Are you interested in Search and Rescue (SAR)?

Are You Interested In Applying To Become A  member of our South Dakota based Search and Rescue team? Not sure if its right for you? Come join us at one of our training sessions to see what we do!

Here is what you need to know before you apply:

Prairie Dogs a search and Rescue, a group located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and surrounding areas. We are a 501c (3) non- profit. We train to be ready when we are needed. Our mission is to provide, without cost, certified K9 teams to Law Enforcement, Emergency Management, Fire Departments or other official search agencies for SAR of lost, trapped or incapacitated subjects; day or night; under any and all circumstances; where dogs and searchers can operate safely and efficiently.

Below you will find the most frequently asked questions and information. If we didn’t address your question, please let us know. You have picked a very rewarding team to volunteer with.  Search and Rescue work is time-consuming, taxing, expensive, interesting, and satisfying experience.  Our team has been operating since 2013 and since then, we have trained in as many as 30 different locations, on all types of terrain and in all of the elements Mother Nature can throw at us.  We have certified K9 teams in the areas of Human Remains Detection (HRD), Tracking, Trailing, Article Search, and Air Scent (area). We take our commitment to the work of SAR seriously by training to real-life standards.

Through the course of your first weeks, we will take you through a series of tasks to ensure both you and your dog are a good fit for SAR work.  We will work with you as a team to ensure your dog is motivated, which sub-category of SAR your dog has a proclivity towards, and we will mentor you to ensure you and your dog succeed as a team. Your dog will be evaluated first for suitability e.g. motivation and stamina (both K9 and handler) and evaluated in different disciplines of Search and Rescue to see what area of SAR they are best suited. Depending on their age, this might continue for a few weeks.

Frequently asked questions:

I do not have a dog, what breed should I get?

You do not have to own a dog to join the team.  We can always use hiders and support personnel for the team.  If you want to become a K9 handler, come to a couple of trainings and watch the different dogs work and talk with the handlers about their dogs.  We do not discriminate against breeds.  The breed of the dog is chosen by the handler, but the following criteria should be considered:

  • The dog should be of a size and fitness level capable of overcoming the type of terrain and elements/ weather that will be encountered in practice and in a formal search.
  • The dog should not be of a size that prohibits the handler from assisting the dog with problems encountered in the field. If the handler is incapable of such assistance, the team will be deemed unsuitable for the work. Additionally, the handler should be in a reasonable state of fitness and physical ability such that they are able to traverse the myriad types of terrain and elements required in SAR work.
  • The dog must display significant motivation to be trainable and be capable of problem-solving, searching through difficult situations and working to the end of the exercise.
  • It is a widely accepted belief that a dog with a longer muzzle is more proficient at detecting the scent. That being said, we must reiterate that we do not discriminate against breeds.
  • Overall, your dog will be required to show the motivation to search; if your dog shows no motivation it will be deemed unsuitable for SAR.

How often is training?

We train every Sunday for about four hours, weather permitting.  Sometimes trainings are held on a Saturday morning, but not very often; pending on weather and team availability.

What happens if I can’t make it to training?

If you are unable to attend training, notify someone on the team or post on the Facebook Page that you will be absent. Members and trainees are expected to attend at least 50% of all trainings to remain an active member. To be considered for membership you must attend training, in a probationary status, for two months. You must be at least 18 years of age and pass a background check before the probationary status & get voted in.

What should I bring the first time I come out to try out for the team?

  • 15’ Dog Leash and working Vest if you have one
  • At least 2 gallons of water for you and your dog; including water to bring during the search.
  • Rewards for your dog; bring various treats and toys to see what motivates the dog best. If you know what motivates your dog in any situation, let us know.
  • Kennel- during the 4 hours of training, your dog will not always be working. When your dog is not actively searching, it will be required to be kenneled so other dogs can safely work.
  • Dress for the weather and the terrain – in the summer do not forget bug spray & sunscreen; waterproof footwear; gators; rain gear; gloves; headlamp (items are not required but set you up for success).
  • Your background check

What certifications do I need? 

You do not need any certifications to join, however, these are the expectations of each team member to gain over time and ones you must have to be deployable:

  • SAR Tech II (typically you get this after a year after starting training).
  • NAPWDA or NASDN (typically you get this a year after starting training, sometimes longer if you are unable to make it to the seminars to get certified. These only happen once or twice a year depending on the organization).
  • First Aid/ CPR/ AED
  • K9 First Aid/ CPR

In order to be sent out on a real search you must show proof of completion of the certifications above, plus the classes below (SAR is not just a hobby it is a serious commitment):

  1. Crime Scene Preservation Course
  2. HAZMAT Awareness Course
  3. Bloodborne Pathogens Course
  4. NIMS (FEMA) and ICS Training Courses, IS-100.B, IS-700.A, IS-200.B, IS-800.B. IS 809
  5. Yearly Weather Spotting Class
  6. Footprint Tracking
  7. Map Reading

Where do I get my background check done?

The background check can be completed at the Clerk of Courts in Sioux Falls or your county seat. PLEASE BRING this with you on your first day of trying out. 

What equipment do I need & how much does it all cost?

  • Vest for dog- $40-$80 dollars
  • Backpack and SAR Tech II equipment & study material – $200-$400
  • NAPWDA or NASDN Seminars once per year around $600 plus travel
  • Costs associated with the ownership and animal husbandry of your dog
  • Good All-weather clothing; we train rain or shine
  • Time: training and fundraising events will take a lot of your time. Joining the team is a HUGE commitment. The good news is the more we fundraise the more money we will have to help mitigate our out-of-pocket expenses.

Training is free, although in order to become a fully-deployable SAR team, remember there are many costs including but not limited to the cost of training certification, memberships (NAPWDA, NASDN, NASAR, Etc.) and the cost of gear you will need. It is estimated most individuals will invest about $2,000-$5,000 the first few years of training. Expect to go hide for the other team members when you are not working your dog. It is a great way to learn as well! When hiding, you will remain in place for upwards of 40 minutes, be prepared to remain comfortable in the elements. We do a lot of public education events and demonstrations to the public and interested parties. We are glad you are considering joining us. Please let us know if you have any questions we did not answer above!

Make sure to “like” us on Facebook!

Prairie Dogs K9 Search and Rescue


Terri White

President and Co-Founder PDSAR

Please Complete This Form To Begin The Application Process: 

Information About The Human and Canine (All Fields Are Required):
*A Background Check Is Required Of The Human Member