The Ketchikan Volunteer Rescue Squad K9 team needs volunteers interested in training search and rescue dogs.

Levi returning to bark, his way of telling me he found our volunteer, who was hiding in the woods
Levi returning to bark, his way of telling me he found our volunteer, who was hiding in the woods

The team started in 1996 with more than 20 members. Through the first five years, the numbers shifted and dropped as people moved, got too busy, or realized they or their dogs weren’t cut out for search work.

In the past several years, however, the team has settled to  a small, but dedicated core who started with the team at the beginning. Now that some are nearing retirement, it’s time to recruit some new people and dogs!

Who are good human candidates?

  • People who love to be in the woods in all weather. Dogs and people must search in the worst possible conditions, and they often are “worst” in Ketchikan.
  • People who can train about three times weekly in the first few months of starting a dog. They often are short little problems, but must be frequent with a beginning dog. Sometimes the most difficult and frustrating part of these training sessions is finding willing volunteers to hide for and play with your dog.
  • People who aren’t afraid of, or are willing to overcome a fear of bears and working in the woods at night.
  • People who think it would be a fun challenge to learn navigating all alone in the wilderness, or who already have that skill.

What kind of dogs will be good candidates?

  • Under two years old. It takes about two years to certify a dog, so you really don’t want to go through all that work and time and have a finished trainee with only a few working years left.
  • Doesn’t only enjoy the retrieve game but *will not stop.* This is critical. Without that, you have no search dog.
  • Best dogs are between 40 and 70 pounds. Large dogs break down quickly, are slow in our steep, thickly-wooded terrain and are tough to fit into small aircraft and boats.

What is the training like?

  • First, you contact me, at 907-617-8382. Alternatively, contact KVRS at 225-9010. To be a dog team member, you also must be a KVRS member. You also can find KVRS on Facebook and at
  • As you train your dog, you will be part of the KVRS search efforts, and on-call as a searcher for callouts. You would get a call or text with a brief message describing where to meet and what type of search it is. Callouts can happen at any time of the day and night, but it’s more rare to get them in the middle of the night.
  • We would arrange a  time for your first dog training practice — usually, we train on weekends. With a beginner dog, you’ll be wedging in practice time on weekdays as well. At your first practice, your dog would stay in your car, hopefully safely in a crate, while you both walk with us as a handler, then also hide for us as a subject. We take the new dogs out last so that after their first “find” they get a walk and playtime, not back-in-the-car time.
Just finishing clearing one side of a long creek on a 2012 search for a lost flyfisherman.
Just finishing clearing one side of a long creek on a 2012 search for a lost flyfisherman.

What do I and my dog have to do to be allowed to go on actual missions?

  • A KVRS K9 dog/handler team must pass three tests: 1) successfully find a person in fewer than six hours in a 160-acre area, showing expert dog handling, navigation and field preparedness; 2) successfully find a person along a 1-mile trail in the dark, in less  than one hour; and 3) pass an obedience test that includes heeling off-leash among people and dogs, a down stay with the handler out of sight, and entering water willingly.
  • A team must be approved for testing by the rest of the team in a vote before the team is allowed to take a test.

We love to meet, and hear from new people, so let us know if you’re interested in just coming to hide for us, walk with us, or to see if you are interested enough to start training a dog, or to try your own dog out.

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