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Search and Rescue Dogs

The use of dogs in search and rescue (SAR) is a valuable component in wilderness tracking, natural disasters, mass casualty events and in locating missing persons. Dedicated handlers and well-trained dogs are required for the use of dogs to be effective in search efforts. Search and rescue dogs detect human scent. Although the exact processes are still researched, it may include skin rafts (scent-carrying skin cells that drop off living humans at a rate of about 40,000 cells per minute), evaporated perspiration, respiratory gases or decomposition gases released by bacterial action on human skin or tissues.

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AIR SCENT DOGS

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. Airscenting dog typically works off-lead, are non-scent-discriminating (e.g., locates scent from any human as opposed to a specific person), and covers large areas of terrain. As the dog does not normally discriminate scents, there is the possibility of a "false alarm" if other people (searchers, citizens) are nearby.

This dog is trained to follow diffused or wind-borne scent back to its source, then to indicate their find 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).

MANTRAILING DOGS

This dog is following the “scent path” of the person, not the track, focusing on the highest concentration of the scent — which often is not where the actual track of the subject was laid. 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. 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 the dog’s 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.

MANTRACKING DOGS

This dog is trained to follow the path of a certain person. It physically tracks the path of the person, without relying on air scenting and mostly has his nose to the track following ground disturbance.  This dog is usually worked in a harness and on a leash. A good tracking dog is able to work through a variety of terrain as well as successfully maneuvers turns and "double backs" that a subject might take. 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 DOGS

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.

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 5 meters or more!

CADAVER DOG (Human Remains Detection - HRD)

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. 

 


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