North Country Rescue Dogs

An interview with Kathryn Bamford

Kathryn Bamford
Kathryn Bamford, SAR K9 Instructor

Kathryn Bamford is the New York State Federation of Search and Rescue Teams K9 coordinator, Massasauga SAR Team K9 officer, and an International Police Work Dog Association SAR instructor.

She was interviewed by Greg Hitchcock of Only the Adirondacks about what makes a perfect search and rescue dog.

GREG: How do you train dogs for rescue missions?


BAMFORD: This is a question that could be answered over a period of weeks to months.  It all depends on the discipline the dog is trained for, i.e., live find wilderness, human remains detection, avalanche, disaster, etc.  A simple answer is that the dog’s drive/motivation to hunt is turned into a game where if the dog finds the object of the search it is rewarded with toy, play and/or food.  The dog always works to gain a high value reward.


GREG: What type of rescues do your dogs go on? Search and Rescue (SAR)? Can you give me an example of a dog employed for SAR?


A Search and Rescue Dog
A Search and Rescue dog at work.

BAMFORD: Search and Rescue dogs search for lost and missing persons.  This can be in all types of environments, e.g. wilderness, water, mountain snows, natural or manmade disaster areas, urban locations, buildings etc.


GREG: Are these trained dogs employed elsewhere besides SAR?


BAMFORD: Most Search & Rescue K9s are dedicated to that work only.  Some law enforcement agencies may use their patrol dogs for SAR missions, but this is very limited because most patrol K9s are trained in bite apprehension.


GREG: What breed of dog is ideal for this type of work? What are their characteristics? Cool under pressure? Good tracking skills?


BAMFORD: Search dogs are chosen for their desire to hunt, agility, strength, ability to work in all weather and seasons, trainability and even temperaments.  Many of the hunting breeds, herding breeds and hounds make good search dogs.  This can vary and the breeding lines of these dogs are very important.  Successful search dogs are from lines bred to work and not those bred to be house pets.

A Search and Rescue dog
A search and rescue dog gets a lift.


GREG: How does it work? Do you contract with state and local police and law enforcement agencies to provide SAR?


BAMFORD: As I mentioned previously, SAR K9 units are specialty resources of volunteer SAR teams.  All work is performed on a volunteer basis.


GREG: Are volunteers critical in operations? How so?


BAMFORD: We are all volunteers.  The majority of search dogs in this country are trained and handled by volunteers.

This interview is a two-part series about dogs of the North Country.