Get Involved

**Thank you for your interest! Canine membership will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Please email the if you're interested in joining MBSD with or without a dog.**

- MBSD 1/2024 


Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Monterey Bay Search Dogs!

We are delighted to have volunteers join in our training sessions – often we see volunteers who want to come out and see our dogs work, and we can always use the help! We accept volunteers all year ‘round, and are listed in several databases that identify community oriented activities, including the Santa Cruz Public Library Community Information Database.

Additionally, we also look forward to meeting people who are interested in joining our team as a member. We do accept new members year ‘round, but with a specific onboarding process required prior to full membership. This is to ensure that both the prospective new member and our team have a chance to get to know one another, and the prospective member can get an understanding of what it means to be a part of our team.

Whether you’d like to simply volunteer with us on an informal and/or temporary basis, or are interested in becoming a team member, we would like to get to know you prior to you coming out to your first session with us. In order to help us understand your experience and level of interest we ask that you email us at and share the following information:

ON-BOARDING: Candidacy and Apprenticeship

If you are interested in becoming a team member, you might either already have a dog, or are thinking about getting a dog to train for search and rescue.

If you have a dog that you’re interested in training for search and rescue, your first step will be to come to one of our sessions and have your dog appraised. This is a simple step to assess your dog’s drive and to see if he or she is compatible with other dogs and humans. It takes about 15 minutes and needs to be scheduled with one of our members once you have reached out to us via the email address above.

Following your first session with our team where we have had an opportunity to meet you and your dog, we will invite you to continue with your candidacy. At this time, you will be asked to spend the next 3 consecutive weeks without your dog observing and helping with the training of the more advanced dogs. 

You are welcome to bring your puppy or dog to training after attending at least those three sessions without (this may not be applicable at this time given our cap on new canines). We will continue to assess your dog and provide you with some next steps to take to begin your dog's search training. However, we devote the majority of our training sessions training the apprentice and member dogs for search.

Do not forget to bring your Candidate Training Record (to be found on the Resources page of our website). Once your candidate training record has at least 8 training dates filled (including your initial 3 consecutive sessions attended), you may turn it in and receive your apprenticeship application.

When you submit the apprenticeship application you will need to pay the $25 apprentice membership fee. After an additional 12 months of consistent work with the group you may apply for membership.

While we will look forward to providing next steps for you and your dog during your candidacy, again, please understand that the bulk of our training sessions will be spent training the member and apprentice dogs for search.

Here are the onboarding steps listed out:

1. Have your dog assessed by our team members

2. Attend 3 consecutive training sessions (without your dog). Also, start to bring your Candidate Training Record to begin recording the trainings you attend

3. After 3 consecutive sessions without your dog, you may bring him/her (if applicable given the current cap on new canines)

4. After completing an additional 5 training sessions (a total of 8 sessions will have been attended), you may apply for apprenticeship. Complete the apprenticeship application and pay the $25 apprentice membership fee

5. Complete an additional 12 months of consistent attendance, after which you may apply for membership, which is currently a $75 annual fee

Your Introduction to MBSD Training

During your first 8 weeks leading up to your apprenticeship, you will predominantly be helping with the training of the more advanced dogs. By observing and working with dogs at different levels of training, you will gain an overview of the sort of training you will be giving your dog.

Without prior knowledge of both the endpoint of training and the many possible ways to get to that goal, we find new trainers get frustrated and are at a loss for how to proceed with their own dogs. Make sure you work with a variety of dogs and handlers. Also, expose yourself to each type of search discipline currently offered - Wilderness Area/Live Find and Human Remains Detection (HRD) - so that you will have a reasonable overview of these activities.

In 8 weeks you will have just barely scratched the surface, but you will have some idea of what it means to train a search dog. Ask questions - this is how you learn!

During this time we ask your patience and request that you do not start your dog on finding your friends, and do not make an imitation bringsel to "get a head start".

If you are enrolled in a dog training class, continue with that training. If you are not, please know that a dog must have basic obedience skills, a solid recall being one of the most important skills, before we will consider moving into the advanced training of the search disciplines. It is of utmost importance that a dog have a solid foundation and a good relationship with their handler on which to build off. If you have a dog with a high drive, and know how to work with him, he will learn this discipline quickly.

Finally, during your time of apprenticeship, if you don’t have it together already you will also need to get your basic equipment together. Refer to the handout “Suggested Equipment for Beginning SAR Dog Handlers”.

We find this a challenging and rewarding discipline. We hope that you find that it is a commitment that you will want to make. Once again, we are pleased to have you join our training and participate in this special activity.

Related Topics

Basic Terminology Glossary

Candidate Training Record

Suggested Beginning Equipment

Membership Inquiry Form

Our apologies - this form is currently unavailable. However, please feel free to send your inquiry to in the meantime, and include the information requested above.
Although MBSD is not currently accepting new members, you are welcome to fill out the following form and request to be added to our waiting list, or see about volunteering at an upcoming training without a dog!