* Missing persons
* Natural disasters
* Building collapses
* Recovery of evidence
* Cadaver searches
* Drowning victims
* Public relation events
* Search management support
There are many breeds of dogs that are currently used in Search and Rescue (SAR) work. All of these dogs must possess characteristics common to a solid working K9. Prospective K9s are evaluated on their hunt drive, temperament, distractibility, people acceptance, general obedience, as well as other characteristics.
Our dogs live with us and are also our pets. They are required to have sound temperament and be well socialized. They love their job and are rewarded through play and positive reinforcement. We love our dogs and we are proud that they can help others.
After initial hasty searches of trails and along catchment features such as streams or power lines, teams are usually assigned a segment of the search area to cover systematically. Handlers work their dogs downwind of the section assigned to them or cover the area in a way that provides dogs with the best scenting coverage. Search dogs can work in areas where other people or searchers have been. They can work day or night, in all kinds of weather, and are especially effective where human sight is most limited -- in the dark, in dense woods or heavy brush, in debris (as found in earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes) and under water.
No one is sure exactly what composes "human scent" for the dogs. The "old" theory was that all humans, alive or dead, constantly emit microscopic particles or skin cells bearing human scent. Millions of these particles are airborne and are carried considerable distances.
The "new" theory is that there are about 350 different chemicals and pheromones that are breathed out or deposited from the skin. Scenting dogs identify this suite of chemicals as being human, and scent specific dogs can differentiate between almost all people from differences in these chemicals. This theory can be related to food. While we walk into a burger place and smell hamburger, the dogs smell all the seasonings in the hamburger, the types of food that the cow ate, all the ingredients in the ketchup, etc. Search dogs have been known to be able to differentiate scent from identical twins living in the same household. Typically, trailing/tracking dogs are scent specific. Meaning that they start from a scent article of the person and will only follow the scent of that person.
Air scenting dogs are generally non-specific, each has its uses, benefits and drawbacks. Air scent dogs can search for several people at a time, for instance if a group was lost and split up. The air scent dogs are trained to locate the scent of a human in a specific search area and follow the strongest scent. The dog is not restricted to the missing person's track and can search long after the track is contaminated by other searchers and civilians.
In any given search, typically several search dogs will be used. Each dog/handler team can search between 100 and 160 acres per day, which would otherwise require a large number of ground searchers. Mason-Dixon Rescue Dogs responds to a search as a unit, deploying the requested K9/handler teams while working with the responsible agency to assist in search management. MDRD will respond at any time, day or night, regardless of conditions.