How to Use SAR Dogs Effectively
by Mary-Ann Warren, Training Director/Dog Handler, Search & Rescue Dog Association of Alberta
This document was created to aid in the proper deployment of search dogs. The views expressed here are those of the Search & Rescue Dog Association of Alberta ®. Some SAR managers are not well educated about how to make effective use of a search dog unit, resulting in searches being conducted without this added resource. While search dogs are a valuable asset to any search incident, they are only effective if deployed and trained properly. All volunteer search dog units should be a part of a recognized K-9 or ground SAR organization, and K-9 teams must be certified through recognized standards. We recommend that SAR managers collaborate with the dog handlers when determining search assignments. The K-9 handler should be able to offer constructive suggestions for optimum use of this resource. The following is an overview of the Search Canine Resource.
Types of Search Dogs
All canines, whether tracking or air scenting, should demonstrate very good obedience control, agility and they should be in good physical and mental health. They should be friendly or neutral to dogs and people they are not familiar with.
The tracking dog keeps his nose in the actual footprints of a victim and follows them systematically. Weather conditions dictate the amount of time that can pass before the dog is started on the track of a person. In certain conditions, the scent will not last long. The tracking dog may be deployed to work in conjunction with man-trackers.
The air-scenting dog is trained to locate any human scent in an area. They can work in areas along with ground searchers, or in areas where other searchers have already been. They are not as limited as the tracking dogs regarding environmental conditions. These dogs are trained to locate anything with human scent on it, be it an article or a person. With specific training, an air-scenting dog may specialize in: human remains, water, disaster and evidence searches.