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.
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.
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.
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.
map reading - OVSAR uses topographical maps 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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