PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — K9s from all over the nation participated in scent tracking exercises as part of a seminar in Pensacola sponsored by a nonprofit organization, Spikes K9 Fund.

Canine trainers travel across the nation teaching working dogs techniques that may help them locate missing or endangered citizens, and criminal suspects.

Handlers and their dogs get called in by local law enforcement agencies to assist with a search and rescue.  

“Lets say a child goes missing, and they’re called out, they can go to the house and take a pillow case that the child slept on, or an elderly person, show it to the dog because the odor is on there and the dog will find that specific person,” said Master Canine Trainer Jim Duncan.

Spikes K9 Fund was founded by retired Navy Seal James Hatch. The nonprofit’s mission is to protect working dogs by providing them with protective equipment, medical assistance and training.

The seminar focused on the art of hard surface scent tracking.

“When you’re tracking through an area like going down 9 mile road it’s very busy,” said Duncan. “Winds blowing, cars are taking the odor and pulling it, the dogs really have to be trained to be able to handle that environment and distractions and difficulties that you can encounter.”

One participant traveled from Sarasota for the seminar. She and her dogs got involved in the training, by chance, over 20 years ago.

“I ended up being in a group that I didn’t know it was more than dog training it was actually helping find lost persons and because of the training not just for the dogs but for myself, I was able to go on the Columbia shuttle mission to find shuttle parts,” said Denise Conrad. “So there’s more than just training dogs. Its actually a lot of training that we have to do when we get the call to help in any way we can.” 

The course has assisted in multiple life-saving rescues.

“It’s very rewarding that we all come together to do the best we can,” said Conrad. “To use the dogs as a partner to find people because they have the nose we just hold the end of the line. Like they say just let the dog go, but it takes training.”