Search & Rescue and Law Enforcement Dogs

In my opinion, the noblest task that a dog can do involves search and rescue, police work and other specialty work like cancer detection.

We’re all familiar with the classic image of a man trapped up to his neck in snow due to an avalanche and saved by a search and rescue dog. These dogs are incredible! They can find missing children and locate specific scent derived from a piece of clothing.

I remember watching the television following the Haiti earthquake, and they were using search and rescue dogs to find people stuck in the rubble. These dogs were trained to walk on the rubble until they smelled someone trapped underneath. Then they would bring their handler to the spot where they had detected the person.

Some of these dogs are even trained to detect explosives. You might have seen them at the airport. They are actually highly accurate.

In 1972, a dog named Brandy had successfully avoided a tragedy when she found a suitcase full of C-4 explosives at the New York City airport. But at that time, detection dogs were not normally used and it was by pure coincidence that Brandy was there for a demonstration on detecting bombs.

These dogs are highly trained and they begin the training as puppies. They first train the basic obedience skills so that the dog is well behaved in a variety of locations, and then they train to detect specific smells.

So, how does this relate to your dog? You can use the same training techniques used to train search and rescue dogs to train your dog to find items in your home. You could train your dog to find your lost keys or TV remote control.

A few years ago, I trained my dog, Chase, to find my keys. I’d spray a little garlic juice on them to make them easier to find, and then I’d hide them all over the house. I would put them behind the bed, on the couch and on the computer desk. Chase was so excited to look for those keys. We really had a blast playing this game.

These sorts of tasks can be extremely beneficial, especially if you often lose or forget your keys. The purpose is really to stimulate your dog. Dogs really depend on their noses for hunting, so you might as well use their drive for something constructive.

Need help training your dog? “Find the Keys” is one of the dog training challenges over at and you are welcome to join in!