About Search and Rescue K9s

Terms applied to Search and Rescue Dogs tend to overlap and blur just enough to make things confusing to the uninitiated. In order to help you understand what searching is all about, it helps to understand what search dogs are actually looking for. These terms may mean different things in different parts of the country.

How do dogs search?

Dogs know instinctively how to search. As a handler our job is to teach the dog what we we want him to search for.

Humans shed millions of microscopic skin cells (called rafts) on a continual basis.

As a person moves along, these particles leave an invisible trail that is detectable to a dog. Some fall to the ground or catch on blades of grass, trees, or other obstacles, while some are carried along on air currents. The closer the dog is to the 'victim' the more concentrated this trail becomes.

A search dog works on or off-leash depending on the type of searching it is doing. Trailing dogs are primarily on-leash and will follow the path a person walks by following their particular scent. These dogs are presented with a scent article that belongs to the missing person. Dogs working off-leash are allowed to range well away from the handler, trying to detect the scent of a human other than his handler. This free-ranging type of search dog will often be referred to as an air scent dog, or area search dog, meaning the the dog works mostly on scent which is carried on currents of air. An experienced dog learns to ignore the scent given off by his own handler, as well as other searchers he knows are nearby. These dogs may also be scent discriminating. If the dog comes across the scent, he will start to move in the direction the scent seems to be stronger (usually that is the direction of the scent source). The dog will usually be attracted to articles of clothing or other gear which has been handled by a person, then dropped or discarded.


What to do if family or friends are lost.

1. Contact law enforcement immediately.

2. Request they contact Treasure Valley Search Dogs at (208) 850-4124.

3. Protect any personal scent items of the missing person from being touched by anyone else before the dogs arrive. Insist that the dog handlers collect the scent articles.

4. Start an organized, coordinated search procedure as soon as possible. The shorter the time to start the better the chances of favorable results.

The sooner the dogs start to work the better the chance for survival.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions:




Treasure Valley Search Dogs - 208-850-4124 - k9sar@tvsearchdogs.org

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