About Us

VRA Rescue NSW Search Dog are located in NSW, Australia. The squad is a part of VRA Rescue NSW, a volunteer based emergency service, which has over 50 specialised squads that perform a range of rescue activities including general land rescue, road crash rescue and vertical rescue. VRA Rescue NSW Search Dogs is focused on developing the use of dogs and handlers within the field of search and rescue.

Our squad members are located across NSW and ACT in areas such as Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra, Snowy Mountains, Bathurst and Dubbo. Unlike other squads, we do not have a centrally located headquarters, and instead perform much of our field-based training in small teams in a variety of environments and conditions.

Our field training is supported via online sessions and training days / workshops at various locations in NSW. We regularly undertake multi-agency training with other emergency service organisations to build relationships and increase interoperability.

Our squad includes our vital support personnel who assist with logistics, liaison roles, navigation and communications. We can also source support from the many highly qualified and experienced members of VRA Rescue NSW, SES and other emergency service organisations during a search response.

All of our dogs belong to and live with squad members and are used solely by that member in training and operational activities.

We wish to acknowledge the WA SES Canine Unit, our sister organisation, for the tireless support they have provided to establish the capability in NSW. We will continue this close relationship into the future to help build stronger capabilities nationally.

We would not be here without the incredible support of our major sponsor the Petbarn Foundation, whose commitment to the establishment of this capability is greatly appreciated.

Search and Rescue Dogs VRA Rescue NSW


Handler and Dog Team

A handler may have more than one dog, and these may be trained in various search types. Dedication and countless hours of hard work by both team members lead to an accreditation in specific search types and a special bond between handler and dog. Our handler and dog teams need to be physically fit to endure rough terrain, weather conditions, and endure physical challenges to achieve the objectives. Handlers know their limitations and those of their dog(s), they constantly monitor their health, and are trained in both human and canine First Aid.

The handler and dog team are always supported by a navigator. The navigator focuses on the search area and ensures the team is safe at all times.

Search Navigation & Map Reading

Team Support Roles

A squad has a range of roles that each play a vital part in our team. They include training officers, logistics support, administration personnel, communications officers, navigators and operational liaison officers. These hard working and dedicated people put in countless hours to support, lead, communicate, provide training, plan and ensure that the squad is ready to respond when required.


Air Scent / Area Search

Air Scent / Area Search dogs work off lead and are used to search areas for non-specific human scent. These dogs pick-up human scent carried in the air.

Scent Specific Trailing

Trailing dogs work on a harness and long lead. They focus on the specific scent trail of an individual and follow the direction of travel by that person.

Avalanche & Alpine

Avalanche dogs are used to search for human scent both on top and under a large mass of snow and/or rocks.

Water Search

Water search, or drowned victim search dogs, can be used for people missing in fresh or saltwater environments. They work along a waterline, or from inside a boat to locate human scent.