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Rapport2023Öppen tillgång

Probability of police dogs detecting missing people in search sectors

Öhman, Björn; Frank, Jens


Searching for missing persons is an important task for police dog teams. The purpose of this study was to investigate what proportion of missing persons are found during sector searches. The study was conducted as an exercise within the framework of the local weekly training structure (L406) for police patrol dogs in Police Region South during the winter and spring of 2022/2023.

A total of 23 dog teams participated over six weeks from December 2022 to April 2023. During the searches, 25 out of 26 (96%) of the deployed decoys were found, which means that a missing person is very likely to be found by the police dog teams also during real search and rescue missions. Interestingly, the dog teams that have used a total search-time below average have found decoys to the same extent as the teams that have used more total search-time. The group that has used less than 119 minutes and where the dog has travelled an average of 9.5 km has thus been sufficient to find the missing persons. This means that the teams that have searched longer than the average and where the dog has travelled a longer distance, have used more time than actually needed.

A total search-time of 119 minutes on average and a distance travelled by the dog of 9.5 km was sufficient to find all the decoys in an area of 25 hectares. A shorter search-time and shorter distance travelled would likely have been sufficient to find the same number of decoys, but based on the results of this study we cannot determine what time or distance would have been sufficient. This is however interesting to investigate further in future studies as it suggests that there is a possibility to cover larger areas in less time but with the same probability of detecting missing persons.


Working dogs; Search and Rescue dogs; Police dogs; K9

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eISBN: 978-91-8046-880-0
Utgivare: Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

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