By far the most utilized searching method used by the canine detail is the area search. This searching technique is mostly used when searching for the suspect of a crime because it allows the dog to work off lead and roam freely.
When a dog is area searching, they are looking for human odor in the air. If a person is hiding somewhere, their distinctive odor comes off of them and goes into the air. Over time, the odor travels through the air and disperses like a fan, the odor becoming fainter as it travels away from its point of origin or the suspect. When the dog area searches they look for this fan or scent cone. Once the canine has located the scent cone it begins to work it back and forth towards the area of the odors highest concentration. Once the dog has located the source of the odor, he alerts his handler by barking. The canine alerts solely on odor and alerts without using his eyes. This is why a canine can locate people that Deputies or even a helicopter could never locate.
For a successful area search to happen, it is important that a canine handler begins the search in the best location possible. The handler accomplishes this by getting the best possible information from Deputies in the field. The handler also has to consider things such as wind direction and speed as this may affect which way a scent cone is spreading. During the search the handler must assist their canine in working through obstacles. This could include other dogs, hazards in neighborhoods, and helping the dog get over obstacles such as fences. This is why it is very important that all handlers maintain good physical condition as many searches can last for hours and span several miles. It is also important that the handler knows to recognize the subtle change in their canine’s behavior to alert them when the dog is in odor and may be nearing a suspect’s hiding place.