The importance of travel training for Search & Rescue Dogs - Part 1

On June 1, 2017 Search & Rescue K9 Redden was found struck by a vehicle and killed, ending his search career much too soon. To honor his memory, the K9 Redden Memorial Disaster Dog Training Scholarship was created to support Search & Rescue K9 Teams and their important training.

There is a bump in the road at the base of the exit ramp where we get off to train at our home rubble pile. Redden had been to this training center at least 2-3 times a week for the past two years. I don’t remember exactly how early in his training he began doing it, but he, like all my search dogs in the past, go from quietly laying in their crate while I am driving to standing at full attention and barking with excitement every time we hit that bump.


Because dogs are masters of understanding physical cues. When I point to the ground, that meant lay down. When I started walking to a certain spot on our back porch, that meant it was time for dinner. And when he rode in his crate in the truck and the truck went over this particular bump, it meant GO TIME. He knew that in just a few minutes we would be at our training site where all his friends would play hide-n-seek with him.

In reality, the cue that he was getting ready to do his favorite thing started long before we even loaded in the truck. I put on my dog training clothes, filled up the same water jugs, and put the same set of gear in my truck each time. All of which let him know he would be getting to work soon.

Although not trained cues like pointing to the ground, these cues had been repeated so many times that they had an immense power. They got him mentally and physically primed so when I leaned over his shoulder, whispered “find” into his ear, and released the clasp on his collar, he was off like a rocket knowing that if he worked hard enough and fast enough he would find that person “trapped” under the rubble and he would get to play a game of tug.

So why are travel trainings important?

Because there are no bumps at the exit ramp of a real disaster.

One of the lessons a search dog learns at a travel training is that people can be “trapped” anywhere, anytime. That just because they didn’t go over that bump in the road does not mean they aren’t going to go to work. That any time could be go time.

That is why when the search dogs arrived in Joplin Missouri in the dark wee hours of the morning after a devastating F5 tornado, the dogs went straight to work. And the same for when the dogs arrived at the World Trade Center following the attacks of 9/11, the Oso Washington Mud Slide, and Hurricane Katrina.

We were fortunate. Redden got more travel training than most dogs, but we knew it was never enough. When a person’s life literally depends on the skill and speed of your dog, there is no such thing as being too prepared.

The K9 Redden Memorial Disaster Dog Training Scholarship was created to honor him and to help ensure that search dogs across the country receive the important and specialized travel training they need.

Contribute: K9 Redden Scholarship Fund

Your support of these 4-legged heroes through the K9 Redden Memorial Disaster Dog Training Scholarship is sincerely appreciated!