Canine Handler, CANH

Position Category: 
All-Hazard Positions
Position Code: 
Functional Area: 
AD Class: 


The purpose of this position is to act as an emergency responder and search team member by performing canine search and rescue functions during an incident.


  • Performs ground based search and rescue operations with a canine partner.
  • Participates in the search component of the Incident Action Plan.  Searches outdoor environments or other locations indicated in the Incident Action Plan using appropriate canine search techniques such as area search, scent discriminating area search, and wilderness trailing.
  • Utilizes maps, compass, and GPS equipment to track and document search areas.
  • Provides emergency medical treatment within the scope of certification and training.
  • Documents locations of alerts, clues and follow-up tasks.  Cooperates with and assists other search and rescue resources.  Follows all applicable safety procedures for self and canine partner.
  • Utilizes, maintains, and performs minor repair for issued SAR equipment.
  • Participates in briefing, receives situation reports and stays informed of mission objectives and status changes.
  • Performs additional tasks or duties as assigned during a mission.

Position Knowledge and/or Requirements

  • Knowledge of the Incident Command System (ICS), and the use of integrated action planning concepts and processes.
  • Thorough understanding of canine search capabilities, limitations, and procedures such as gained through successful completion of FASAR Canine SARTECH II or equivalent.
  • Practical knowledge of canine search techniques including area searches, trailing, and grid searches for evidence or clues.
  • Basic knowledge of rescue operations such as litter operations helicopter operations, and boat operations.
  • Ability to provide emergency medical treatment as a first responder.
  • Ability to perform canine first aid.
  • Knowledge of the procedures for Body Substance Isolation (BSI), and the precautions required to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens.
  • Knowledge of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and its appropriate use in search, rescue, and recovery operations.
  • Thorough knowledge of situational awareness fundamentals including personal equipment, canine support equipment and supplies, essential rescue equipment, and general all-risk hazards.
  • Knowledge of search operations and techniques, including area sectoring, search patterns, victim location clues, hazard awareness, weather implications, search team organization and operating procedures.
  • Practical knowledge of the technical aspects of search theory, including map, compass, and GPS techniques.
  • Ability to accurately sketch a search area, and to apply and interpret search area marking techniques for perimeters, alert areas, hazards, etc.
  • Knowledge of the proper use and field maintenance of search and communication equipment.

Supervisory Controls

Work direction is provided by the Canine Team Leader, SAR Team Leader, or other designated supervisor.  The majority of work is performed independently as a member of a search team or other all-risk operational team within the framework of established practice.  Work is subject to periodic observation for acceptability and compliance with operating instructions and procedures.


Procedures for doing the work have been established and a number of specific guidelines or standard orders are available such as oral instructions, standard operating procedures, maps, instruction manuals, and health and safety codes.  Occasional problems may not be specifically covered by guidelines.

The incumbent uses judgment in determining the most appropriate guidelines, references and procedures based on the situation at hand, and individual rules and regulations.


The incumbent and canine partner work in a wide variety of functional areas which require diverse skills; often involving critical lifesaving situations such as search and rescue, emergency medical, and aviation incidents.  Emergency response often involves decision-making and action in extremely adverse physical and emotional conditions and ability to function effectively in controversial and/or sensitive situations.  Work requires application and modification of established practices in some areas of responsibility, with individual discretion and judgment exercised in emergency situations.

Scope and Effect

The purpose of this position is to participate in the search component of search and rescue operations, to assist in implementing incident objectives for a safe operation, and to work for short to extended periods of time when looking for clues or lost subjects during multi operational period incidents.

The Canine Team Members decisions and actions impact the safety of others, the efficiency of assignments, and the effectiveness and timeliness of mission completion.

Personal Contacts

Personal contacts are with local agency search and rescue team personnel, and/or incident management team personnel during the duration of the incident.  Additional contacts may be made with media operations, family members, special interest groups, and others interested and assisting with the incident.

Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of contacts is to obtain briefings and orders, as well as to relay incident information to and from the incident management team and other team members, and to provide general and specific information and assistance.

Physical Demands

Work routinely involves physically rigorous assignments and strenuous activity.  Incumbent must maintain excellent physical condition to carry out responsibilities, including the ability to hike and climb in mountainous and desert terrain, to perform lengthy search, rescue and recovery missions, to perform assignments in remote areas of steep, hazardous terrain, accessible only by foot, and in all weather conditions.  These routine and emergency situations often require clear reasoning and decisive action under conditions of extreme mental and physical stress.

Work Environment

Work environment is predominately outdoors in all types of terrain conditions, night or day, including inclement weather, and for prolonged periods of time.  Travel may be by foot, ski, snowshoe, vehicle, aircraft or boat.  The incumbent is subject to cold, hot, windy, wet, or snowy conditions for several days at a time.  Working elevations range from below sea level to above 8,000 feet.


Page Last Modified / Reviewed: