Search Dogs

Why use a search dog?


  • Dogs have a superior sense of smell.
    • Dogs have 25 times more olfactory receptors in their nose than humans.
    • Dogs have 40 times more of their brain devoted to scent interpretation than humans.
    • Based on this, it is estimated that dogs can smell up to 10,000 better than humans!
  • Dogs use their sense of smell to hunt.
  • Dogs evolved to hunt cooperatively with humans.
  • We can take advantage of these qualities and train dogs to use their sense of smell to search for lost humans.

Types of Search Dogs

Idaho Mountain Search and Rescue uses 4 different types of search dogs:


• Air scent
• Trailing
• Cadaver
• Water cadaver

Air Scent


An air scent dog uses air currents to locate any live human.
The recall/refind is the foundation of the air scent dog:

  • Dog finds the subject
  • Returns to the handler
  • Tells the handler he found the subject
  • Takes the handler back to the subject


A trailing dog is scent specific and is trained to follow the path of a particular person.


For a trailing dog to be effective, we need:

• A scent article from the missing person
• To know the last place the missing person was known to be



A cadaver dog is trained to locate human remains in varying quantities and at all stages of decomposition. They can be used in search and rescue, crime scene investigations, and disasters.

The cadaver dog is trained to give an indication, such as a sit, down or bark, at the scent source.

Water Cadaver

A water cadaver dog can locate drowned humans in lakes and rivers.


Mission Ready!

It takes about 1 year to train a dog to be ready to test for certification.

  • Our dogs and handlers are tested and certified by national search dog organizations.


Testing and training are ongoing!

  • We train regularly to keep our dogs sharp and ready for a mission at all times.
  • Our K9 teams must re-certify every 2 years.