Team training sessions are scheduled once or twice a week, one on a weekday evening and one on the weekend. The weekday session typically lasts 60 to 90 minutes and consists of short fresh tracks or short problem-solving exercises. Weekend sessions may last two hours or more. Handlers are generally expected to work their dog and also to assist as a subject or an observer. Special classes on skills, such as using the GPS system and map reading, are also held periodically.
Canine Training Search dogs should be obedience trained and under handler control at all times. Dogs should also be on a short leash or in a vehicle except when working or when playing after the training session is finished. Dogs participating in public demos or attending seminars and conferences must remain calm and not show any dog-aggressive behavior. Search dogs are expected to be able to work in a variety of conditions and are expected to have a variety of skills that may be required on searches. Tracking/ trailing dogs should be able to determine direction of travel from a contaminated area, to locate the correct track (perimeter search), to discriminate between the subject track and other tracks (scent discrimination), and to work through various scent problems, including scent pools and scent “vacuums”. Air scent dogs must be trained in agility, and directability, as well as working scent in a variety of wind conditions. All search dogs must also give a clear, readable alert, even under stressful circumstances.
Training Plans and Mentors
Both prospective dog handlers and support specialists are expected to submit a training plan detailing how they will prepare to meet the responsibilities of being a Pajarito Canine SAR member. Support specialists must pass the State of New Mexico SAR PACE examination before they can be allowed into the field and their training plan should detail how they will acquire the necessary skills for that examination. In addition to the PACE exam preparation, dog handlers must prepare for the Mission Readiness Evaluation. Dog handler's training plans should include intermediate milestones to ensure that suitable progress is being made towards their goals. Support specialists and dog handlers in training are assigned mentors, who will assist in training new team members by acting as advisers and as observers.