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Ohio Search Dog  

Association, Inc.

Ohio Search Dog Association

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Land Based Search and Rescue Operations

Area Search

In Area Search, the canine searches for any human scent (not for a specific human), usually when a scent article is not available. The dogs test the air and when a scent is detected the dog works back and forth up the scent cone, narrowing the scent to the victim. This technique is frequently used in wooded or wilderness areas to find missing hikers or lost children. It allows canine teams to search large areas in less time than searchers on foot. Both live find and HRD canines can use this air scenting technique for area search.


In Trailing and Tracking, a scent article (like the victim’s clothing, pillow case, or hairbrush) is obtained from the possessions of the missing person. The canine is allowed to smell the scent article and then is asked to locate a scent trail from the point last seen. The canine can follow the scent of that particular human, by detecting tiny skin and hair cells which are continuously cast off of the missing person as he travels. These cells (called “rafts”) leave a trail for the canine team to follow.

Disaster Search

In Disaster Search, the canine teams are searching for people who may be trapped in the debris of a building collapse or debris field following a tornado, explosion, hurricane, plane crash or other sudden catastrophic event. These dogs use air scenting (similar to Area Search). Dogs can be trained to search for “live find” or HRD in rubble.

Human Remains Detection (HRD)

Just as dogs can be trained to search for human scent, they can also be trained to search for human remains. This can include deceased persons, as well as human tissue, blood, bones or teeth. Dogs trained in HRD are trained to alert when human remains are detected. This can be useful in searching for missing persons who are no longer alive. Water HRD dogs can even detect human remains scent at the water surface from gases and oils being given off by the underwater body.

What Type of Dog Specialities Does OSDA use?

OSDA has several canine teams in each of the specialties. This gives the team the ability to provide canine assets for all types of situations.

If a person is missing in a collapsed structure, a Disaster Search Live Find Dog will likely be the best choice.

But if a child has wandered away in the MetroParks a Trailing/Tracking Dog Team would probably be a better choice.

And if a fisherman is missing a combination of Area Search and Water HRD dog teams might be used.

News and Events

“If a child or loved one would ever go missing in our area, OSDA would be the first team I would contact.”

Jim Green, K9 Officer

Independence, Ohio