Trailing dogs smell an article the missing person has worn or touched and then follows that scent which leads the handler to the missing person. The dogs are generally worked on a 6 to 32 foot leash.
Consisting of a handler and dog, an LASD search team specializes in one or more disciplines. These disciplines include Trailing, Area and Cadaver and are deployed in wilderness and urban settings. Support personnel accompany the team as needed. Teams provide their services to law enforcement agencies and the California Office of Emergency Services without charge. Dogs are selected based on aptitude and drive rather than by breed.
Cadaver dogs are called when the law enforcement agency believes the person may be deceased. Working off leash the dogs can locate a missing person's remains above or below ground, in the snow or under water.
Area dogs work off leash and range out from the handler to search to a designated area. When the dog locates a person, it returns to the handler, does an alert, and then leads the handler back to the missing person. An area dog team can search a large area quickly with a high likelihood of success.
Typically It takes one and a half to two years to train a new team to meet the standards. The handler must be fit and proficient in various SAR skills including man tracking, map and compass, land navigation, helicopter safety and search strategy. All handlers are either EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) or have had Red Cross First Responder training. Dogs must pass agility tests, be helicopter certified, able to be hoisted in a sling, have the stamina and drive to search for hours on end and be social or friendly.
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