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How do search dogs find people?

There are many types of dogs that can become good search dogs. The dog in the picture is a Golden Retriever, but other search dogs are Labs, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Boxers, Dobermans, Newfoundland, Bloodhounds, Standard Poodles, Australian Shepherds, mixed breeds, and many more.

Search dogs love people and they live as family pets when they aren't doing their jobs. Yes - these dogs have jobs! They are on call 24 hours a day - 7 days a week. They work in the snow, rain, heat and dark of night. They can find people who are buried under snow or water, lost in the woods or in the city.

How Do They Do That? Well that is easy - they can find people because people smell. Some people are smellier than others, take your little brother. Just kidding! Think of the Peanuts Comic Strip, Pig Pen is a dirty little dude. Like Pig Pen, we all lose skin cells, strands of hair. When we breath, sweat, or touch things, we leave tiny smells behind for the dog to sniff.

Even though we can't see this "stuff" that comes off of us, the dog can smell it! A search dog can take a sniff of something that belongs to a lost person, like a dirty sock, and match that smell to the smell it is looking for. This is similar to showing human searchers a picture of the missing person.

Search Dogs Can Help Find

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