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Record Keeping

By Andy Rebmann

Good records are a necessity for the working dog handler. They provide valid documentation of your training as well as actual search work and experience of both the dog and the handler.

There are three types of records that you should maintain. They are (1) a training log; (2) search reports and (3) handler resume. Each record covers a different facet of your activities and, taken as a whole, presents a history of your experience.


The training record provides a chronological history of all training activities of the K-9 team. The record starts with the initial puppy scent work. The log records frequency of training, progress made, weaknesses noted and corrective actions taken. The individual record exists in addition to any unit records of training sessions.

The log allows you to review your work and can be used by a trainer or evaluator to judge the level of performance of the team. These records, since they are kept "in the normal course of business" are admissible in court should you be called to testify in a criminal or civil case. Training records provide a portion of the documentation necessary to qualify to testify in a court case.

Training records can be kept on a form in a loose leaf notebook, as a Journal, or simply as entries in a pocket notebook. The format is not as important as is insuring that all the pertinent information is recorded.

Personally, I prefer a prepared form maintained in a loose leaf binder. The form insures that no information is omitted.

The training record form should include:

  1. Dog's name
  2. Handler's name
  3. Training location
  4. Type of terrain
  5. Type of search
  6. Type of training aid
  7. Time problem set: time worked: time delay
  8. How much time involved in search
  9. Weather conditions: temperature; wind speed and direction; precipitation (if any)
  10. If a buried problem, type of soil and depth of burial
  11. Narrative description of search
  12. Did the dog locate: type of alert
  13. If the training problem was set up by someone other than the handler, list name
  14. Date of training
  15. Signature or trainers signature

Keep your records up to date. Enter the information accurately and honestly. You are your own best critic. Document both the good and bad sessions. If you note a weak area, record the training exercises you perform to overcome the problem.


Each actual case that you work should be documented from the time you are called out until the final debriefing. Even if you did not make the actual find, the record of your activity provides information about the overall conduct of the search, including time spent and area covered. This is extremely important during an on-going operation or if the search is suspended, then reactivated.

Much of the information needed for a good search report is similar to the training record. The report should be completed as soon as practical after the completion of the search.

The information necessary for the report includes:

  1. Date of search
  2. Times dispatched, arrived, commenced to search and completed
  3. Location of the search
  4. Weather conditions at the time the search is conducted
  5. Requesting Agency: contact person within agency
  6. Identification and age of victim
  7. Time subject was last seen; who last saw victim; place last seen
  8. A narrative describing your actions during the operation
  9. Date the report is completed
  10. Signature of the handler

The narrative should contain information regarding your activities in your search area. If you are unable to delineate your search area by easily described landmarks, indicate the area on a map. If you search more than one area, make sure all search areas are listed. If there is a question at a later date regarding a specific area, all areas covered in the overall search will be listed. The collective reports of the individual search teams will document the complete scope of the entire search.

You should attach any maps or sketches you make to your original. You can also attach copies of news clippings about the search to your copy. The original should be maintained by the handler and copies of the reports from all the teams involved should become part of the unit records.

Completed reports may be kept in a section of a binder or in a file.


The resume is a summary of your personal experience and a history of your involvement in Search and Rescue. Each handler should maintain a record of his training and experience in this specialized field.

The resume should contain the following information:

  1. Summary of your involvement in the field
  2. All training received
  3. All specialty training you have attended
  4. Any special recognition you have been accorded
  5. Number of dogs you have trained

You should also compile a short resume for your dog which should include:

  1. Registered and call name; breed and date of birth
  2. When you acquired the dog
  3. When you started training
  4. When the dog was certified for use
  5. A brief summary (date and location) of the dogs' search work

This compilation is extremely important if you should be required to testify in court. A complete record of your training and experience gives added credibility and weight to your testimony.

Once you have developed your resume, make sure you keep it updated with any additional training or activities that are pertinent.

Remember, the purpose of good records is not to maintain a "Brag Book". Good, up-to-date records of your work provides credibility and, if needed for court, portray you and your dog as professionals in search work.

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