About Search Dogs

Search dogs are special because they're fast.  Human searchers use their sight, hearing, and sense of smell to look for lost persons. Dogs use these same senses but their hearing and sense of smell are so much better than humans, dogs can locate the lost person more quickly.

In thick timber where searches using aircraft are ineffective, search dog teams are at their best. A properly trained search dog can ignore scent from animals and from other searchers and focus on finding just one person: the lost person.

Search dogs are special because they're an important resource during many kinds of searches. But they are also special members of the handler's family. Search dogs are family members first, but combine these dogs with a skilled handler, and you've created a team that might just be the most important searchers to your family one day.

There Are Many Breeds

Search dogs can be from many different types of breeds. Medium to large sized working breeds, with a warm coat are more commonly used.

ASD's search dogs are very sociable animals that live as family pets in addition to working as search partners. They are expected to function in a wide variety of environments. They can work in most kinds of weather, during the day or night, in dense brush or timber, or where the subject is buried under snow, debris or water. One search dog can often cover a larger area more efficiently than many foot searchers.


Humans have millions of skin, hair, and clothing particles and breath, sweat and oil vapors leaving our bodies as we travel along our path in life. These sometimes microscopic particles are only detectable to the canines finely tuned nose. Each person has a unique combination of these particles that are specialized to them. Showing a search dog a belonging of the lost person can actually give the dog a scent picture of the lost person. This is similar to showing human searchers a picture of the missing person.

Trailing Dogs

Trailing dogs will follow the route of scent deposited on the ground as a person moves through an area.  A scent article will often be used so that the dog can discriminate the scent of the missing person from that of other persons or searchers in the same area. A scent article can be anything with the victim's scent on it, but it should not be tainted with scent from someone else if possible. They are usually packaged in a sealed plastic bag to keep it pure. This scent article will hopefully match deposited scent in the search area that the dog will pick up and trail. Scent is affected by temperature, humidity, time and other factors. Because of this, it is very important to field a trailing dog as soon as possible.

Airscenting Dogs

Airscenting dogs find people by locating human scent as it travels on the breeze. They usually work in a grid patten until they encounter scent of the missing person, and then follow that scent on the wind until they locate the person.

Search Dogs Can Help Find

Lost children in the wilderness or urban areas
Overdue hunters, hikers, or fisherman
despondent persons
Nursing home residents who walk away
Avalanche victims
Persons under collapsed structure
Drowning victims