Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is a search dog? 
A search dog is a dog that is specifically trained to locate human scent.
Search dogs are capable of locating persons that are lost in wilderness areas or in collapsed structures. Search dogs can also locate victims of drowning

How Do Search Dogs Work? 
Search and rescue dogs use human scent as the primary means of finding their subjects. To a lesser degree, they also use their excellent hearing, and vision, especially night vision. These senses, which are far superior to a human's, make trained dogs an extremely valuable member of the SAR community. Every human being gives off scent, no matter how clean that human may be. Scent is made up of a variety of substances, including microscopic flakes of skin, skin oils, hair and hair oils, perspiration, and environmental factors, such as exposure to certain scents over an extended time, like cigarette smoke, perfumes, a particular brand of shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. It is believed that emotional factors, such as fear or panic, may also affect a person's scent. Each person has their very own distinct scent, and some dogs are able to tell the difference between persons, such as being able to identify the owner of a piece of clothing from a group of people.

Whose Job Is It? 
Knowing the science of scent theory is the handler's job and following the scent to its source is the dog's job. They do this either by air scenting, tracking or trailing. Scent theory is the study of what scent is made up of, how it behaves under different conditions, how environmental factors affect the scent cone or track, and how to place the dog in the most advantageous position for him to work effectively. Scent can be affected by length of time (tracks), air, ground or water temperature, time of day, wind, humidity, and other factors. All these factors combine to form what we call the scent picture. The K-9 handler must have a good understanding of this scent theory or picture. When humans and K-9s train hard together and hone these skills, the results can be very successful. 
 
Are there different types of SAR dogs? 
There are basically 3 types of SAR dogs:

  • Air-Scent Dogs

  • Trailing Dogs

  • Tracking Dogs

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Which breed of dog is best for search and rescue? 
The breed of the dog is totally the choice of the handler but the following criteria should be considered:

  • The dog should be of a size capable of overcoming the type of terrain that will be encountered.

  • The dog needs to be of a medium size to ensure this.

  • The dog should not be of a size that prohibits the handler from assisting the dog with problems encountered in the field.

  • The dog must be of significant intelligence to be trainable and be capable of problem solving.

  • The dogs coat should be capable of protecting the dog from the type of environmental conditions that will be encountered.

  • It is widely accepted that a dog with a long muzzle is more proficient at detecting scent.

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What is a SAR dog team? 
A team consists of an operational SAR dog, a dog handler and a support person.
 
What is an operational SAR dog? 
An operational SAR dog is a dog that has completed successfully all requirements and testing procedures.
 
What is a dog handler? 
The dog handler is the owner and trainer of the SAR dog. The handler is responsible for all aspects of the care of the dog. The handler is also responsible for deploying the dog in a manner that provides maximum utilization of the dogs abilities. The handler is also responsible for locating clues while on a search.
 
What is a SARtech? 
A SARtech is a highly trained support person that is responsible for all aspects of search work. They assist the handler in caring for the dog. They are responsible for navigation (map and compass) and radio communications. They search for clues and are responsible for relaying back to the command post the location of the team, the victim when located and any clues that are found.
 
How do I get involved? 
We are very committed to doing everything within our power to discourage persons for becoming involved. The theory behind this course of action is that there are very few people that are truly suited for the physical and psychological strain of SAR work. It has been our experience that only about 1 in 20 will actually remain active after their first deceased victim find. If you think you have what it takes contact several teams and go with the most active and well established team in your area.
 
Are all SAR dog teams the same? 
Teams vary greatly in their performance and abilities. A good SAR dog team should have a proven tract record and be recognized by the supervising agency in their operating area.
 
What is the difference between SAR dogs and police dogs? 
SAR dogs are trained to locate lost or missing persons and police dogs are trained to apprehend persons that are escaped or fleeing apprehension. 
 
How long does it take to train a SAR dog? 
On average it takes about 2 years to train a dog to meet the requirements for basic operational level. This is working the dog 2 or three times a week on search problems and daily on obedience. This is a general statement as it varies greatly depending on the handlers experience and the dogs ability.