Recently a Pinky’s Dog Training fan page member requested some information about SAR (Search and Rescue) dog training. While the scope of that topic reaches beyond one blog post, let’s discuss one or two components of this beneficial method of training.
Probably the most common image of a search and rescue dog is the one of a big ol’ St. Bernard dragging skiers out from under an avalanche. These types of dogs are trained to meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency standards – or at least should be if they reside in the United States. Part of this training includes the dogs’ capability of working at least 4 hours without distraction. It would be very typical of a dog to go off chasing a duck when it should be looking for trapped humans. This training requires an astronomical amount of time (depending on the trainer and dog) and also requires loads of patience. Trainers must expose the dogs to a variety of scents, weather conditions, noises, and other stimuli.
One of the most phenomenal behaviors SAR dogs are trained to do is what is called “airscenting.” Airscenting is when a dog picks up a scent in the air and then follows that scent back to it’s source. This is different than a dog picking up a specific air scent. For example, a trailing dog (different from an airscenting dog) may grab the scent of a specific individual and locate that individual. Think of a detective dog – the detective gives the dog a whiff of a suspects cologne and then the dog goes and finds the man wearing that cologne. An airscenting dog does not discriminate scents in that way. An airscenting dog may be sent out into the wild to find a missing person and is therefore trained to pick up any human scent.
This type of obedience training is a great tool and has helped save the lives of countless people. It just shows another way dogs have positively changed the lives of man.