Search dogs: four-legged heroes

Wouldn’t it be handy to be able get your dog to find your Easter eggs for you with its keen nose? Trained search dogs can do much more. They sniff out drugs, hunt down criminals and save people trapped under snow and debris.

Rescue dogs have to successfully complete the appropriate training and exams and are always led by a human dog handler. They are used for a variety of different searches: area searches, debris searches, avalanche searches, water rescues and searches, and corpse searches.

“Man-trailing” is the age-old method of tracking down missing or escaped prisoners, since long forgotten in Europe. While area and avalanche search dogs work without a lead and look for any buried people over large areas of forests and fields or areas affected by avalanches, man-trailing dogs are kept on a  lead and search for a specific person. This is often an older person that suffers from Alzheimer’s or dementia, someone with a high risk of suicide or a lost child.

Unlike other rescue dogs, man-trailing dogs don’t just follow a trail along the ground – they are given an item from the missing person to smell at the place they disappeared. They have to be able to distinguish between the different smells that they are bombarded with along the way. They search for the missing person through their individual smell, which is as unique as a fingerprint, and can even follow a trail over concrete, bitumen and paving. Unlike area and avalanche search dogs, man-trailing dogs should be as untrained as possible when they start their training, as they need to work very independently and also have to be able to resist commands from their owner if need be. A man-trailing dog should be trained by its own handler, as this is the only way that handlers can learn how to “read” their dog properly. Dogs show whether they are on or not quite on the trail through their body language or walking speed, as well as if the missing person was afraid or injured.

Rescue dogs

Small to medium-sized dogs to cocker spaniel size are suitable to be trained as rescue dogs. Small and agile dogs are particularly suitable for debris searching, as they must be sure-footed in any situation. Larger dogs have the advantage in area searches, as they have to cover large distances. Heavy dogs are not fit enough for hour-long searches and small dogs can’t climb ladders or clear large gaps, for example. Future rescue dogs must be very well-socialised and have a calm personality.
Call into your local store today to discuss your dog’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.