Training a USAR Search Dog in NZ

USAR Search Dog Handlers

USAR Search Dog handlers in New Zealand are all volunteers. They come from all sorts of backgrounds, from firefighters to computer programmers. What they share is basic fitness, the ability to work in a team, the desire to serve the wider community and a dedication to the development of USAR Search Dogs.


All those involved with USAR are required to undertake some basic rescue training. Once qualified as a USAR Responder they are identified by an ID card called the USAR Orange Card.


The courses required for this are:

  • General Rescue – introductory rescue work
  • First Aid
  • USAR Awareness – basic work on the rubble pile
  • Introductory Co-ordinated Incident Management System (CIMS)

In 2008, the USAR Search Dog Association developed and introduced a National Training Programme (NTP). This helps handlers and dogs achieve certification so the national operational dog target is met. The NTP is based on training groups in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.


The key elements of the NTP are:

  • Screening and entry into the programme
  • Ongoing progress checks
  • Regular training opportunities for both handler and their dogs.

Becoming a USAR Search Dog Handler

Is it for you?

Before you consider training a USAR search dog we strongly suggest you ask yourself the following questions. They are designed to make you aware of the real time and commitment required.


Skills - Do you have training in, or are you willing to get training in:

  • First Aid
  • Urban Search and Rescue
  • General Rescue
  • Incident Management
  • Confined Space Rescue

Training - Are you prepared to spend:

  • 6-7 hours/week training your dog?
  • 1-2 years training before assessment starts?
  • time to take part in exercises and other events?

Team Work:

  • Are you prepared to work as part of a team, day or night, wet or fine happy to help-out in other roles, as required?

If you answered yes to most of these questions then please speak to us further.


Where to from here…?

If you are interested in training a USAR Search Dog here are the next steps:

Please complete the form in our contact us section. Someone will contact you to advise of the next step.

USAR Dogs NZ History

The USAR Search Dog Association held it inaugural meeting on the 2nd August 2003 in Wellington. Before this time there were a limited number of individuals and groups training disaster search dogs around the country ...

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NZ USAR Search Dog Association


Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) Search Dogs are unique and incredibly valuable as a resource in the location of people trapped following the collapse of structures. The fast and effective location of trapped victims increases their chances of rescue and recovery. 

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