Hepper is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

9 Best Search and Rescue Dog Breeds

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

german shepherd lab rescue dogs

Dogs are commonly referred to as “man’s best friend,” and some of the best examples of how deep their companionship and loyalty go are during search and rescue missions. There are several situations in which dogs can find and rescue injured or endangered people.

A few different dog breeds are used most commonly in search and rescue missions, most of which make this list because of their heightened sense of smell and abundant loyalty to their owners. Below, we’re discussing nine breeds that are commonly relied upon for search and rescue work. Here are the best search and rescue dogs:

Divider 1

The 9 Best Search and Rescue Dog Breeds:

1. Bloodhound

Image credit: Edoma, Shutterstock

First on our list is the Bloodhound. These dogs are well known in the canine world as having the best sense of smell, and it’s because they have better equipment! Their long snouts, wide-open nostrils, and the highest scent sensor count of any dog breed make them the greatest sniffers out there. They are also very loyal, highly trainable, and remarkably intelligent: the perfect combo for a search and rescue breed!

2. Basset Hound

basset hound sitting
Image credit: Maria Symchych, Shutterstock

It’s no surprise that hounds, who are known for their keen sense of smell, make our list first. Basset hounds have nearly as many scent sensors as Bloodhounds, but their small size makes them ideal for getting into tight spaces. Just like the Bloodhound, the Basset Hound is intelligent, loyal, and takes well to training. These pups could sniff out a victim or human in need from long distances, so they’re excellent search and rescue dogs.

3. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard sleeping
Image credit: Kev Gregory, Shutterstock

Saint Bernards are known to be gentle giants, and their love of humans and undying companionship makes them some of the best comfort dogs for those being rescued. They’re often recognized as rescue dogs used after avalanches, and they’re rumored to be able to smell a human trapped under massive amounts of snow and ice. They’re incredibly loyal and very trainable, and they often work in pairs: one dog to stay with a trapped victim to keep them warm, and the other to go back to alert their trainers.

4. German Shepherd

German shepherd and alaskan malamute_BGsmith_shutterstock
Image credit: Steve Heap, Shutterstock

German Shepherds are one of the most commonly used breeds by law enforcement, and their popularity for police work is due, in large part, to their unprecedented loyalty and ability to learn. German Shepherds have a great sense of smell as well, but it’s their willingness to obey and follow direction that allows them to excel in search and rescue missions.

5. Labrador Retriever

black labrador retriever
Image credit: Pixabay

Labs are most often regarded as one of the best companion breeds, but their keen sense of smell, undying loyalty, and affinity for training also makes them perfect for search and rescue missions. Their adept sniffers also make them good candidates for bomb and drug sniffing for the police force, and some agencies prefer them over German Shepherds, as they look far less threatening.

6. Coonhound

Black and Tan Coonhound
Image credit: Ksenia Raykova, Shutterstock

Another hound on our list, the Coonhound was bred for hunting and tracking, so their elevated sense of smell has been selected for over many generations. These dogs are small and agile, and they can run for what seems like an eternity, so they’re well equipped for just about any condition or length of searching that goes into a search and rescue mission.

7. Beagle

Beagle Harrier dog_Viktor Prymachenko_shutterstock
Image credit: Viktor Prymachenko, Shutterstock

Beagles are actually a hound breed as well, and they’re the smallest of the pack. Their height and small stature mean they excel at accessing small areas, so they’re perfect for search and rescue missions that require some tight maneuvering. They have high endurance and enjoy putting hours upon hours into their work, and they’re highly trainable and adaptable to an array of search and rescue tasks.

8. Belgian Malinois

Belgian Malinois running
Image credit: 825545, Pixabay

Although they’re not as popular with law enforcement as German Shepherds, the Belgian Malinois excels at scent recognition and searching just as much. They’re very trainable and eager to learn, and they tend to be smaller than German Shepherds, so they’re a bit more adaptable to different search and rescue conditions.

9. Border Collie

Border Collie
Image credit: CC0 Public Domain, Pxhere

Although Border Collies aren’t as popular for search and rescue missions as other dogs due to their less sensitive noses, they are among the most trainable dogs globally, so they still have a place in search and rescue missions. Border Collies are believed to be the most intelligent dogs, so they can learn a wide array of skills and rescue techniques quickly and efficiently. They also have a strong work ethic, which means they won’t quit when the going gets tough!

Divider 3


It’s rather endearing to see dogs going above and beyond to help and care for humans, and breeds used in search and rescue missions are among the most impressive. Their heightened sense of smell and willingness to go to work when their owners need it most make these nine dog breeds ideal candidates for search and rescue.

Featured Image Credit: hxdbzxy, Shutterstock

Related Articles

Further Reading

Vet Articles

Latest Vet Answers

The latest veterinarians' answers to questions from our database