YCSO Hosts Search & Rescue K9 Clinic

Prescott, Arizona - (September 21, 2023)

At the beginning of September Search and Rescue K9 handlers from across the State came together for a 3-day working clinic hosted by the Yavapai County Search and Rescue's Dog Unit. Working through rain and extreme heat, twenty-nine K9 handlers and over twenty volunteers participated in the clinic; the goal of which was learn best practices, build comradery, and allow members from other teams in the Search and Rescue Units an opportunity to train with the K9s.

Search-dog teams are an important component of County Sheriff Search and Rescue Units, which are almost entirely made up of community volunteers. Search-dog teams are used to find and bring home missing persons.

The clinic was divided into three disciplines - air scent, trailing, and deceased persons detection, and conducted at various outdoor locations to include search training hazards such as holes, brush, animals, and boulders. Air scent training focuses letting the K9 off leash to cover a large area to locate living humans, without the use of a scent to follow. Trailing involves collecting a scented article from the subject (such as a hat, shirt, etc.) that the dog smells to track the path that the person took when they went missing. Unfortunately, at times a search and rescue can become a search and recovery, where the K9s training assists in locating a person so they can be brought back to their families.

Though training is standard practice for Search and Rescue teams, bringing not only other K9 teams together but including other search units such as technical climber units, rope units, and jeep units was a first for Yavapai County.

“We may be volunteers, but we take our job as searchers very seriously, knowing we may be what stands between loved ones reuniting or not” said Heather Lum, part of the YCSO Search and Rescue K9 team. “This type of integrated training makes all of us stronger and better equipped when we are needed.”