Resources > General SAR Info
How Search Dogs Work:
Humans emit millions of microscopic particles which bear the scent signature of each
individual. The scent may be carried on wind currents or fall to the ground
where bacteria begin the decomposition process of the cell mixture. Dogs may be
given a scent article of the missing person and trail to their location. At
times a more effective search strategy is to send an air scent dog to clear a
large area of land and locate human scent. These dogs give an indication to
their handlers when they locate scent either by a stay and bark or with a
"refind" which requires the dog to go find the handler and take them back to
the missing person.
Search dogs can work day or night in most types of weather. Their noses are effective
where human sight is limited such as at night, in dense woods, heavy brush,
collapsed structures, disaster debris, and under snow or water. Air scent dogs
work off lead clearing large areas of land or rubble and are directed to work
areas too dangerous for humans to access yet safe for a lighter animal such as a
dog. They have specific training for disaster and are taught to keep themselves
safe when objects move and while walking on broken glass.
SAR dogs are able to locate deceased persons below the surface of soil or water.
Age of the remains does not appear to be a factor as search dogs have located
burial sites for civil war soldiers in addition to bones from ancient
archeological sites. Dogs on GHSD were able to detect scent from a morgue that
was last used in 1879. Their scent recognition was strong when exposed to
ancient bones dating to biblical times.
Water search dogs assist dive teams in determining location of drowning victims by
detecting oils from the skin that rise to the surface of the water. The nose of
the dog and the handler's knowledge of current and wind movement work in
partnership to narrow down the area for recovery divers. Scent never goes away
completely however there are situations that make it more difficult for the dog.
Dogs on GHSD are our partners and are treated with dignity and respect. Training
methods are those developed by exotic animal trainers and behaviorists in order
to produce a confident and well socialized working animal.
K9 Cocoa, Callie and Anthony in First Aid Course