Cadaver Dog Training

Cadaver Dog Training

Cadaver Dog Training – Understanding Human Decomposition

Handling and training dogs to locate decomposed human remains is not a task that everyone is comfortable with.  There are a number of skills that are required to be an effective cadaver dog handler or trainer.  One, very important, skill is the familiarization and understanding of the process of human decomposition and how it impacts cadaver dog training.

There are four primary stages of the decomposition process that you should be familiar with.  First, is the fresh stage of decomposition.  The fresh stage of decomposition begins at the moment of death.  During this phase, bacterial proliferation will begin to occur and the body will, in a way, begin to consume itself.  Livor mortis and rigor mortis are often noted at this stage of decomposition.

Next is the bloat phase of decomposition.  During this phase, the production of gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen, and hydrogen sulfide, is most prominent, often causing the body to swell considerably.  Distention of the abdominal cavity is evident and the body begins to enlarge overall.

The decay phase is next in the decomposition process and is recognized by the great loss of body mass.  This loss of mass is often a result of liquefaction of tissues and the purging of these decompositional fluids into the surroundings of the cadaver.  These fluids often gather around the body, forming what is called a cadaver decomposition island.

Finally the body reaches the Dry phase.  This is where the cadaver turns to dry material and bodies that have no dry skin left are skeletonized.  The remaining bones, if exposed to the elements will become bleached and very light colored.  The body will remain in the dry phase for a considerable time until it is disseminated by wildlife, humans, or the elements.

cadaver dog trainingThere are a number of factors that effect the rate of decomposition.  Some of these factors are temperature, humidity, insect activity, animal activity, trauma, clothing or other protective material, and body mass. For example, a body will decompose at a much slower rate if consistently exposed to cooler temperatures. Another factor that greatly effects human decomposition is body deposition.  Body deposition refers to where the body is placed.  Whether the cadaver is lying on the ground, buried, or submerged in water will have a great impact on the decomposition process.

Well trained and handled cadaver dogs are an asset in locating human remains and can find remains in all stages of decomposition and in a variety of environments, if properly trained to do so. We offer seminars and a School for Dog Trainers to teach you the proper methods of recognizing these various stages of decomposition.  We also teach you proper cadaver dog training, from the imprinting process all the way through working with the dog in demanding field environments.  Our staff of dog trainers and instructors have the experience to give you the skills and tools you need.

If you handle or train cadaver dogs and are interested in learning more about human decomposition or if you are interested in learning to train cadaver dogs, feel free to contact us at 866.200.2207 or

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