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Search and rescue includes numerous specialties devoted to locating missing people.  The various SAR disciplines challenge handlers and dogs to work in the real world, often in situations that are physically or emotionally challenging.

Most canine SAR teams are trained volunteers, rather than full-time professionals. Depending upon their skills, their search assignments may involve locating a child that wandered away in a local or national park, looking for an Alzheimer sufferer in an urban or suburban neighborhood, searching for a drowning victim, or seeking buried survivors or victims of an earthquake, avalanche, or explosion.

Most SAR dogs and their handlers are part of a local or regional training group dedicated to preparing their members to support the various public agencies that utilize search dogs. Affiliations commonly include their city, county or state law enforcement or fire agencies, state or US Park Services, or they may be affiliated with national agencies such as the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) or international agencies such as OFDA.

In the US, Tervuren, while not the most common of SAR dogs, have made generous contributions to their communities, nation and world. Link to Topper’s Oklahoma City story for one of their stories.


Belgian Tervuren can excel as SAR dogs because of their creativity, intelligence, endurance and agility in addition to their innate scenting abilities. The Tervs who are effective in SAR are generally neither sound nor body sensitive and enjoy the new situations and experiences that go along with working in the real world. As with any activity that you might participate in with your Tervuren, it is important that it be an activity that makes good use of that particular dog’s best characteristics and doesn’t force the dog to deal with situations that are unrewarding or at worse, unpleasant to the dog.

SAR dogs usually specialize in one or more search categories. Amongst the more common specialties are:

  • Trailing or tracking: Dog will follow a specific scent by referring to a scent article.
  • Air Scenting: Dog will follow the scent of any person within their search area. This is very useful in locating a lost person in a large area.
  • Disaster: Dog indicates the location of trapped victims under collapsed structures.
  • Human remains detection: Dogs that specialize in locating deceased human remains in a variety of settings.
  • Water search: Dog indicates, from either a boat or the shore, the location of human remains under water.


If you are looking for new challenges to your dog training; if you want that perfect recall you are training to be part of your Tervs alert to you that she has found someone that she wants to show you, or if you want to train agility for the ever changing conditions of a disaster, or if you want to perfect those cross tracks so that your dog can take you directly to a lost wanderer, SAR might be the activity for you.

Many local and regional search and rescue training groups are members of the National Association for Search and Rescue.

These regional SAR groups have websites, often including their training information.


For more information about search-and-rescue dogs, see the following websites:

Please Note: We do not endorse the sites behind these links. We offer them for your additional research. Following these links will open a new browser window.

You may also be able to locate a canine SAR group in your area by contacting your local law enforcement agencies. Whether you wish to train your own dog or just to participate as a volunteer helper, it is an interesting training endeavor.

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