Because dogs have a much better sense of smell than humans, they are often trained and used to detect scents that humans can’t pick up on. There are a few different types of detection dogs, and the differences are important when considering what dog to use for a specific task. The handler, or person training and working with the dog, also needs to be able to read the dog well and pick up on if the dog is detecting something or not.
Types of detection dogs:
- Narcotics dogs – they are trained to pick up the scent of drugs and are commonly used at airports. With enough training, they will be able to pick up on the scent of drugs even when it is being masked with another scent.
- Tracking dogs – these dogs are trained to sniff a scent and follow only that scent. For instance, if a suspect of a crime is on the run, the handler can have the dog smell something belonging to the suspect such as a pillowcase or a piece of clothing. The dog will then follow that specific scent wherever it is present and can lead investigators to the suspect.
- Bomb detection dogs – these dogs are trained to sniff out any substance of a bomb if it is present. It is trained to not disturb a scene, as an explosive could detonate, but will alert its handler to the presence of a bomb.
- Arson detection dogs – a dog trained to detect arson will sniff out the presence of accelerants commonly used by arsonists. Especially in a case where the damage of the fire covers a large area, these dogs are extremely valuable to show investigators where accelerants were used.
- Search and rescue dogs – when someone goes missing or is lost, these dogs are used. They are trained to be useful in a variety of environments, such as in snow or in heavy water.
- Body detector dogs – sometimes in situations like a landslide or earthquake, people may be trapped in the aftermath but are still alive. It is in situations like this that body detector dogs are brought in to find living humans so they can be rescued.
- Cadaver dogs – these dogs are trained to respond to decomposition, so when the presence of a decedent is suspected, these dogs are brought on scene to lead investigators to the body.
- Human remains specialist dogs – these dogs begin as cadaver dogs in general, sniffing out the presence of any decomposition. They are then further trained to respond only to a specific type of human remains.
The importance of these dogs is often not realized by the general public. I did not realize how important they were either, until I started at the coroner’s. They have a cadaver dog, Ino, that stays at the office and is used to detect decomposition. Recently Ino hit on a body of water where someone told investigators that someone committed suicide. Investigators have been diving there the past few days trying to recover a body. The work of detection dogs can be invaluable in their line of work, so it is essential that they be trained correctly to do their specific job.
Source: “Forensic Detection Dogs.” Kryptiks Lair German Dogs. N.D. Web. 27 February 2016.