Search Dogs South


Make A Scent Article

Scent Articles And Footprints

Search dogs look for individual people. The way we tell them who is lost is to present them with something that has the smell of the lost person on it, a SCENT ARTICLE. A scent article is anything that has been in contact with the skin; a shirt, hat, shoe, trousers. Even a knife, comb or keys can be used.

Why would you need a scent article? In the event someone is abducted or becomes lost, having a scent article available for Search and Rescue teams can make a difference in the outcome of a search. Call it an insurance policy; especially if you have children or an elderly person living with you who may be prone to wandering. But the need doesn’t stop there. A scent article prepared ahead of time could be a life saver for anyone who spends time in the mountains or who hikes, fishes, snowmobiles, etc. where the odds of becoming lost or injured increase.

And why a footprint? If someone should become separated from the main group a foot print of the shoe they were wearing when they got lost can often save valuable time in finding them. If the search team has trackers they can use the imprint of the shoe to help track the person. This can be especially important with young children in areas away from home, like on vacation, or at the lake or a picnic area.

Scent Material Collection On Scene

Scent is evidence every bit as much as a gun, knife, foot print or any other physical evidence, the only difference is that it cannot be seen.

To properly collect scent evidence:

  • Wear rubber gloves to help prevent further contamination.
  • Evidence should be collected and stored in a zip lock freezer bag and labeled as local requirements dictate for evidence identification. (To collect turn the bag inside out over your hand and use the inside of the bag as glove to prevent contamination. Pick up the article and pull the bag over it then zip lock it shut.)
  • If the item is too large, such as a car seat or a door knob, lay a sterile gauze pad on it and allow it to stay for 20-30 minutes, then collect the gauze pad as described above.

Don’t forget that the physical evidence we mentioned, the gun, knife or other item is also scent material and should not be handled by anyone except crime scene personnel. It can be used to scent a dog.

Remember, a missing person scene should be treated the same as a crime scene until the person is found. Keep all but essential personnel out of the immediate area.

How To Make A Scent Article

  • Using a sterile 4 x 4 gauze pad, place it under the shirt or blouse, next to the skin for at least an hour.
  • If being made for an adult or older child have them remove the gauze pad and put it in a quart size zip lock freezer bag. Be careful that no one else touches the article itself, or the inside of the plastic bag! For infants or very young children you can use a pair of sterilized tweezers to extract the pad and place in the bag.
  • Push the air out, seal the bag, label it with their name and date and put it in the freezer. It’s that simple.
  • Repeat every 6 months. Take the article out of the freezer, let the person wear it for 60 minutes and repeat the instructions above. Re-date the zip lock bag and put it back in the freezer.

If you’re planning an outing, make an additional scent article for each person the day before. Leave a note on the seat of the car with the scent article(s). Place a note with the scent article(s):

Attention Police:
If I am lost, or missing, please call:
K9 search team Search Dogs South
Emergency Pager: 901-539-4556.

Scent article(s) is enclosed – FOR DOG TEAM ONLY – DO NOT TOUCH

How To Make A Footprint

  • Use the shoes you or the person you are making the footprint for will be wearing on the outing.
  • Lay a piece of aluminum foil on top a towel on a smooth, hard surface and have the person step gently onto the foil. Put full weight on it then lift the foot off. The foil will be imprinted with the sole of the shoe.