The ideal and actual characteristics of specialist search dogs have been examined in questionnaire surveys of 244 dog handlers and trainers from the six main UK dog-using Government agencies. The ten most important characteristics were (ideal level in brackets): acuity of sense of smell (very high), incentive to find an object which is out of sight (very high), health (very high), tendency to hunt by smell alone (very high), stamina (very high), ability to learn from being rewarded (very high), tendency to be distracted when searching (very low); agility (high), consistency of behaviour from day to day (high), motivation to chase an object (high). Significant differences between actual and ideal levels were found for 22 of the 30 characteristics, predominantly in undesirable attributes, suggesting that there is scope for significant improvement in operational effectiveness.
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