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Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S. -- Dog Behavior Policy

During a long-ago discussion on the SAR-DOGS email list, Marian Hardy posted the Dog Behavior Policy for the Mid-Atlantic D.O.G.S. search group. With her permission I converted it to HTML and made it available for all. It's not only a sound policy for the steps it lays out, but also the reasoning behind the rules.

Background Points

Search and rescue dogs are expected to be friendly and non-aggressive toward people and other animals. Any deviation from expected friendly behavior is a poor reflection on all of us and volunteer search and rescue dog teams in general. A dog curling its lip at a person or a dog jumping another dog means only one thing in the eyes of the public - aggressive, "mean" dog. Even the most laid back friendly dog can be aroused or startled for reasons unfathomable to the handler. Your state of mind, anxiousness, irritation, frustration, or anger; is transmitted "right down the leash" to your dog who does not know the reason for your state of mind. It only knows you are "uptight" and will alert accordingly and not necessarily the way or when you expect it!

The best correction in dog training is the anticipated one that is given before or just as the undesired action begins.
In training sessions we:


  1. Handlers are responsible for the behavior of their dog at all times.
  2. Repeated acts of non social behavior by a dog that is not immediately corrected by the handler will not be tolerated.
  3. Handlers will use regular training sessions as the opportunity to correct behavior problems.
  4. Each of us will notify a handler, if in the handlers absence, they observe inappropriate behavior by that person's dog.
  5. Each of us will assist a handler in correcting or retraining a handler's dog.
  6. At non-training sessions, dogs will be kept on a leash, held at a sufficient length so the dog is under control, until you are confident that your dog is relaxed and others do not mind dogs off leash.
  7. At searches dogs must be on leash when arriving and leaving base camp. This includes returning from an assignment.
  8. Dogs will be on leash when people are eating.


Repeated incidents of non-social behavior by a dog will be called to the attention of the Standards Committee. The Standards Committee will discuss the individual problem with the handler. In severe or repeated cases, if the handler, after it is called to his/her attention fails to recognize or acknowledge a problem exists; an applicant or trainee team will be asked to leave the Unit; or in the case of an operational team, be taken off the call out roster until the problem is corrected.

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Text and photos copyright Dan Comden, 1995-2006 Dan Comden
Seattle, WA U.S.A.
Email -- dan*@* (remove the asterisks around the "@" symbol)