know instinctively how to search. As a handler our job is to
teach the dog what we want him to search for.
shed millions of microscopic skin cells (called rafts) on a continual basis.
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
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.