Air Scent Dogs SAR Dogs

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Air Scent Dogs SAR Dogs

by Rodrigo Trigosso

Air scent dogs are the best-known type of SAR dogs. They are used to find victims of avalanches and urban disasters, drowned people, human remains in crime scenes, etc.

Unlike tracking dogs, air scent ones seek in the surroundings for any human scent (except their guide's scent). Therefore, they are the best choice to locate buried people in avalanche and urban disaster scenarios.

Since they do not follow a track, air scent dogs don't search with their noses to the ground. Instead, they walk around scenting the air. Thus, these dogs are able to capture human scent present in air streams.

-- How air scent dogs work

Experts believe that air scent dogs can locate victims because they follow a scent cone from its base to its vertex. Thus, these dogs just move from an area where the odor concentration is lower (the base of the scent cone) to an area of maximum odor concentration (the vertex of the scent cone).

Since these dogs don't discriminate human scents, they can mistakenly follow a non-victim's scent. To avoid such mistakes, the search area is usually divided in grids and each team (dog and handler) works on one square of that grid. There should be as less people as possible in the search area.

Air scent dogs need to work upwind, so it is common to start searching along a route that is perpendicular to wind direction. Thus, dogs can capture the victim's scent and determine where it comes from. Then, they can trace the scent to its source and, after locating the source, notify their handlers that someone has been found (yes, they really notify their handlers).

-- Air scent dog specialties

Air scent dogs are classified according to their specialties. There are five main specialties, which are:

- Cadaver dogs. These dogs are trained to find human remains. They are used to find people who perished in accidents or disasters.

- Water recovery dogs. These dogs are trained to seek for drowning victims. Usually these dogs search from a boat, but sometimes they can search while swimming.

- Urban disaster dogs. These dogs are trained to seek for human scent in collapsed buildings. They are trained to search for survivors, not dead people. This could be the most difficult SAR task for a dog.

- Avalanche dogs. Its name says everything. These dogs are trained to seek for people buried under snow.

- Evidence dogs. These dogs are trained to search for evidence in crime scenes.

Rodrigo Trigosso is a biologist and professional dog trainer. His website at provides objective and reliable information on dog training and behavior.

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