Search-and-rescue dogs training in Phoenix

Posted at 7:02 AM, Mar 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-03 17:35:18-05

Disasters can strike at any time, but have no fear -- dogs from around the country will be in Phoenix this weekend to get ready for those big rescue jobs.

Before digging through the rubble to save lives, these heroic canines must go through 2,000 hours of training with a ton of handler-dog attention. Then, they must pass the nationally administered test, like the one here in Phoenix put on by the local AZ-TF1 team.

Nearly 30 dogs are taking part in this FEMA disaster preparedness certification test. They'll be tested on obedience, agility, alert behavior, handler skills and more.

It's not just a fun game of hide-and seek, though. During the test, these dogs have to ignore big temptations like steak, hamburgers and toys to look for actors who are "buried alive" in two 15,000-square foot sites.

One false alert and the dogs fail the test, which is why it takes a very unique and dedicated dog to take on the job.

Phoenix Fire Department says handlers can sometimes look at more than 100 dogs to find the perfect partner.

Some dogs, like "Free" who came to the department after not excelling as a Nevada hunting dog, do very well as rescue dogs. "Free" learned all the skills that take two years to learn in just under a year.

Other pups in the local force have come from national trainers, breeders and even the Arizona Humane Society.

AZ-TF1 has been deployed to disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike, the mudslide in Washington, and the World Trade Center on 9/11. 

Locally, these pups have helped find missing people and injured hikers.

To learn more about the dogs in Phoenix, click here.