Using Search Dogs to Find Your Pet

Scent. All search dogs will pick up the freshest scent of the animal, and track it instinctively. As a human or animal walks along, it sheds approximately 10,000 pieces of scent per minute. This scent falls to the ground and stays there until the wind and air currents move the scent to nearby dirt, sand, brushy vegetation areas. The scent is held there until it fully dissipates about a year later. When an animal or human walks in one specific direction it's laying down scent that the trained search dog can track up to 365 days later, even in the rain. Rain actually helps the scent. It brings the scent closer to the ground surface, keeps the search dogs nasal passages moist to help the dog retain the scent, and it will liven the scent.

What hurts scent? Heavy vehicle and human traffic contaminates the scent. Heavy rains of 3" per day may wash the scent down. Heat dries out the scent and the search dogs nasal scent receptors making it harder for the search dog to track. Cigarette smoke contains a poisonous drug called Nicotine. Nicotine is an anesthetizing agent that can numb up the search dogs scent receptors by 95% and make the search dogs basically useless.

If you smoke around your pet, the second hand cigarette smoke poison that you are putting into their little lungs (Nicotine) can also alter the missing pet’s scent, and prevent a search dog from tracking it. That's why all of our team members are non-smokers. That's also why you are never allowed to smoke around our search dogs or their handlers. You are also exposing your pet to many types of respiratory diseases and cancer.

Can search dogs track at night? Yes, of course we can. In fact we prefer to track at night. Air molecules stay lower to the ground at night and there are fewer scents to contend with in the evening.
False tracks. A false track happens when the animal walks one specific direction, then the pet owner or someone else, walks on top of the pet's scent (usually in or around the home).

This transfers the pet's scent onto the bottom of the person’s footwear and when the person walks or drives a different direction, this person is now giving off a fresher scent of the missing pet to track. This is called a false scent trail. There is no way to prevent this from happening, it's a fact of life. The only way that you can keep this from happening, is to call Search and Rescue out immediately before you do any looking, so as not to contaminate the track.

What happens when the search dog tracks to a specific location and we can't find our pet? This happens on many of the tracks. The pet will walk to a specific location and by the time we get called, respond, and perform our track of the missing pet, it has already been picked up by a well meaning person to be cared for. The search dog will give you a direction of travel of your missing pet and the location of where your animal was picked up. You can then post your lost pet posters in this area. 60% of our clients get their pets back this way. This saves you time, money, and works really well.

What if the search dog tracks my pet to a specific location and we get reports of sightings in a completely different area? It is not unusual for someone who is well meaning to pick up a lost animal. Soon the animal becomes too much responsibility for the person to take care of. They then may take it away from their own home and let it go. Usually at a nearby park, school, or business. They may take it back to where they found it and set it free, hoping it will find its way back home. Or the pet may just break free from the person and try to find its way back home.

How do we know the search dogs track was accurate? There is never a 100% guarantee that we'll find your loved one. We'll give it our best efforts. A SEARCH DOG doesn't know how to lie. That's why their testimony in a court of law is accepted, with training, testing, and mission documentation. A search dog is trained to follow the track or trail of the scent given to them by their dog handler. A mutual trust exists between the dog handler and the search dog. There a rare times where the search dog ends up following a false track. This happens approximately once in every .001% searches and it is usually caused by cross contamination.

What is your success rate in finding lost/missing/stolen pets with search dogs? We have 99% success rate of either finding the pet or finding out what really happened to it. If it was picked up, where, if it was killed where, if it's alive, injured or dead, etc. 
Last revised 05/17/2012


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