Training a dog for the search and rescue profile is something you should be thinking about long before acquiring a pup. We highly recommend that you attend a spring or winter course without a dog to observe and quarry for the teams on the course. This will allow you time to observe the CARDA program as well as the different working breeds. You want to choose a breed that is suitable to your personality and the work the dog will be doing. Do not rush the process of choosing a dog. Starting with the right product is very important.

The following are some general hints to help you get going.

• Purebreds generally work out better than crosses.

• Select a suitable breed and a line with a working background. The following breeds have proven to be successful for avalanche search: German Shepherd, Border Collie, Belgian Malinois, Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever.

• Let the breeder know what you are looking for in the dog. Confidence, strong prey drive, a desire to play tug of war and retrieve are some of the important characteristics needed for an avalanche SAR dog. PLEASE talk to a senior CARDA handler or contact an instructor for help in choosing a working pup.

• Once you acquire a pup, spend lots of fun time with him/her so that a strong bond develops.

• If you are living in a multi person household, make sure the pup knows that you are the handler of the dog. If other people are spending as much time with the dog as you are, a weaker bond may develop and the dog may not want to work as hard for you. If there are other pets in the household, let your pup socialize with them, but allow him/her to have lots of time with you away from them. Kennel the pup separately - don't let him/her be always lorded over by an older dog. The youngster needs a chance to develop a personality of its own. The pup must bond to you, the handler, not to another person or pet.
• Expose the pup gradually to as many different situations as possible. Spend time socializing with other dogs and people.

• Firmly discourage wild animal interest. No chasing (even squirrels), and discourage the pup from following animal tracks. Also discourage interest in spots where other dogs have urinated.

• Remember that it is going to be a working dog and not a pet. Couch-lounging, scrounging for food, and running loose in the neighbourhood are all things that your dog should not be doing. When your pup is not spending quality time with you then it is better off in its kennel. The ideal CARDA dog is somewhere between an RCMP dog and a family pet; life is not as regimented as that of a police dog, but much more structured than that of a pet.

We encourage you to be in contact with CARDA. Each of the different breeds has its own quirks and challenges - talk to someone who can give you more specific help if you need it.

The CARDA program requires that new potential handlers attend a spring assessment course. Dogs aged 6 months to 2 years will be accepted for assessment IF ALL THE HANDLER’S REQUIREMENTS ARE IN PLACE. We encourage handlers with dogs younger than 6 months to attend the course and get some training tips, but you will need to be reassessed before attending a winter course. Due to the training time required before a team may attempt a validation, dogs older than 2 years will not be accepted into the program.