The Training

The time it takes to train a team varies according to the handler’s experience and the dog’s willingness to learn, but it is normally around two years. Dogs must have basic obedience and handlers a fair degree of fitness. We often have to search along busy roads or in fields of stock and a search can go on all day, often over rough terrain. It is essential that the dogs like people and get along with each other. Most of all, the dogs must be highly motivated to get their reward.

We have regular training sessions throughout Lincolnshire and these are on a variety of terrain, i.e. buildings, rubble, woodland, open areas, etc. All members have to be prepared to go ‘missing’ for each other and this can be quite uncomfortable in the middle of winter. Friends can also sometimes be coerced into this role!

Each search is tackled differently, depending on a number of circumstances;

  • Safety
  • Terrain
  • Weather conditions
  • Number of dogs and handlers available
  • Time of day or night
  • Wind speed and direction

To the dogs it is just a game of hide and seek. If they are trained correctly they soon learn that if they locate human scent they will get their reward. Dogs are naturally inquisitive and have approximately 120 million more scent cells in their noses than we mere humans, therefore the job is very easy for them. Within a short period of time the dogs come to know when they get to a training session and can’t wait to get started.

Our dogs are taught a bark indication which is sometimes the most difficult part of the training, although at home they don’t seem to have this problem They soon learn to locate victims but must also be taught to stay with them and bark to lead the handler in. it is very important in the initial stages of training to have a very experienced “victim” to hide for your dog. “Victims” can make or break your dog, so this is the first thing we are taught as new members.


Exercise Winter Storm

A training exercise, aptly named, aimed at bringing together the agencies responsible for carrying out searches for missing people was carried out along the East Coast of Lincolnshire with four “casualties” being successfully located and recovered. Exercise Winter Storm was held on Sunday 23rd November 2008 from Mablethorpe RNLI and involved around fifty officers, volunteers and staff from HM Coastguard, the RNLI, Louth Search Dogs and Lincolnshire Police. The two helicopters had to be cancelled due to appalling weather conditions. However, sea and land searches were carried out involving three coastline search teams and two lifeboats.

The exercise scenario was a yacht off the coast of Mablethorpe that had overturned. A local fishing boat had located a survivor on a life raft, but four crew members were still missing. Following extensive search activity on and off shore all four casualties were successfully located and recovered with no loss of life.

Mr Hugh Donnelly, Sector Manager for Lincolnshire’s HM Coastguard said, “Considering the weather there was a terrific turn out for the exercise with many of those involved volunteering their time. Bringing everyone together for a training exercise means that when we do it for real we are all prepared. Preserving life is our priority and the quicker we can mobilise and the closer we can work together, he more chance lives can be changed”

Object of the Exercise

  • The readiness, effectiveness and efficiency of SAR capabilities in the Lincolnshire Sector.
  • To test the initiative, decision making and problem solving of the local Station Officers and their teams.
  • To encourage close co-operation and teamwork with flank HMCG Teams, RNLI, Search Dogs, Police and Ambulance Services.
  • To publicise the role of HM Coastguard and promote safety awareness.


We are always looking for new people and their dogs to train as Search Dog Teams. Below is a brief resume of the basic criteria required.


  • Must have a reasonable level of fitness
  • Be available for training on most Friday mornings
  • Be prepared to travel to training locations all over Lincolnshire and in all weather conditions
  • Not mind getting cold, wet and muddy!
  • Be prepared to give between 18 months and 2 years commitment to train as a search team member
  • You will also be expected to act as a “missing person” for other dogs. There can also be quite a lot of standing around or helping others at a training session.


  • Must be trained to The Kennel Club Good Citizen Silver Level standard of control and behaviour – this standard can be found on the Kennel Club website and is the benchmark to which your dogs suitability will be assessed
  • Must love playing with a ball
  • Must be fit and healthy Need to be from one of the working breeds (cross breeds also acceptable)
  • Must be confident and happy around both people and other dogs

If you think both you and your dog meet the above criteria, please get in touch through the e-mail address on our “Contact Us” page.


If you don’t have a dog you could still help us. “Dogsbodies” act as missing persons during training & on exercises. You will need to be comfortable around dogs and to be prepared to “get lost” in sometimes unfavourable conditions and places. A good sense of humour is essential!!