If you've ever watched a search and rescue dog' you've seen a dog breed maximizing its natural instinct to help man. Whether they are diving in water, climbing ladders or intently following a smell, search and rescue dogs have amazing natural abilities and instincts.
Search and rescue (or SAR dogs) can be found as:
It takes a great deal of natural instinct, agility and most importantly temperament to be a search and rescue dog. Not all breeds are right for the job, many are too small or don't have the right attitude. Search and rescue dogs have to be use to lots of external input (i.e. noises, activity) while they are working, be adaptable to different environments and have a strong sense of smell. Breeds such as Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, Australian Shepherds, Newfoundlands and many mixed breeds naturally make great search and rescue dogs. It's also worth noting that many dogs that fall within the AKC's sporting dog (link to sporting dog book mark on Dog Groups article) and working dog groups make great SARS dogs. Other breeds such as Schnauzers, Dobermans, Border Collies, Golden Retrievers and Rottweilers are also excellent for this type of work.
Tracking dogs use their naturally strong sense of smell and follow the trail or scent of a person on the ground. Typically, they work quickly; smelling an object of a missing person (shoe, shirt, etc); finding the trail, and tracking the person giving both negative and positive signs. Tracking dogs must be distinguished from
Air Scent Tracking
Air scent dogs track odors in the air versus ground and are better suited for open parks and fields for tracking lost humans. Air scent dogs don't necessarily need a trail to follow a scent and are invaluable for work areas that are older, have been tampered with or have had a lot of other activity.
Another type of tracking dog are Avalanche dogs. These dogs search for people who are trapped under the snow and can someone under as much as 15 feet of snow. Many people visualize the loyal St. Bernard playing this role, but these days many breeds including German Shepherds and Labradors also perform this much needed job.
The final search dog that relies heavily on its sense of smell are Cadaver dogs. Also referred to as Human Remains Detection Dogs, these dogs are relied upon to locate dead people by detecting scents rising from the ground. These dogs are many times used for recovery after natural disasters like hurricanes or earthquakes. While it's not the most glamorous job, these dogs often bring closure to families by being able to properly bury their loved ones.
Water Search dogs
Water Search Dogs are another form of search and rescue dog that search for drowning victims in the water. These dogs work along shores or in boats following a scent as it rises to the surface of the water. The dog will slap and bite at the water once it's found the trail. Breeds that are naturally comfortable and enjoy water such as Retrievers and Newfoundlands usually fill this role.
While some SARS dogs may be dedicated to their jobs on a daily basis, many SARS dogs live with search volunteers and spend a lot of their days as a family dog, working only when duty calls. Regardless, these dogs have become more skilled and valuable to society over the years and there's no doubting the vast natural ability these dogs enjoy.