Introduction to SAR Dogs
• Best tools of any search and rescue (SAR) team.
• Powerful sense of smell, exceptionalhearing, a
rigoroustrainingand an amazing bond withtheir
• Cadaver dogs: dogs trainedto findhuman remains.
What do SAR Dogs do?
• Search Dogs are trained to find
missing people by various means
such as air scenting, trailing and
tracking. These are very efficient
methods of searching large areas
quickly and does not always require
items of clothing or effects of the
Where do SAR Dogs work?
• Basically you will find search dogs
working in all types of terrains, in the
mountains, on the moors, in the
countryside, in towns and villages as
well as on collapsed buildings or on
bodies of water.
Who do SAR Dogs look for?
• Search Dogs are employed in a wide
range of scenarios looking for
missing people of all types and age
groups including WALKERS AND
CLIMBERS, those suffering from
ALZHEIMERS or DEMENTIA,
CHILDREN, DESPONDENTS and
possibly VICTIMS OF CRIME.
Why are SAR Dogs used?
• Dog teams can be quickly deployed
in rural and urban areas or by 4×4
vehicles and helicopters in remote or
difficult to reach areas, where they
can begin to start searching at the
earliest opportunity, whilst other
search resources are being
• With their amazing sense of smell,
speed and agility Search Dogs can
typically do the work of around 20
When do SAR Dogs work?
• Search Dogs work equally well in the
day and the night.
When should SAR Dogs be
• Search Dogs should be summoned as
early as possible as this gives the
dogs the best chance of success.
SAR Dogs Characteristics
• Must be agileand resistant enough to deal with typical difficulties of
search and rescue activities.Thus toybreeds are not a good choice.
• Must not be so big that its size makes the rescue task even more difficult
(mountains, helicopters, boats).
• Exception: When people need to be pulled out of water, giant breeds, like
Newfounland, are very useful.
• Must be exceptionally motivated to search during long time periods
under the most unfavourable conditions. Therefore, dogs with high prey
drive are preferred because they get obsessed with the “fetch the human”
• Must be perfectly socialized to people and other animals
• Must be accustomed to work (or play) under stressful situations.
SAR Dogs Specialities
• Classifiedaccordingto their specialityinto 2 groups:
• 1. Trackingdogs: followa victim’s path from point A
to point B.
• 2. Airscent dogs: smell the air seeking for human
Air Scenting Search Dogs
• AirScenting Search Dogssearch routes, pathsand areas looking
for human scentparticles.
• They do not discriminatescent e.g.they donot look forspecific
peoplebut willlook foranyone thatis in the area.
• Once thedog findsa missingperson theywill return to their
handler and ‘indicate‘with a bark or by jumpingup atthem.Then
thedog willtaketheirhandler back tothe missingperson with a
• On finding themissingperson thehandler ‘rewards‘the dogwith
their favouritetoy and/or foodwhilstheapinglots of praise on
• It is this ‘game’through years of trainingthatdrives thedog tofind
Scent Specific Trailing Dogs
• Scent Specific Trailing Search Dogs follow a scent traillooking
for / following humanscent particles.
• These search dogs do discriminate scent e.g. they are given an
article of the missing persons clothing and willthenhuntfor a
trail that matchesthatscent.
• The rest follows the same way, i.e. , theindicationand reward.
Drowned Victim Search Dogs
• Drowned Victim Search Dogs search theboundaries of bodies
of water or on thewater in thefront of a boat looking for
humanscent particles emanatingfrom thewater.
• They do not discriminate scent e.g.they do notlook for
specific people but willlook for anyone thatis in thewater.
Training a SAR Dog
• A well trained SAR dog is a sight to behold. The dog can
evenly manoeuvre the most difficultof terrain with thegrace
of a mountaingoat all thewhile looking for a trapped or
hidden humanbeing. This type of work is often done on the
fly, at the drop of the hat, with littleadvanced warning. It
requires a talenteddog and a special handler willing to invest
Selecting a Dog
• Intelligence,agility, stamina,drive, work ethic,confidence,
and theability to listenand respond to the handler.
• Puppies are preferred.
• HIGH level of ball/playdrive; intenseconcentrationlevel.
• German Shepherd Dog, BelgianMalinois, and Labrador
Retriever are three of the primary breeds.
• Hide-n-seek game with owner (person
closest to dog).
• Command used- Find it.
• Play tug of war with a toy, then hold
the dog on a leash and make someone
run away with the toy in a direction the
dog can see him. The person should
then drop down or duck behind a bush
after which the dog is released to go
find the toy (with the command “find
• Once the dog finds the person, play tug
with him and excite him so he begins to
• Another type of tracking dog are
Avalanche dogs. These dogs search
for people who are trapped under the
snow and can someone under as
much as 15 feet of snow. Many
people visualize the loyal St. Bernard
playing this role, but these days
many breeds including German
Shepherds and Labradors also
perform this much needed job.
• The final search dog that relies
heavily on its sense of smell are
Cadaver dogs. Also referred to as
Human Remains Detection Dogs,
these dogs are relied upon to locate
dead people by detecting scents
rising from the ground. These dogs
are many times used for recovery
after natural disasters like hurricanes
or earthquakes. While it's not the
Water Search dogs
• Water Search Dogs are another form
of search and rescue dog that search
for drowning victims in the water.
These dogs work along shores or in
boats following a scent as it rises to
the surface of the water. The dog will
slap and bite at the water once it's
found the trail. Breeds that are
naturally comfortable and enjoy
water such as Retrievers and
What happens to retired
• SAR Dogs retire at around 8 years of
age or even earlier.
• Retired dogs may be sent to
adoption centres, for adoption by
general experienced people.
• But more often they are adopted by
their handlers itself, as they have
developed an unbreakable bond
working for long years together.
• While some SARS dogs may be
dedicated to their jobs on a daily
basis, many SARS dogs live with
search volunteers and spend a lot of
their days as a family dog, working
only when duty calls. Regardless,
these dogs have become more
skilled and valuable to society over
the years and there's no doubting
the vast natural ability these dogs