I've been an active Search & Rescue volunteer since 2007 with the Coconino County Sheriff's SAR Team in northern Arizona.
Search & Rescue Dogs and Their Handlers Train in Flagstaff, Arizona
From April 28th to May 1st, 2011, the Coconino County Sheriff's Office and the Coconino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit hosted the first annual Arizona SAR K-9 Conference here in Flagstaff, with more than 50 dogs and their handlers attending from around the state, as well as Colorado, New Mexico, California and Arkansas.
I'm not a K-9 handler, but as a volunteer with Search and Rescue team, I assisted with the conference by "getting lost" for the dogs to find.
- Air Scent K-9 Fieldwork (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced)
- Trailing Dogs Fieldwork (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced)
- Introduction to Scent Theory
- Scent Dynamics
- Human Remains Detection/Fieldwork (Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced)
- Pheromonal Communications
- Helicopter Safety for Search and Rescue Canines
- ROC and Triangulation Techniques
- Field First Aid for K-9s
- Human Bone Identification
- Working K-9 Health Issues
Presenters and instructors were provided by a variety of organizations, including the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, Coconino County Sheriff's Search and Rescue Unit, Pinal County SAR K-9 Unit, Iowa K-9 Search Team, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, K-9 Search and Rescue Team, First Special Response Group (1st SRG), Ohio Search and Recovery K-9s and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
The following are some of the photos and video I took during the first two days of the event, as well as links to additional information about Search & Rescue dogs and SAR in general.
K9 Conference Information
See the 2014 information packet here.
Information for the 2015 conference will be posted as soon as it's available.
AZ SARCON: Instructors and Handlers Introduce Themselves and the Dogs - ...at the beginning of the area search beginner/intermediate field session
Each handler told us how long they'd be training with his or her dog, what type of alert that dog does, and the reward given to the dog after a find. Handlers also shared what level they believed they and their dogs were at and what types of things they were hoping to learn and improve upon.
Search & Rescue Dogs Came in All Shapes & Sizes
This Search & Rescue Dog is Ready to Roll! Talk about motivation....
Ready, Set ... Find!
Watch this short video of this excited search dog, waiting not-so-patiently to go find the "missing" subject. As soon as his handler lets go, he's off like a shot, only to find TWO subjects, one of whom just happened to be in the vicinity. A bonus human!
SAR Dogs Receive Their Well-Earned Rewards - From tug-of-war with a favorite toy to fetch, treats, and lots of love
Some tug-of-war fun after a job well done....
This Dog Works For Lots of Love - While some prefer toys or tasty treats, this little girl wants pats and rubs and some rolling around on the ground....
Watch the instructor showing the handler how to REALLY get into the reward. (Unfortunately, I missed the beginning, when the instructor was giving over-the-top praise and love to this sweet little search dog. It was really funny!)
Instructors Worked One-on-One with Participants - ... as well as with groups
Instructors Develop a Quick Rapport - ...with both the K9s and their handlers
Tracking/Trailing Field Work - A handler shows her dog the scent article, then the dog follows the track of that scent to the subject....
Some of the "problems" the dogs were presented with were straight-forward and short, while other times they were longer and more challenging, including one track that crossed over itself like the shape of a "P." At times, a distraction was introduced, like a big piece of chicken, which some of the dogs went to check out but quickly moved on, while others ignored it completely.
Area Search Field Work with Air-Scenting Search & Rescue Dogs - This dog has found someone (me), then quickly returns to his handler to let her know....
Area (air-scent) search dogs do a find and re-find, where they locate a subject, run back to alert their handler, then lead the handler to the one they've found, sometimes running back and forth several times in the process.
Each dog has its own alert, ranging from jumping on the handler to a bark, a sit, a nose touch, and so forth.
The SAR Dog Shows "Mom" The Way to the One He's Found
The way they work
Tracking Dogs - Tracking SAR dogs work from a scent article which has the subject's smell on it. The scent article might be an item the subject touched, a piece of clothing, a toothbrush, a pillowcase, and so forth. The search dog picks up the subject's scent from that article and uses it to find the path the subject took. Tracking dogs work in a harness on a 30 to 50-foot lead, leading the handler directly to the subject by following that person's exact footsteps.
Trailing Dogs - Trailing dogs work in a similar way totracking dogs. A scent article is used so the dog can pick up the subject's scent and find and follow the trail. With trailing dogs, however, the dog may divert from the person's actual track by several feet, cutting corners and using the wind to its advantage. Trailing dogs generally work in a harness with a 20 to 30-foot lead.
Air Scent Dogs - Unlike tracking and trailing dogs, air scent dogs work off lead, ranging back and forth in an area to pick up the subject's scentt. Ranging often takes the dog out of the handler's sight for several minutes, so the handler needs to trust the dog and listen for an alert. Once the dog picks up the subject's scent, he or she will move in to its source and then must "alert." This alert might be barking while staying with the subject or done by returning to the handler and somehow conveying to that person, "Follow me!" The dog then leads the handler to the subject.
Want To Learn More About Search & Rescue Dogs? Check out the following....
- Dog Owner's Guide: Search and Rescue Dogs
General information and overview of SAR K-9s
- SAR K9 Vocabulary
A handy dictionary of K9 Search & Rescue terms and their meanings from Ohio Valley Search & Rescue
© 2011 Deb Kingsbury
Comments or Questions About Search & Rescue Dogs?
Gregory Moore from Louisville, KY on May 30, 2013:
These dogs amaze me. I saw them on the new recently after the Tornado in Oklahoma. They need to be eating steak every night for the service they provide.
BageAKumar on May 17, 2011:
I was not aware of Search & Rescue Dogs.Nice informative lens.Thanks.
thebabyshop on May 06, 2011:
I can honestly say I had no idea that anything but German Shepherds were used as search and rescue dogs! Great photo illustrations, wonderful lens.
anonymous on May 02, 2011:
This is so cool!! Great pictures!
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on May 01, 2011:
My sister used to have a beagle and we would play hide and seek with it. It was amazing the way it would follow a scent around even in circles just exactly the way the person had walked.
jvsper63 on April 30, 2011:
I think this is a real nice lens, It's amazing what dog's can do:) Great lens, and well explained..
anonymous on April 30, 2011:
A beautiful lens. Sometimes animals are more sensible than humans! :) Thanks and good day.
MargoPArrowsmith on April 30, 2011: