Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue (SBCSAR) has fielded dog teams since 2001. Each of our two present dog handlers has had certified dogs in the past and are now training new K9 partners. Presently there is one certified dog and two additional dogs in training. The breeds of the dogs are an Australian Shepherd, a Boarder Collie, and a Blood Hound. There are basically three disciplines the dog can be trained to perform: Area Search, Trailing, and Human Remains Detection (HRD). California Rescue Dog Association certifies all of the SBCSAR dogs.
Area Search Dogs are trained to find any live human scent in a defined area normally in the wilderness environment. An Area Search Dog works off lead, is directed by their handler, and reports back to their handler when they find the subject and then guides the handler back to the subject. Area Search dogs are not scent specific, therefore do not need a subject’s scent article to find the subject.
Trailing Dogs are trained to find a live subject by following the path that a subject has traveled in a wilderness or urban environment. A Trailing Dog does this by the handler first obtaining an article, usually an article of clothing from the subject’s home or vehicle. When at the last known location of the subject the handler introduces the scent article to the dog. At that point the dog will follow the path that the subject has traveled. A Trailing Dog works on a long line with the handler trailing behind until the subject is found.
HRD Dogs are trained to find human remains either above or below the ground. HRD Dogs generally work off lead and the handler works in close proximity. Area Search Dogs and Trailing Dogs can be cross-trained for HRD.
All of the SBCSAR dogs are owed and trained by their handlers. The initial training process can take 1-3 years. Training continues once the dog team becomes “Mission Ready” (certified) to maintain proficiency and are retested semi-annually or annually depending on their discipline(s).
Utilizing dogs as a search tool has enhanced SBCSAR’s ability to find lost or missing persons.