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Search&Rescue

 

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There are different types of SAR dogs used in search and resque operations:

AIR SCENT DOGS
The air scent dog is the type most frequently encountered.  This dog finds lost people by picking up traces of human scent that are drifting in the air, and looks for the "cone" of scent where it is most concentrated.  This dog will not normally discriminate scents, so there is the possibility of a "false alarm" if other people (searchers, citizens) are nearby.  Airscent dogs work best in situations such as large parks or private lands that are closed at the time, since the dog will home in on any human scent.  The success of an air scent dog will be affected by a number of factors, including wind conditions, air temperature, time of day, terrain, and presence or absence of contamination (auto exhaust, smoke, etc.).

Airscenting

Airscenting dogs primarily use airborne human scent to home in on subjects, whereas trailing dogs rely on scent of the specific subject. Airscenting dogs typically work off-lead, are non-scent-discriminating (e.g., locate scent from any human as opposed to a specific person), and cover large areas of terrain. These dogs are trained to follow diffused or wind-borne scent back to its source, then to indicate their find (for example, by sitting with the lost party and barking until the handler arrives, or by returning to the handler and indicating contact with the subject, and then lead the handler back to the subject). Handler technique, terrain, environment (vegetation), and atmospheric conditions (wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, and sky conditions) determine the area covered by airscenting dogs, although a typical search area may be 40–160 acres and scent sources can be detected from a distance of 1/4 mile or more.

DISASTER DOG

A disaster dog is trained to find human scent in very unnatural environments, including collapsed structures and areas effected by tornadoes, earthquakes and other disasters.  This dog is trained to work on unstable surfaces, in small, confined spaces and other settings not usually found in the wilderness.

Disaster dogs are used to locate victims of catastrophic or mass-casualty events (e.g., earthquakes, landslides, building collapses, aviation incidents). Many disaster dogs in the US are trained to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency K9 standards for domestic or international deployment; advanced agility and off-lead training are prerequisites reflecting the nature of these dogs' application. Disaster dogs rely primarily on airscent, and may be limited in mass-casualty events by their inability to differentiate between survivors and recently-deceased victims.

CADAVER DOG

A cadaver dog reacts to the scent of a dead human.  The dog can be trained for above ground and buried cadaver searches.  Although many dogs have the potential to detect human scent, whether dead or alive, the cadaver dog is trained to locate only human remains.  The training process includes detection of very minute pieces of cadaver or even blood drops in a specified area.

Human Remains Detection (HRD) or cadaver dogs are used to locate the remains of deceased victims. Depending on the nature of the search, these dogs may work off-lead (e.g., to search a large area for buried remains) or on-lead (to recover clues from a crime scene). Airscenting and tracking/trailing dogs are often cross-trained as cadaver dogs, although the scent the dog detects is clearly of a different nature than that detected for live or recently-deceased subjects. Cadaver dogs can locate entire bodies (including those buried or submerged), decomposed bodies, body fragments (including blood, tissues, hair, and bones), or skeletal remains; the capability of the dog is dependent upon its training.

A MANTRAILING DOG is following the “scent path” of the person, not the track, focusing on the highest concentration of the scent path — which often is not where the actual track of the subject was laid. Is to follow one person’s scent and identify that person.

Each dog is usually worked in a harness, on a leash, and given an uncontaminated scent article (such as a piece of clothing) belonging to the missing person.  The dog follows that scent and no other.

Trailing

A trailing dog is scent specific. Trailing dogs will work on and off lead, and trailing dogs will venture off the actual path that a subject took should a scent pool be discovered. This is not to be considered an error by the dog, as they are following a specific scent and working through all other human scents to get to the source.

Actually all dogs are capable of tracking and trailing, however the larger, sport, hound, working and herding breeds tend to be used more often simply for their adaptability in various terrain.

TRAILING DOGS
The trailing dog is often referred to as a "tracking" dog, although "tracking" and "trailing" are not the same to the purist.  The trailing dog is directed to find a specific person by following minute particles of human tissue or skin cells cast off by the person as he or she travels.  These heavier-than-air particles, which contain this person's scent, will normally be close to the ground or on nearby foliage, so the trailing dog will frequently have its "nose the ground," unlike the air scent dog.

A Bloodhound is typically trained for scent discrimination.  Each dog is usually worked in a harness, on a leash, and given an uncontaminated scent article (such as a piece of clothing) belonging to the missing person.  The dog follows that scent and no other.  At times, the dog may track, following the person's footsteps, or air scent, and home in on the subject's scent.

Field contamination (scent of others) should not affect his work.  He should be able to trail scents on pavements, streets, grass, water, etc.  If there is a good scent article and a point where the person was last seen, a trailing dog can be the fastest way to find the victim.  Without the scent article and a point where the person was last seen, these dogs cannot work effectively.

While those are the two standard types of search and rescue dogs, there are also other dogs trained to find lost people.

TRACKING DOG
A tracking dog is trained to follow the path of a certain person.  It physically tracks the path of the person, without relying on air scenting.  This dog is usually worked in a harness and on leash. This type of dog is effective when pursuing an escaped criminal if no scent article is available.  These dogs are also used successfully in search and rescue operations.

WATER SEARCH DOG

A water search dog is trained to detect human scent that is in or under the water, focusing on the scent of the bodily gases that rise up.  As a team, the handler and dog usually work in a boat or along the shoreline.  Because of currents and general changes in the water, it can be hard to pinpoint the location of a body.  To enhance the chance of location, a diver should be ready to search as soon as the dog indicates.  Additional teams, unaware of the previous teams' findings, work independently to indicate a location.   This allows team members to determine the most likely location of the body.

AVALANCHE DOG

An avalanche search dog is trained to detect human scent that is in or under snow, subsequent to an avalanche.  These dogs are trained to detect the scent under many feet of snow, sometimes, 15 feet or more!

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