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Search & Rescue Dogs

Some dogs are naturals at searching for people, but not all dogs (like people) are suited to search and rescue (search and rescue) work. A good rescue dog can’t be affected by loud or sudden sounds, and must be able to get along with other dogs and people well. To a dog search and rescue work is not seen as work, but as a game they love to play.

The job of a search and rescue dog is to detect human scent in nature.. All humans constantly emit microscopic particles bearing human scent. These particles become airborne (by the millions) and can be carried by the wind for considerable distances. Dogs have a very keen sense of smell having 220 million scent receptors, (humans have 5 million) they can use this scent to locate people, something humans cannot do.

A highly trained search and rescue dog is the equivalent to approximately 20 people on foot and can search the same area in an eighth of the time. One dog can search one hectare in approximately 30 minutes where it takes 20 people 4 hours to search the same area.

What Makes Golden Retrievers Such Good Search and Rescue Dogs?

Generally, the working and herding breeds are the best prospects for SAR dogs, particularly Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, who are a very popular choice among search and rescue dog handlers.

One of the most important traits that a potential SAR dog can possess is the desire to play with toys and people and retrieve objects of any type. SAR dogs need to be friendly and enjoy being touched.

Why would traits such as play and retrieving be so important in SAR training?

Search and Rescue Training

Because SAR training is basically a game where the dog is playing with its handler to find a hidden object using its scent, it is important that the dog enjoys playing.

And as most Golden Retriever owners can attest, Golden Retrievers are highly energetic dogs with a strong innate drive to play and retrieve things.

Golden Retrievers love to play, have focused energy, and can direct that energy for hours on end when it aligns with their innate drive to find and retrieve objects. Combine all these traits together, and you have a perfect recipe for a trainable dog in the game of search and rescue.


Size is an essential aspect of search and rescue. Typically you’ll see search and rescue dogs that range in the medium to a large spectrum of dog size.

While other attributes are equally or more important, search and rescue often occur outdoors, around water, and in inclement weather such as snow. Therefore, the dog needs to be big enough to deal with these varied environments.

The search and rescue dog should typically be in the range of 50 to 70 lbs. However, larger dogs that possess the other vital attributes discussed are acceptable choices too.

The breed standard for Golden Retrievers is 55 to 75 lbs, depending on gender. However, that range is specific to show dogs, and many Golden Retrievers grow larger than that.

Physical Structure

Structurally, you want a well-balanced dog. Unlike show dogs, the emphasis for SAR dogs is on agility and endurance.

Search, and rescue can be physically demanding and require the dog to perform its task for hours in often challenging terrains.

Golden Retrievers were bred as outdoor companions to hunters and sportspeople. Their initial purpose was to retrieve waterfowl and game birds, often for hours on end.

Those tasks required the dog to be agile and to be able to endure long hours of focused and patient activity.

Often the retrieving activities require a Golden Retriever to retrieve waterfowl from water bodies and in colder temperatures, which they are aided in by possessing a double coat.

Search and rescue activities often require dogs to operate in similar situations as those described. Outdoors in cooler temperatures and challenging terrains, remaining focused and patient for hours on end, agility, and endurance.

Search and Rescue Retrievers in Colorado

Slater Creek breeds and raises golden retrievers for the search and rescue role. We develop and train young retrievers to go into this demanding and valuable function.

If you have a wonderful home for one of our search and rescue dogs, we would love to hear from you. Whether you want a family retriever or a working golden retriever, we will help find the exact fit for you.