A cadaver dog or human remains dog is a special type of police dog which has been trained to search for cadavers and human remains. With the use of a cadaver dog, rescue crews can identify dead bodies in wreckage for future removal, and cadaver dogs can also be used by crime units to find areas where a cadaver might have been buried, stored, or dismembered. These canines may have macabre jobs, but they are very useful additions to the police forces in the areas where they are used, and they have some of the best noses in the business.
As human remains decay, they produce a variety of very distinct odors. While most of us would probably prefer to avoid ever experiencing such odors, for cadaver dogs, the odors are like a signature, because they appear nowhere else in nature. A cadaver dog can actually detect human remains through concrete, buried underground, or at the bottom of a body of water, using its extremely well-honed noses to search for faint traces of the chemicals emitted by the human body during decomposition.
In search and rescue operations, cadaver dogs can be used to ensure that every body on the site is found, so that the bodies can be given a proper burial after examination. A cadaver dog can also be used on the hunt for a missing person, or for someone who is known to be dead, and because the animals are often used on crime scenes, they are trained to be very gentle and respectful of the areas where they work. Unlike search and rescue dogs, which are typically trained to bark and claw where they sense someone in need, cadaver dogs are usually trained to sit quietly or lie down when they detect human remains.
In addition to being used to find whole bodies, cadaver dogs are also trained to react to any trace of human remains. This can be very useful in crime investigations, because a cadaver dog can indicate that a cadaver was in a particular location at one point, even if it is no longer there, and these dogs can also find traces of bodies which criminals attempted to conceal by destroying the evidence.
Like other police dogs, cadaver dogs come with handlers. Some very renowned cadaver dog trainers travel with their dogs, responding to individual requests, and in other cases, a full-time handler is maintained as part of a police force or crime unit. Cadaver dogs typically live with their handlers and accompany them everywhere, and they tend to become tightly bonded with the people they work with; they are also treated like police officers under the law, which means that interfering with the work of a cadaver dog can have serious consequences.