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  1. #1
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    K9 SAR Questions & Answers - Ask the Pros!

    In order to help answer questions and keep MP threads clean I'm going to start a thread here that everyone can ask there K9 questions and hopefully we will have answers for you! Please keep this to only K9 SAR questions. If it looks like we need a SAR Q&A as well, let me know and I can start one of those.

    If you are professional K9 SAR and are not verified, please do so, the more the merrier!

  2. #2
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    Thank you sarx! I think this will be a much needed and useful thread for us.

    I'll start with a few questions.

    How are search dogs able to determine if a scent is traced from the day a person went missing or an earlier time and are they able?

    tia

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cubby View Post
    Thank you sarx! I think this will be a much needed and useful thread for us.

    I'll start with a few questions.

    How are search dogs able to determine if a scent is traced from the day a person went missing or an earlier time and are they able?

    tia
    Cubby, didn't want you to think we were ignoring you. This is an excellent question and we are working on a good thorough answer for you. This is one that has come up alot and we don't want to give just the short answer, but transferring it into something make sense to the non dog world takes a little bit of time!

  4. #4
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    Ok, I think a very important thing that needs to be discussed/explained is that there is a HUGE difference between Police K9 and SAR K9. Often when reading these cases what you are seeing in Police K9 coming out. They are rarely trained for the trailing that is needed for a missing person. It is very important that we find out what type of a dog was used initially as this makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of the initial search.

  5. #5
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    I have been wanting to ask this question for several days but didn't have a place to put it!! In general, how old of a scent can SAR dogs track outdoors, and how does weather/ temperature affect it?

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cubby View Post
    Thank you sarx! I think this will be a much needed and useful thread for us.

    I'll start with a few questions.

    How are search dogs able to determine if a scent is traced from the day a person went missing or an earlier time and are they able?

    tia
    Sorry for the delay, it's been a rough day. I've gone back and forth as to how in depth to explain things here and my current way of thinking is start basic and go deeper as needed. (Which is opposite of what I thought earlier today). I realized that it took us years and years to learn what we know and trying to really explain it and put it out there would probably confuse more than it would help, so...

    The basic answer for this is that the dogs are going to follow the freshest scent that they are put on. The last part of that sentence is important. If you start a dog somewhere where the person has been, even multiple times, they are going to follow the freshest trail, but that does not necessarily mean it was the last trail the person left. This is why a place last seen (PLS) is so important. Make sense? (If not, please never hesitate to say "huh? I don't get it" and we'll try again. Sometimes it makes sense in our brains, but not to anyone else!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by SugarQueen View Post
    I have been wanting to ask this question for several days but didn't have a place to put it!! In general, how old of a scent can SAR dogs track outdoors, and how does weather/ temperature affect it?
    Being that you said "track" I assume we are talking about a living person using a trailing dog? If so....
    Training places a HUGE factor in this question. What a dog trains for is what they are going to be able to accurately work.
    I think it's important to know the certification requirements used by NASAR (National Association of Search and Rescue), which is the industry standard.
    sartech 3 which is the most basic
    trail to 1 miles in length, do it within 1 hour, including breaks. Track is aged between 2-4 hours

    sartech 2
    trail 1 to 1 1/2 miles in length, in the wilderness, do it within 2 hours. Track is aged between 8-12 hours

    sartech 1-the highest level in NASAR
    trail is 1 to 1 1/2 miles in length, do it within 3 hours Track is aged between 24-30 hours. In sartech 1 you have to do this in both wilderness and urban settings.

    There are other requirements and training, but this gives you an idea of what the dogs have to train for to pass.

    The problem with this is very seldom does real life SAR actually coincide with these testing requirements (and because people are training to pass these tests, this is what their dogs can do).

    Most of the time a person isn't even reported as missing until they've missed dinner, and the family has looked for them, and, and.... This means that the person has often already been truly missing/lost for 8-12 hours before the call is made to LE. Then, as you well know it can be hours if not days before a dog is actually called. As you can see, that doesn't fit so well with the ages of the trails in the tests.

    There are a lot of great handlers and dogs out there though that do train on more real life time trails. There are some variances on what the comfort level is for an "old" trail, but here IMO is a general "timeline" of sorts
    0-1 days hot trail, if it's an area where the person is in everyday, it can be difficult for some dogs as there are so many trails laid over one another and nothing has had a chance to settle.
    2-5 days Excellent results with weather playing only a small role (barring hurricanes, tornadoes, and other catastrophic weather).
    6-9 days still very reliable results but weather plays a bigger factor.
    10-14 days variables really start to play in and training on these ages is crucial.
    Past 14 days to 21 days the results in my experience are very mixed.
    After that I am not comfortable at all.

    Yes, weather and terrain play a huge factor as does what kind of weather and terrain you train in. Extremes are bad. Dogs that are not used to working in certain climates are going to have reduced success. We can explore weather on another post as this one is already getting very long!

    Mind you, other handlers may have different times, these are just mine. I will say though that given the science behind "scent" I am really not into the whole "trailing a year later" thing. Again, for another time.

  8. #8
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    Thank you Sarx for such a complete, yet understandable answer! This thread is a great idea!

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarx View Post
    Being that you said "track" I assume we are talking about a living person using a trailing dog? If so....
    Training places a HUGE factor in this question. What a dog trains for is what they are going to be able to accurately work.
    I think it's important to know the certification requirements used by NASAR (National Association of Search and Rescue), which is the industry standard.
    sartech 3 which is the most basic
    trail to 1 miles in length, do it within 1 hour, including breaks. Track is aged between 2-4 hours

    sartech 2
    trail 1 to 1 1/2 miles in length, in the wilderness, do it within 2 hours. Track is aged between 8-12 hours

    sartech 1-the highest level in NASAR
    trail is 1 to 1 1/2 miles in length, do it within 3 hours Track is aged between 24-30 hours. In sartech 1 you have to do this in both wilderness and urban settings.

    There are other requirements and training, but this gives you an idea of what the dogs have to train for to pass.

    The problem with this is very seldom does real life SAR actually coincide with these testing requirements (and because people are training to pass these tests, this is what their dogs can do).

    Most of the time a person isn't even reported as missing until they've missed dinner, and the family has looked for them, and, and.... This means that the person has often already been truly missing/lost for 8-12 hours before the call is made to LE. Then, as you well know it can be hours if not days before a dog is actually called. As you can see, that doesn't fit so well with the ages of the trails in the tests.

    There are a lot of great handlers and dogs out there though that do train on more real life time trails. There are some variances on what the comfort level is for an "old" trail, but here IMO is a general "timeline" of sorts
    0-1 days hot trail, if it's an area where the person is in everyday, it can be difficult for some dogs as there are so many trails laid over one another and nothing has had a chance to settle.
    2-5 days Excellent results with weather playing only a small role (barring hurricanes, tornadoes, and other catastrophic weather).
    6-9 days still very reliable results but weather plays a bigger factor.
    10-14 days variables really start to play in and training on these ages is crucial.
    Past 14 days to 21 days the results in my experience are very mixed.
    After that I am not comfortable at all.

    Yes, weather and terrain play a huge factor as does what kind of weather and terrain you train in. Extremes are bad. Dogs that are not used to working in certain climates are going to have reduced success. We can explore weather on another post as this one is already getting very long!

    Mind you, other handlers may have different times, these are just mine. I will say though that given the science behind "scent" I am really not into the whole "trailing a year later" thing. Again, for another time.

    Great answer, sarx. The science of K9 SAR scentwork is very complex.

    I'd up your 10+ day aged trails with rigorous training, and cross trained dogs. But not all handlers/trainers would agree.

    For that purpose, it's also important to clarify what or who exactly is being 'trailed' vs 'tracked.' Someone on foot is different than someone being dragged which is different than someone being carried, vs someone on a vehicle vs a motorized vehicle etc. Someone alive vs someone who was alive but then deceased, or someone who was deceased to begin with, etc. The list goes on.

    That's when it can be useful to have a cross-trained HRD dog. FEMA is the SAR K9 standard for this.
    While most commonly used in disasters, they are also useful when trying to locate remains or evidence of missing persons in places such as landfills, swamps, places where there is a lot of decomp.

    Also wanted to add that 'police K9s' are often trained in scent work specifically but it is more typical to have those scents be narcotics, explosives, and accelerants.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the add on Oriah. Let's extrapolate further on the difference in walking, running, dragging, car, etc. Good idea or no?? I think it's your turn, having trouble forming complete sentences, lol.


  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by sarx View Post
    Thanks for the add on Oriah. Let's extrapolate further on the difference in walking, running, dragging, car, etc. Good idea or no?? I think it's your turn, having trouble forming complete sentences, lol.
    Good idea- yes. Complicated though!

    I'll work on an explanation and be back in a few, lol; but I'll begin by saying that 'scent' in K9 SAR work is particle based. Whether it's a particle we can see visually, or a particle we can smell or taste- it's still all about a specific particle.
    Particles are shed from lots of different things, at different rates of speed, and in different manners. The item a particle is shed from, the speed at which it traveled, and the manner in which it traveled are key to successful SAR K9s.

    I'll come back with more, if folks are interested.

  12. #12
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    I posted a question so to speak in the regular Hailey thread so I am going to ask it here

    I know the dogs brough in early on have been basically discounted but I was wondering if say a person walk a certain route everyday would this cause a trail to be stronger say 4 days in.??

    For example Hailey went to her dads everyday usually..I am sure she took the same route each time ..so would this trail appear to be stronger after 4 days because she frequently walked it?
    You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem,
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by mahoneys07 View Post
    I posted a question so to speak in the regular Hailey thread so I am going to ask it here

    I know the dogs brough in early on have been basically discounted but I was wondering if say a person walk a certain route everyday would this cause a trail to be stronger say 4 days in.??

    For example Hailey went to her dads everyday usually..I am sure she took the same route each time ..so would this trail appear to be stronger after 4 days because she frequently walked it?
    It would appear to be stronger to a dog not trained specifically in specific scent discrimination. To a dog that has been trained properly for a specific scent discrimination; the dog would alert or follow the most recent trail.
    So for example- lets say you or I walk to the corner coffee shop every morning. Our feet fall along the same path, but probably not in the exact same spots.

    A dog trained for this type of tracking will follow all of those steps, and blend them into one path. That's very useful when there's been a very small window of time that has elapsed, and the direction of travel is known.

    A dog that is properly trained for specific trailing however, should follow the most recent path taken by the particle of scent it was scented on. So sometimes you'll see a dog following a path do circles, or stopping and turning left or right, then continuing on. Much like we humans do when walking.

    So, say one day you're walking to the coffee shop and you hit a green light. You stop to cross when it's red. You deposit more scent while stopped at the light.
    The next day, you're a minute later and you catch the light. So your scent particle is not as heavily deposited at the crossing, but instead continues through. A trailing dog should follow the most recent scent, despite the heavier scent deposit from the day earlier when we were stuck at the light.

    Make sense?
    Last edited by Oriah; 01-20-2011 at 02:47 PM.

  14. #14
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    Hi All, just wanted to let you know that Oriah and I are going to be offline starting tomorrow until Monday morning. We will have limited access to the internet, so if you don't hear from us that's why.

  15. #15
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    Take your time... and thank you for so much useful information!

    I have two questions for when you get back.

    1)How would snow on the ground interfer with tracking and would it? I initially meant a person walking over already fallen snow but perhaps both that way and if snow had recently fallen on a trail.

    2)I would like to just clarify I understand the following in general terms. A handler would be able to determine an estimated time a person was last at a location based on the length of a trail and how long it took the dog to track it? Am I understanding correctly?

    thank you soooo much! And WhyA' thank you for your posting reiterating this thread is for general rather than case specific questions and answers.

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