Blue and Gray specialize in providing airscenting search and rescue dogs. The airscenting dog searches for airborne human scent, as opposed to scent on the ground such as the track left by the subjects passing. Because of the manner in which scent can stay airborne while it is carried by the wind over long distances, the airscenting dog provides an efficient tool for searching large areas. Airscenting dogs are typically not scent-discriminiting, meaning they search for any human scent in the area. This means that the effectiveness of an airscenting dog can be greatly reduced in populous area, but also makes them ideal for searching wilderness areas. Airscenting dogs can work in any variety of conditions, at any time of day or night, and at any length of time after the subject has been missing.
How do air scent Dogs work?
The handler and dog are assigned an area (or sector) to search. Typically the area is cleared by walking in a grid pattern, (that is cutting back and forth across the width of the sector). Airscenting dogs work off leash, ranging out from the handler in a manner that leaves them free to explore scents of interest to them. Each dog develops a comfortable ranging distance from their handler which they will not exceed. The result is the dog searches an area local to the handler. This is one of the great values of an airscenting dog as it allows the handler to walk a wide grid. The distance between each pass across the sector is defined by the ranging distance of the dog. The fact that the airscenting dog stays within a certain distance of the handler also means that the handler is responsible for placing the dogs in areas of the highest probability for detecting scent. Being able to do this effectively involves a good understanding of how airborne scent travels. When a airscenting dog detects scent, they can follow it to its source by staying in the area containing scent and moving upwind. By doing so they can find the subject from a great distance.
What happens when an air scenting dog makes a find?
One of the difficulties with a search dog who works off leash is that the handler may be unaware that the dog has made a find, especially if the subject is somehow hidden from view. Therefore, upon making a find, the airscenting dog initiates a trained pattern (or chain) of behaviors that ensures that the handler gets to the subject. In brief, a dog returns to it’s handler, performs an indication ( a behavior that lets the handler know that the dog has made a find), and returns to the subject, this time with the handler following closely. This behavior chain known as the find-refind behavior chain, will be the subject of much of the dogs training.