What is the
difference between a search dog, cadaver dog, decomp dog and a
forensic evidence dog?
We have found that there is no standard terminology for describing
various disciplines, specific search tasks that canines are trained
to perform. Therefore, we propose and use the following terminology:
Search Dog ─ A
general term referring to a canine trained for searching based upon
visual, olfactory, or auditory clues. This would include the
disciplines of: area search dog, trailing search dog, cadaver search
dog, decomp search dog, disaster search dog, water search dog,
forensic evidence search dog and human remains detection dog.
Area Search Dog ─
This dog is trained to cover or grid large geographic areas by
sampling the air currents for traces of human scent. The dog
searches and samples the air currents by ranging/quartering back and
forth through the area that is assigned to the team. This dog is
sometimes referred to as "Wilderness Search Dog or "Air Scent Dog"
which is another general description of many search dogs. Some area
search dogs are also scent specific. They work from a scent article
to search for the person that matches the scent article, ignoring
all other humans in the area.
Trailing Dog ─ A canine with the specific ability and training to
track/ trail and locate a specific human on the basis of scent.
Cadaver Dog ─ A
narrow term, used in a search-and-rescue context, to indicate a
canine primarily trained as a trailing or area search dog that has
also received cross training in the location of dead human bodies.
Decomp Dog ─ The
term "decomposition dog" was started by the NecroSearch group. They
felt it better describes how dogs will indicate decomposed human
scent which includes blood, feces, urine or other material with
human scent on it.
Forensic Evidence Dog
─ A general term that can describe
several different kinds of specialties. Include but not limited to
firearms, weapons, articles or scent discrimination. There are some
people that describe Human Remains Detection Dogs as Forensic
Water Search Dog ─ A dog trained to locate dead bodies under water.
This can be done from a boat or as a shoreline search.
Human Remains Detection Dog
─ This Detection Dog is a specialist and has never been
trained to look for live humans. They specialize in crime scenes,
old cases, small scent sources and residual scent. These dogs have
been trained to exclude fresh human scent along with all other
What are the qualities and skills of a HRD / Forensic
The Human Remains Detection Dog is trained to alert on
residual scent along with other faint scent sources like dried
blood. The dog is taught not to disturb the crime scene by digging
or retrieving evidence. An important skill the dog is taught is how
to search homes or vehicles without causing harm to property. The
dog is taught to discriminate between human and all other non-human
items. The dogs usually work more slowly and more methodically.
My dog is
trained for search and rescue, can I also teach him to do forensic
Yes! Dogs are capable of understanding several disciplines at
the same time. Potential problems are: dogs trained in disaster must
be very clear and have a different alert for live and dead,
occasionally dogs trained in both live and dead scent will alert and
we are unable to determine which of the two they have alerted on. As
the need for forensic evidence dogs increases we see more handlers
who are training specialty dogs. They feel that a dog that has been
imprinted on one type of scent is more accurate that a cross trained
evidence searching the same as forensic evidence?
Terminology gets confusing, people use different words to
mean the same thing or the same word to mean different things. We
define evidence searching as an article with live human scent on it.
Forensic evidence searching can be cadaver, decomposing human scent,
or any body fluids from a deceased person. These scents can be on an
article, the actual body, in the ground or residual. The main point
is a forensic evidence dog is never looking for live scent.
Institute for Canine Forensics, a non-profit organization in
Northern California for the advancement of research and education of
Forensic Evidence and Human Remains Detection Dog teams.