Cadaver dogs and water? - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-15-2008, 03:55 PM Thread Starter
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Cadaver dogs and water?

I am not sure if this would fall under SAR or not, so I am posting it here.

We have a missing man from the local area. They have brought in a cadaver dog to search an area he was last seen in. There was an article about the dog in the local newspaper. The handler explained how he worked on land and water. He stated the last body they found was under 40 ft. of water. I knew about ground searching but was not aware they could detect in water.

I found that fascinating. Anyone know much about this? Is there a time period. I know usually after a couple of days the body rises to release gases, then goes back down. How does he indicate? What are the limitations or issues?
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post #2 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-15-2008, 04:20 PM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

Hopefully NancyJ see's this. She works an HRD dog and trains on water. I do live scent, but 2 of my teammates do HRD and at least one is certified for water work. They will work from a boat and the dog has a bark alert. That is the extent of my knowledge LOL.

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post #3 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-15-2008, 10:49 PM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

I have been to some water trainings and have read about the subject, but have not trained my dog for that yet.

When a body decomposes underwater, it releases oils, gases, etc. that can be detected by a dog as scent on the surface. There are a lot of variables that affect the decomposition process, so it is difficult to quantify the limitations, but I believe some bodies have been located by dogs years after they went missing, and some in quite deep water.

Usually the dog and handler work from a boat. They travel a grid pattern in the area and if the dog gets into a cadaver scent plume it will display its natural alert behavior such as pawing at the water, whining, or some other action that the handler has learned to read. The handler interprets this behavior and guides the boat into the direction of stronger scent. When the scent is at its strongest, the dog performs its trained alert behavior, which might be barking or lying down to tell the handler that is where the source of the scent is coming from.

When a dog has alerted on a location, often a second dog will be brought in to work the area independently in order to confirm it. If so, then divers are advised where to look. With no water current or wind, the body could be directly below, but the handler normally has to interpret the conditions to predict where the body might be based on where the scent is the strongest at the surface. There is a lot more to it than this, but hopefully this gives you an idea of what is involved. The Cadaver Dog Handbook has a chapter devoted to water searches.

Jonathan & Benny

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post #4 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-15-2008, 10:59 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

Thanks. I thought it was interesting.

I wonder if they will use this ability there is a theory he may have gone into the water (his glasses were found by the shore) Several dives of the area have turned up nothing, however, the water is very shallow on both sides of a deep channel. The channel has a strong current. The body (if there is one) may very well be being washed in and out.

I wish I had gone out to meet the handler.
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post #5 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-16-2008, 10:01 PM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

They can either work the dog from a boat or from the shore. If the man was in the water and has bounced along the shallower part of the area the dog may pick it up. If the water is swift moving in the center and the subject travelled there, then the dog may pick it up down stream a very long way and it can be difficult to work. If the handler is experienced in working water missions, they will be able to let you know how the area should be worked.

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post #6 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-16-2008, 10:03 PM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

Is the area tidal? If it is then it also will affect the way the area should be worked.

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post #7 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-17-2008, 12:55 AM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

I used to do drownings with my old dog who is gone now. The only real difference between detecting human remains on land vs water is there are thermoclines in most deeper bodies of water that act like a pane of glass blocking the scent. Otherwise, water is just thick air. Depending on how wide the body of water is and the wind direction, you can work it either from shore or from a boat.

I'm surprised that dog was able to have a find in 40 ft of water due to the thermoclines. There must have been quite a current or they were dragging the bottom to break it up or the body was very near the edge.

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post #8 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-17-2008, 03:20 PM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

I saw this on tv some time. They drive the dog around a lake in a boat, but I forgot the details. Dogs have amazing noses, don't they. I swear my dogs can smell the hotdogs from the back of the yard with the patio doors closes.
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post #9 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-17-2008, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

That is interesting about the thermocline. I am a diver, although a very new one, and have experienced them but I can't remember how far down they usually are. I thought about 30 ft.

I still find it hard to wrap my head around it being the same as land. Of course I have little experience in tracking on land. I do realize that SAR tracking is different that the way a Police dog would track. If I remember correctly, SAR is more air scenting. I would just imagine the water would be so much more difficult to track because of current on surface can be different below, plus the wind above the water. It would also be so much more demand on the handler to interpret where to go as the dog just can't go in the direction he wants himself. I would love to have the opportunity to take part in a seach.
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post #10 of 48 (permalink) Old 01-19-2008, 08:58 AM
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Re: Cadaver dogs and water?

Tracking or trailing and HRD (Cadaver searches) are so different you can't even relate them to each other. Most police k9's come from a sch. background and training where the learn to track (go step to step). Most SAR dogs trail, they do not track. Trailing is following the trail of scent coming off the subject. They may not necc. follow exactly where the foot falls are (which a tracking dog will do) if the wind blows the scent 5 or 10 feet off where the subject walked then the dogs work with that. Air scent work is completely different again, but often you will find that a good air scent dog will often follow a trail if they come across it. You cannot trail on water, we have done air scent problems from boats where we work the shore line untill the dog gets scent of someone on land, then put the boat into shore and work the problem from there. Have been very successful with this type of exercise. Mostly we do HRD from boats. There are some great books that explain how it works. Basically as the body is in the water cells ect are constantly coming off and cone out from the body as they rise to the surface. As air passes over the surface of the water it picks up the scent and if you are working the dog over that area the dog can pick up the smell. Sometimes the dog will drop its nose and get the scent from the water itself and sometimes that is not necc. It is fantastic how the dogs work and how they use their nose. I never get bored or tired of watching any of the dogs work out a problem in training or work on a search.

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Lexi CGC (Cert. area search)
Neko CGC (Cert. HRD)
Justice CGC (trailing),
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Titan, Shilo Shepherd (beginning area search)
Kibby(Rodie mix)
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