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The Basics About Search and Rescue Dogs

by Rebecca Stanevich 
 
Search and Rescue is the term that is applied to the act of looking for a missing or lost person. Search and Rescue dogs are dogs that are trained to assist in the location of missing 
or lost persons. 


Each Search and Rescue dog handler decides how their dogs will find people, whether it be tracking, trailing, or air-scenting. Air-Scenting means that the dogs do not need a scent article to begin their search. The dogs are taught to scan the air current for any human scent. Tracking/Trailing dogs are scent discriminating. This means that they are given a scent article and will search for and follow that specific scent. Most search dog groups have dogs that do all or some of the following: 


Wilderness Searches: The dogs are able to locate missing people in an area that is not heavily populated. Forests, parks, rural areas, and such are examples. The size of the search area can range from a small area to large acreage. 


Urban Searches: The dogs are able to locate missing people in an area that is heavily populated and heavily contaminated, such as city streets, neighborhoods, or school yards. The size of the search area can range from a small area to large acreage. 


Water Searches: The dogs are able to locate people that have been submerged in water. The dogs are able to work from boats or from the shore. 


Avalanche Searches: The dogs are able to locate people under snow. 


Disaster Searches: The dogs are able to locate people that are trapped/missing in either man-made or natural disasters. Examples are: tornadoes, earthquakes, mud slides, rock slides, building collapses, or multi-car crashes. 


Cadaver Searches: The dogs are able to locate bodies or body parts that might be buried in shallow graves or otherwise hidden from plain sight. Examples: hidden in trunks of cars, in trash bins, in oil drums. 


Experts estimate that a single trained Search and Rescue dog, under excellent conditions, can be as effective as 25 trained human ground searchers in locating a missing person within a given period of time due to their natural abilities. This makes them invaluable in locating a missing person, because it can reduce the time spent searching, thus increasing the chances that the person will be found alive. 

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