Top Dog Breeds for Search and Rescue Work

Top Dog Breeds for Search and Rescue Work
Top Dog Breeds for Search and Rescue Work
The Belgian Malinois is one of the best dog breeds for search and rescue.
The Belgian Malinois is one of the best dog breeds for search and rescue.

(Photo credit: photosbyjim / Getty Images)

Dogs play a vital part in our lives and perform a wide variety of jobs. Search and rescue dogs help work with teams to find missing persons after an accident, natural disaster, and more. Here are some of the top dog breeds for search and rescue work, and how each breed brings a unique skill to help.

What is search and rescue work?

Search and rescue dogs can do a wide range of tasks. These dogs are specially trained to seek out and find people. They may help look for people buried under rubble after an earthquake or they may use their keen sense of smell to trail people that have wandered away or gotten lost. Search and rescue dogs can also dive into dangerous situations, such as deep waters, to grab people and bring them to safety. 

Labrador Retriever

The loving Labrador Retriever is a great all-around breed. In addition to their high intelligence, these dogs have a natural drive to find and retrieve people. Labs excel in situations such as finding people trapped during a disaster or sniffing out someone that has wandered off.

German Shepherd

The German Shepherd has been used in a variety of search and rescue operations, including helping find lost soldiers during World Wars and rescuing people trapped after an emergency. Their intelligence and drive to please make them fast learners of any task.


Known for their noses, the Bloodhound is one of the top tracking breeds. Their noses are so sensitive that they can find a trail nearly 130 miles away or several days old! These dogs excel at tracking down missing persons once they’ve found the scent, and won’t stop until they reach the end.

Golden Retriever

Like their Labrador cousins, the Golden Retriever is another eager-to-please breed that loves search and rescue work. Their all-around smarts and work ethic make them great for a variety of jobs. They’ll work tirelessly to find missing people, and get extra excited when they find someone! 


The Newfoundland is a breed that excels at search and rescue work on the water. These dogs are trained to help rescue people trapped in lakes and other bodies of water. Their webbed feet and strong muscles make them powerful swimmers, and they’ll quickly grab and tug the person safely to shore.

Belgian Malinois

Like the German Shepherd, the Belgian Malinois is a breed with a strong drive to work. Their intelligence makes them well-suited to search and rescue tasks. They easily pick up on commands and can figure out puzzles to help bring an injured person to safety.

Basset Hound

Another scent hound, the Basset Hound excels at finding the trails of missing people and tracking them down. While they don’t have as powerful of noses as Bloodhounds, their short legs keep them low to the ground where they can more easily pick up the scent.


While originally bred as a hunting dog like many other scent hounds, Coonhounds are also able to put that drive into search and rescue work. Their endurance also makes them well-suited to tracking people over longer distances without tiring.


Beagles may be small, but they have a lot of heart and drive. These dogs have been known to wander away from homes in search of a scent, ignoring everything else until they find their prey on the other end. This strong drive works just as well in search and rescue work, where they’ll happily follow the path, barking excitedly along the way.

Saint Bernard

Saint Bernards were bred to help find missing hikers in the Swiss Alps. Their strong muscles and thick coat make them well-suited for work in mountainous conditions. In addition to search and rescue tasks, these powerful dogs can also pull sleds and carts, making it easier to transport an injured person to safety.

Learn more about specialized dog breeds

These dog breeds excel at search and rescue work. But, many other breeds are great at performing specialized jobs. If you’d like to learn more, check out our list of breeds with the best sense of smell and the most loyal breeds for farm work.

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