Common Terminology

Air Scent Dog - The air scent dog works off lead, ranging back and forth in an area to pick up the scent left by the subject. Ranging often takes the dog out of sight for several minutes at a time, so the handler must trust the dog and listen for an alert. Once the dog gets the subject's scent, he moves in to its source. He then must "alert" by either barking while staying with the subject or by returning to the handler and "telling" her in some way that she should follow. The dog then leads the handler to the subject.

Alert - This is the method a dog uses to notify the handler that he has located human scent, a clue, or the subject. A dog displays subtle posture differences, such as the position of the tail and ears; the gait changes or the head is held differently when he picks up a scent. All these subtleties are alerts and must be watched for during a search.

Article Search - Any item, such as clothing, candy wrappers, keys, or a hair brush, that a subject has lost along the way is a clue that helps the searchers locate the subject. Some of the search dogs are trained to alert on an article from the subject by notifying the handler when a clue is found.

Bark Alert - The often used bark alert allows the dog to stay with the subject and bark until the handler arrives. It is beneficial for the dog to stay with the subject in case the subject moves.

Cadaver Dog - (See Human Remains Detection Dog)

Clue Searches - Each searcher looking for the lost subject must be aware of items the subject has left behind, such as clothing, candy wrappers, cigarette butts, keys, or backpacks. Team members are trained to look up, to each side, and behind them every few steps while looking for these clues.

Compass Work - Each OVSAR member is trained in using a compass for both wilderness and map navigation. While in the wilderness a searcher must know how to make his way from point A to point B when given only a compass reading. Also, each searcher needs to be able to give a compass reading for his location using landmarks which might be found on a map, such as a water tower, power lines, buildings, or roads.

Emergency First Aid - All members must have Red Cross First Aid training or higher and must be certified in CPR. We have mock rescues requiring these skills several times a year.

Forensically Appropriate Indication Response (F.A.I.R.) - This term describes an indication that is given by a forensics dog consistent with the preservation of evidence and the integrity of a crime scene. It is, therefore, a less active indication, such as a "touch" or a "sit" or a "down". These actions should have little impact on the environment in which the K9 may be working, and are much more desirable than an active indication like a "dig" alert, which always disturbs or destroys forensic evidence and may interfere with the chain of continuity of evidence and the overall integrity of an investigation. This method is the sole indication accepted by forensic anthropologists Dr. Frank Saul and Dr. Julie Saul, who devised its name.

Forensics Dog - The forensics dog is a sub-specialty of the human remains detection dog (q.v.). The important distinction is that this dog is able to also identify and indicate on forensic evidence, primary crime scenes, and skeletal remains, in addition to decomposing material, which is much easier to detect than the subtle scent of bone. A forensics K9 should also be able to target scent and pinpoint the source for the handler.

Ground Searcher - An individual that searches using clue awareness, man-tracking skills, victim behavior knowledge, etc., without the use of a search dog. All OVSAR members qualify first as ground searchers.

Handler - This is the person that works the dog during search trainings and actual missions. All OVSAR dog's are handled by their owner.

Human Remains Detection (HRD) Dog - The HRD K9 is a dog that has been trained in the specialty of locating the scent of decomposing human tissue. The dog may be asked to locate a whole corpse (as in a missing person presumed dead), or only body parts from catastrophic trauma such as airplane crashes, or foul play with resultant body dismemberment. This dog may also be taught to locate drowning or submerged subjects through either shoreline work and triangulation methods, or may work from a boat.

Human Scent - All humans have an individual scent left behind by the 40,000 skin cells dropped per minute. These dropped skin cells, called skin rafts look like tiny potato chips and float easily on air currents. Temperature, humidity, sun exposure, and wind determine how long a skin raft can be detected. The hotter and drier the day, the shorter the life of the skin raft. That's why search dogs need to be called as quickly as possible to a search scene.

Incident Command System - A widely used standard plan for managing an emergency scene having an incident commander and then breaking the emergency down into four working sections depending on the size and need of the scene.

Indication - An indication is a trained behaviour or a reinforced response by which a dog notifies its handler of a find. It is the dog's way of telling its handler, "Eureka! I found it!" Quite often the term is used interchangeably with the term "alert." There are bark indications, passive indications (such as when the dog lies down or sits), body slams, Bringsels, and recall-refinds.

Mantracking Methods - Each searcher is looking for the ultimate-the subject-but we also need to recognize the subject's footprints (tracks) and be able to follow them, even for a short distance. This gives us a direction of travel. Use of a flashlight and a tracking stick (a 30" - 40" dowel rod marked in inches to give shoe and pace length) helps in tracking a person.

Map Navigation - Using a compass with a USGA topographical map, members plot routes for searches or find the location (on the map) of a searcher or subject once found.

Map Reading - Topographical maps are used when available. Members are trained in reading and interpreting longitude and latitude, elevation lines, power lines, railroad tracks, buildings, and numerous other symbols on these maps. Members must also know how to locate on the map a compass reading given by a field searcher.

Radio Procedures - OVSAR issues hand-held radios to all mission ready members. A yearly training is offered to gain knowledge in all aspects of radio use.

Refind - The refind is the other alert that is used in the Midwest. In this situation, upon finding the subject, the dog returns to the handler. At this point the dog must give some indication to the handler that he has made a find, such as jumping on the handler, tugging a toy from the belt of the handler, or circling the handler. The handler then follows the dog as they return to the subject.

Reward - Anything which the dog dearly loves is used for the reward. A tennis ball, a stuffed animal, a stick, or a food treat (not preferred) can be used. After the dog does the desired behavior (finds the subject) then he gets the reward with lots of praise.

Rope Work - With the cliffs and high banks in the tri-state area the need arrises occasionally to raise or lower an injured subject over a cliff using a stokes basket and ropes. Safe and secure knots, as well as some rappeling knowledge, is crucial in this scenerio.

SAR Tech II - This is a test sponsored by the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR). This test incorporates knowledge of search and rescue techniques, procedures with map and compass work, navigation courses, and clue searches.

Scent Article - This is any article touched only by the subject that can be used by the tracking or training dog to gain the scent of the subject. Gathering the scent article is done with care so no other scent is present to confuse the dog. Preferably this article is one of clothing and is gathered with tongs or a stick, then placed in a paper or plastic bag. The dog then is offered the scent article, still in the bag or emptied onto the ground, to gain the subjects scent The dog is then given the command to start the search.

Scent Cone - Scent molecules disperse outwards from their source in a conical pattern, forming a scent cone downwind of the subject. An air scenting dog normally works across or into the wind until he locates the scent cone. At this point the dog will give an alert, and will begin working his way into the funnel of the cone until he reaches the source, which is the quarry. The dog will then alert his handler of the find.

Scent Discrimination - The ability of dogs to differentiate one scent source from another is called scent discrimination. It is fundamentally necessary in the search dog, as it is this ability which enables a tracking/trailing dog to home in on its quarry, while ignoring all other cross paths of humans or animals. It enables the air scenting dog to search out and identify to her handler the source of the scent article (or vice versa in evidence or article search), even in an area contaminated by other human scent, and even if that person is standing among a group of other individuals.

Scent Pad - In early training exercises the subject wipes his feet several times in the grass to lay a heavy scent area. The tracking dog is then shown this area along with the scent article and given a command such as "sniff" to gain the scent. Once the dog has sniffed the scent pad and/or scent article, the handler gives the search command for the dog to begin tracking the subject.

Scent Theory - Every person loses 40,000 skin cells per minute. These cells take the shape of tiny flakes called skin rafts which can float on air currents or drop to the ground depending on humidity levels, wind currents, sunshine, cloud cover, terrain, and temperature.

Search Strategy - The way a search is actually run depends on several variables: the length of time the subject has been missing; whether or not the subject's last seen place is known; weather; approaching weather; terrain; the subject's behavior profile; and the number of available searchers and dogs.

Subject - This is the person that is either pretending to be "lost" for training purposes or is indeed lost and the search teams are looking for him.

Support Person - This person accompanies the handler to help look for clues, watch the dog for subtle alerts, and handle radio communications.

Survival Techniques - In the mid-west it is rare that a searcher would have to stay in the wilderness for extended periods, but members know several methods for making an emergency shelter, carry two or more fire starter sources, and are taught various detection techniques. The most important survival technique is to keep a positive attitude and not to panic.

Tracking Dog - The tracking dog works from a scent article from the subject, such as a piece of clothing or an item touched only by the subject. From this article, the dog picks up the subject's scent and uses it to find the subject's path. He works in a harness on a 30-50 foot lead and leads his handler directly to the subject by tracing the exact footsteps of the subject.

Trailing Dog - The trailing dog works similarly to the tracking dog. A scent article is used so the dog can pick up the subject's scent and trail. The dog may waiver from the person's actual track by several feet, cutting corners and using the wind to his advantage. Again, the dog is generally in a harness with a 20-30 foot lead.

Victim Behavior - Lost people are usually predictable. Their behavior can be charted depending upon age, gender, interests, physical and mental condition, time of day, weather, and terrain.

Water Search - For many search managers, the concept of a water search with dogs sounds like an impossibility. After all, we have always been told that the best way to elude capture by a mantracking team with bloodhounds is to run into the river and hide. But water is not an inpenetrable, sterile medium. We should consider it more as a porous organism and envision that there is constant movement within and throughout any body of water. Let's look at the basic structure of scent. Scent is made up of several components: skin particles, perspiration, skin oils, sweat glands, and other gaseous components. (Source: "Scent: Training to Track, Search and Rescue" Pearsall & Verbruggen.) Further, as these components break down during decomposition, bacterial action increases scent production (putrafaction). When the body of a deceased person is under water, these components rise (or raft) up through the water until they reach the surface. From there, the scent particles are dissipated by the breeze and the current. This action occurs at varying rates, depending upon several factors: Water temperature, depth of submersion, thermocline, water currents and speed, and wind velocity. A dog trained in water search is able to detect these scent particles and indicate to the handler the direction to the source in the same manner as an air scenting dog would indicate scent during a wilderness or human remains search. These dogs can be deployed on shore, but ideally work from a boat with an experienced handler.