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  • Writer's pictureRebecca A Penn, MA

My background, education, and experience as a canine trainer and handler.

I have been training and handling dogs semi-professionally for over twelve years. I attended the Triple Crown Dog Academy (now Starmark Academy) in Hutto, Texas in 2002. After my graduation from their 6-month program, I became an intern training dogs in disciplines such as Schutzhund, Agility, and competition level obedience. Following my internship, I worked for two years as an independent dog trainer primarily for clients with pets. In 2013 I joined and began assisting with training search and rescue dogs in live find and human remains detection.

I have been a member of Sandia Search Dogs since 2013. I’m currently president and a K9 handler for Doña Ana Search and Rescue (DACSAR) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Both Sandia Search Dogs and DACSAR are recognized as SAR teams by New Mexico’s Department of Public Safety. DACSAR primarily deploys on SAR operations in southern New Mexico while Sandia Search Dogs deploys across the state of New Mexico and the state of Colorado.


I have attended numerous workshops and seminars conducted by professional and volunteer K9 handlers as well as by veterinarians and academic researchers studying detection dog behavior training, and performance. My current partner in the field is Leika, a seven-year-old Border Collie from a ranch in Mayer, Arizona. I


have certified my dog through the National Association of Search and Rescue. Leika and I have also earned our Junior Herding Dog (JHD) through the American Herding Breed Association.


As a handler, my responsibility to my canine is to be as proficient and knowledgeable as possible. This is critical to the effective training and deployment of any detection dog. There is always room for improvement and growth as a K9 SAR handler and responder.

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