New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Dogs
New Zealand Land Search are Rescue Dogs is a volunteer organisation utilising man’s best friend to provide specialist land search and rescue services to aid the lost missing and injured.
As the official New Zealand Land Search and Rescue dogs group, we support search and rescue operations across Aotearoa in all outdoor environments, working alongside Police and other search and rescue volunteers to help bring loved one’s home.
New Zealand Land Search and Rescue dogs has 16 operational teams across Aotearoa. These dog teams are all members of a local Land Search and Rescue group and deploy as part of a Police or RCCNZ co-ordinated response.
115 Operational Call outs 2022/23
Our volunteer handlers spent 1048 hours responding to call outs in the 2022-2023 year. Day and night, rain or shine, they are there to assist when needed. We rely on funding support from the wider community to deliver this search dog training programme, but still, many of the costs fall to the individual handler.
If you are in a position to help financially, or your business would like to offer products or services then we would be more than happy to discuss any ideas you may have.
Please contact us or make a donation via our Givealittle page.
New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Dogs is a volunteer organisation made up of dedicated dog handlers, trainers, organisers, and supporters who all give their time to aid the lost missing and injured. There are several ways you can be a part of this fantastic organisation. We welcome new members; both in support roles as well as those interested in becoming a search dog handler.
Join as a Support Member
Our support members are some of the most valued people in the team. There are opportunities to assist with organising camps, volunteering as a “missing person” for dogs to find, and a number of administrative roles. If you have skills in fundraising, social media, ICT, or any of the other skill sets that keep organisations like ours running please contact us.
Train a Search Dog
Training a Search Dog is not just a fun thing to do with Fido. It is a serious commitment to the lost, missing, or injured person whose life may depend on your skills as a handler. Training a search dog is a 2–3-year process, and a big time commitment for everyone who undertakes this journey.
All New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Dog handlers must first be operational field team members with a Land Search and Rescue local group, this is to ensure you have the skills needed to keep yourself safe in the outdoors and can operate as part of a Land Search and Rescue team.
If you are already a Land Search and Rescue field team member, contact us to find out more about the application process. It is important to do this before purchasing a dog as your training as a handler starts before your puppies. Purchasing the right puppy will also greatly increase your chance of success, our training team will assist you to find a puppy with the attributes needed to be a successful search dog.
What our Dogs do
Tracking dogs work with their noses to the ground, following scent left where people have walked.
Area search dogs work with their noses in the air, capturing scent floating on the breeze.
All our dogs are trained in article search locating and indicating on items which carry human scent.
Dogs can work effectively at night.
Search dog teams are adept at working at night/evening/early morning and can be deployed while other resources are being marshalled. They are routinely deployed at night. Probability of Detection (POD) for a dog is higher in the evening and into the night because scent concentration is at its highest and the lost party (or LP) is likely to remain stationary once darkness falls. Dogs see quite well in the dark, increasing the chance of detection.
Bad weather does not limit the use of search dogs.
Search dogs are useful in almost any weather that a handler can cope with safely. although strong winds, snow or heavy rain may destroy all traces or a subject’s track, the subject is still emitting scent, even if deceased. Wind helps rather than hinders the dog’s ability to detect scent. Light rain will rehydrate scent emitting particles that may have dried up during the day.
Dogs and non-responsive victims.
Area search dogs come into their own when dealing with non-responsive people, such as very young children who typically won’t call back to a stranger’s voice, dementia sufferers, autistic children, unconscious or deceased people. A dog doesn’t need to see or hear them, relying instead on air borne scent.
Meet the Team
Our New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Dogs teams have 16 operational handlers available to deploy from Northland to the Catlins (many of which are part of regional Avalanche pre-plans).
These handlers are members of New Zealand Land Search and Rescue and volunteer members of a local Land Search and Rescue group.
They are covered by the New Zealand Land Search and Rescue Health & Safety Framework, Competency Framework, Insurance, SLA and Member Wellbeing Framework.
They are available to deploy in all environments, including alpine environments, alongside an Alpine Cliff Rescue (ACR) team.
These members deploy with equipment to be self-sufficient overnight. For alpine environment searches which are not time critical (avalanche > 15 minutes post event), they are an effective resource for extended searching.