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 Evidence Dogs.

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 animal scents.

Historical Human Remains Detection Dog
Using dogs to help locate historical or archaeological graves is a new concept. This kind of searching requires the dog to be slow and methodical and keep its nose just above the surface of the ground, any fast moves and the dog can miss the grave. It takes many years of slow and patient training to develop the skills needed to do this work.
In archaeology, an HHRD trained canine with impeccable manners, slow and methodical search style, properly trained and certified, may be the Remote Sensing Tool of the future. ICF canine trainers are "writing the book" in this field. Certification standards are high insuring that the ICF certified canines are reliable, non-invasive tools to be used in modern archaeology.

My dog is trained for search and rescue, can I also teach him to do forensic evidence work?

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 dog.

What are the qualities and skills of a HRD / Forensic Evidence Dog?

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.

Is 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.

When would I use a search dog and when do I need a forensic evidence dog?

If the missing person is despondent or a potential suicide you will need area search dogs that have been cross-trained as cadaver search dogs. Using both resources will give the best coverage, whether the missing person is alive or dead.

Human Remains Detections dogs are best used for cases like buried bodies, aged disarticulations, old homicide or suicide cases, bone searches, blood evidence, residual scent, crime scenes, building searches, and vehicle searches.

What is the Institute for Canine Forensics?

ICF is a non-profit organization working to promote professionalism in the new field of canine forensics. Research projects in many facets of this field are being conducted to provide a basis for determining canine's capabilities. The Institute will continue to add projects and publish the results.

Can I join?

ICF is not a membership organization. It exists for the purpose of sharing research, education, and certification globally. However, you can contribute with your experience. Data from other sources is welcomed. This organization is about expanding knowledge and capability in a new field.