What to Know About Cadaver Dogs

Cadaver dogs are specially trained to alert their handlers when they detect the smell of human remains. The term “cadaver” is relatively new, but the practice of using dogs to find dead bodies has been around for centuries.

Cadaver dogs are amazing animals that are extremely helpful in murder investigations.

There are many things to know about cadaver dogs, but if you have a murder investigation to conduct, it’s important to understand that these amazing animals can be extremely helpful.

Cadaver dogs can not only sniff out the body fluids of a deceased person (including blood and semen), they can also sniff out garbage that contains human remains. When searching for a body, cadaver dogs will alert their handlers as they approach where they think the dead person is buried or hidden.

Cadaver dogs are trained specifically to detect specific scents: human remains, bone fragments and other odors associated with death. These specially-trained animals carry out their work by using their sense of smell—they’re able to pick up on scents that are incredibly faint compared to what we might be able to smell with our own noses (such as those from decomposed corpses).

They have, on average, a 85% accuracy rate to within 2 feet.

Cadaver dogs have a high degree of accuracy. They can differentiate between the smell of human remains and other scents, like garbage or food.

Cadaver dogs are trained to detect specific scents that indicate that a body has been present at a scene. Cadaver dogs can also sniff out bone fragments, body fluids, and decomposing tissue that would be undetectable by human senses.

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They’re trained to detect certain smells and not alert on others.

Cadaver dogs are trained to detect the following smells and not alert on others:

  • Human remains
  • Human blood
  • Human tissue
  • Human hair
  • Human skin
  • Human bones, including teeth, femurs (thigh bones), etc.
  • Fat and muscle tissue (you can think of this as meat)

They can sniff out bone fragments.

Cadaver dogs are trained to sniff out human remains. This can include body fluids, bone fragments and even garbage that contains human remains. In fact, one of the most important roles for a cadaver dog is in missing person cases when the only lead is finding a person’s body.

In these cases, some of the most effective searches have been done with a cadaver dog’s nose rather than any other type of technology or method.

They can sniff out body fluids.

Cadaver dogs can detect the scent of body fluids, such as blood, urine and even decomposition. The dogs can also detect live humans in certain circumstances.

A cadaver dog’s keen sense of smell is natural—it’s not something that can be trained. Dogs are born with a powerful sense of smell.

They can sniff out garbage that contains human remains.

Cadaver dogs are trained to detect human remains. They can detect the scent of remains in a variety of settings, materials and conditions.

For example:

  • Dogs have been trained to detect remains buried as deep as 20 feet underground.
  • Dogs can be used to sniff out buried bodies even after they’ve been exposed to rain or other elements for months on end.
  • A cadaver dog can locate human remains in a container that has been submerged under water for days or weeks at a time.
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Each cadaver dog is trained with one of three different odors.

If you’ve ever seen a cadaver dog at work, you probably noticed that each dog is trained to detect one of three different odors. Cadaver dogs are trained to detect the smell of human remains, body fluids or cadaver decay. All three odors have distinct smells, but they share common elements that can be used by the canine investigators to identify them.

  • Human remains: The scent of human remains has been described as smelling like “rotten food in an old refrigerator.” In order for a dog to learn this odor, he must first discover samples hidden in boxes so that he learns what it looks and smells like when fresh. Then he will go through training sessions where he must detect only those samples from among many other items such as mailboxes and garbage cans—and even smelling those items is not enough; your pup needs practice finding specific scents on command!
  • Body fluids: This scent is generally described as having an ammonia-like quality with a hint of urine mixed in—an unpleasant combination if you ask me! Dogs are taught this particular skill through repeated exposure and positive reinforcement (which means they get treats). Once they’re familiarized with their target materials, they move on to searching locations where these substances might be found until their sense of smell becomes finely tuned enough for detection work.
  • Cadaver decay: This odor has been described variously as having notes like sulfur or rotten eggs mixed with hints of burnt match heads (a strange combination if there ever was one!) A fresh corpse will carry much more intense notes than an older one will because it hasn’t had time yet for its components break down into less pungent compounds over time. When teaching dogs how to find decaying bodies, the scent is often paired with another scent called “decomposition,” which is said to have notes of meat left out in the sun or rain.