specific scoring criteria

    • Pass/fail limits

Other testing considerations

Other Testing Considerations

  • Train screeners to common definitions

  • Screen in same location with same props

Quick field screening

Quick Field Screening

Quick field screening1

Quick Field Screening

  • Advantages

    • Performed on-site

    • Determines if canine is worth additional time

  • Tests

    • Repeated retrieves

    • Hunt in grass, debris or under objects (vehicles)

    • Elevated plank (park bench)

Good screening eliminates the mediocre dog

Good screening eliminates themediocre dog

  • Always re-fixing the same problems

  • Trainers are working harder than the dog

  • Does not want to do the job

We have no right to train a dog unsuitable for the disaster environment

We have NO RIGHT to train a dog unsuitable for the disaster environment!

Canine search specialist training

They may have another idea about their job!

“A Friend in Need” by Cassius M. Coolidge circa 1870

Screening does not guarantee success

Screening does not guarantee success!

It selects canine candidates most likely to succeed in the least amount of time with a regimented training program and dedicated handler

Field demonstration

Field Demonstration

Unit summary and evaluation

Unit Summary and Evaluation

Unit summary

Unit Summary

  • Explain why there is a need for a standardized screening process

  • Identify the pros and cons of choosing a puppy versus a young adult

  • Describe the characteristics of a qualified disaster canine candidate

Unit evaluation

Unit Evaluation

Please fill out the evaluation form for this unit

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