How Soon After Death Can a Cadaver Dog Detect?

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Cadaver dogs are usually trained to locate dead bodies and have become an important part of law enforcement, so how soon after death can a cadaver dog detect? Cadaver dogs can track down and get scents that humans can not, such as dead bodies, sometimes a long time after death.

However, cadaver dogs are not needed to be put into action so quickly to find the human remains of a body if the police are looking for hard evidence to catch a deadly killer. But that does not necessarily mean cadaver dogs can not detect bodies long after death has happened.

How soon after death can a cadaver dog detect? 

Cadaver dogs should be able to pick up traces of bodies 24 to 72 hours soon after the death, as this is when decomposition starts to occur. They can also detect human remains after a long time of the death of the body, being used very well by archaeological teams.

The bottom line is cadaver dogs could be trained to detect human bodies the moment the body starts to decay. But would you like to know more? I do, it is an interesting topic, and they can even smell through water, their senses are very good.

Cadaver dogs and how they can detect death of humans

I have been wondering how a dog can detect human bodies especially in ancient burial sites that may be many feet under the ground. I have done multiple research into cadaver dogs and would like to share what I have found with you.

How Precise Is A Cadaver Dog’s Sense Of Smell?

If a cadaver dog is trained very well, the dog would rarely be wrong. Handlers have noted that cadaver dogs have a 95% accuracy when finding human bodies.

So, if a cadaver dog is barking and throwing tantrums,showing signs to go in a particular direction, there is a good chance they will find a human body or human remain.

What’s more, a cadaver dog can find remains as far as 15 feet underground. That is deeper than a standard grave.

Cadaver dogs can find bodies after a long time of the death of a body.

How Long Does It Actually Take For A Body To Be Dead For A Cadaver Dog To Smell It?

Research  suggest that a cadaver dog can find a body that has been dead for as little as 24 hours. This is can be due to the fact that cadaver dogs are trained to detect for the smells of a body rotting.

The human rotting process to starts between 1 and 3 days.

24 to 72 hours after death of a body the internal organs starts decomposing. Then 3 days to 5 days immediately after the death of the body it starts to bloat and blood containing foam comes from the mouth and nose. After 8 to 10 days after the death of the body it turns from green to red as the blood decomposes and the organs in the abdomen gathers gas.

What Does A Cadaver Dog Sniff Out?

Cadaver dogs are trained to smell human bodies. This may include rotting bodies or body parts such as blood, bone, and tissue.

Cadaver dogs can find human bodies at different rotting stages. This breed of dog can even find where human bodies have been previously stashed. This is usually done by tracking the scent of residue from human body. With different rates of success cadaver dogs can be trained to do the following:

  • Find buried bodies at different stages of decomposition.
  • Buried human bodies at different  depths.
  • Find and locate human and animal bodies.
  • Locate skeletal bones buried or unburied.

A very good cadaver dog can find the remains of  a body that has been dead for just a few hours.

The scent of the dog is powerful enough to tell the differences between a living body and a recently dead person. Therefore the dog can sniff out the body and find it’s whereabouts very easily.

How Long After Death Can Cadaver Dogs Find Human Remains Or Bodies?

New York State Police were investigating on a case back in 2014 where they were looking for the body of a victim that was kidnapped in 1994. Cadaver dogs signaled to their handlers when they had gotten to an area behind a cabin.

A bulldozer was brought in to dig  the surface and there was a body was found buried 15 feet under the ground.

Can Cadaver Dogs Sniff Through Through Water?

Since the 1970’s, cadaver dogs have been used enforcement agencies to help to smell and find bodies. A cadaver dog’s amazing ability to smell, also reaches through water. In fact, studies have shown that cadaver dogs have 95% accuracy when detecting objects and bodies – many times in underwater events.

Based on dogs’ higher based olfactory ability to find and process odours, this way has been used by forensic investigators to identify the odour of a suspect at a crime scene. The excellent dependability and reproducibility of the way largely depends on strenuous dog training.

A cadaver dog can always detect bodies 15 feet underground, with the dogs being able to smell remains that are 30 meters through water.

Can Cadaver Dogs Sniff Out Burnt Bodies?

Human bodies (burnt bodies) have a particular scent that cadaver dogs are trained to find and locate. Cadaver dogs can  locate the burnt remains in a building that was destroyed by wildfires easily.

This is because a dog’s smell sense is  100,000 times much more powerful than a human’s sense of smell. Dogs have millions of smell receptors that help them locate different smells in all environments.

Dogs can sniff out faint odors that humans can not detect. Research tells us that dogs can notice one drop of liquid such as blood or chemicals in 20 Olympic-sized swimming pools. So it is not a surprise that a cadaver dog can smell burnt remains in forests or houses burnt by wildfire.

According to the National Geographic, cadaver dogs can also smell for cremated ashes. This is actually based on an article they published in the year 2018 which explained how the sniffer dogs were able to find human remains even after the wildfires in California.

When wildfires sweep into your neighborhood, there is no way to collect valuables. Home owners run without their essentials. Among the valuable things that must be left include cremated bodies, or the remains, often kept in a receptacle kept on top of a shelf or mantle. But as of now, exceptionally experienced detection dogs are being sent to recover these human ashes from the fiery ruins of destroyed homes.

How Are Cadaver Dogs Used In The Archaeological Industry?

In archeology informative news, a canine was used to find 3000-year-old graves in Croatia. An archeologist in past times did find other grave sites along Croatia’s Adriatic coast but wanted to find even more. But there was too much terrain to cover to start digging randomly.

The archeologist acquired the services a cadaver handler to see if canines could find the burial grounds. They tested dogs by letting them to sniff the area where they had already dug up three graves previously that were no longer exposed.

The two dogs working on the project were able to find the three graves fast. They then let the dogs to smell areas where they thought other graves were located. The dogs found six new graves sites that the archeologists could not locate before.

These new grave sites only had a small toe and finger bones that were found inside stone chests. This simply shows how strong a cadaver dog’s sense of smell is. The two dogs could only find a few or little skeletal remains that were buried under the ground in stone chests. And these remains of bodies were thousands of years old.

This is an wonderful example of just how long after death of a body, cadaver dogs can find bodies.

Can A Cadaver Dog Notice The Major Difference Between Humans And Animals?

Cadaver dogs are trained to work on crucial police cases. The dogs are taught to find bodies quickly and so they will not be distracted by other types of remains such as that of animals. That’s why the cadaver dog is only trained to find human remains.

Much further, a cadaver dog can determine the difference between human remains and rotting animal corpse in the area.

There are most definitely alot of animal remains under the ground especially when the police are scouting and searching  the forests. The dog will only sniff out the bodies of a humans in order not to waste time.

How are cadaver dogs trained and guided?

Cadaver dogs go through severe training for air smelling and tracking. A tracking dog must follow the smell that has fallen on the ground. A cadaver dog can locate the scent of a body that has fallen on the ground or one that is been pulled.

Air scenting is when a dog can find a body’s scent carried by the wind and then follow the smell to locate the remains. When training a cadaver dog,some chemicals are used to simulate the smell of a rotting human flesh. These chemicals are mostly used by only specialized training facilities.

What breeds of dogs are used for cadaver dog training?

German Shepherds are the most typical dog breeds for most type of police work. These dogs are used to sniff out drugs, cadavers and they are used in search and rescue missions.

This is because German Shepherds are very fast, smart and fearless. These canines can work long hours of the day without getting exhausted.

A Beagle is another popular canine dog because it has a small stature. This means they are able to pass through places that humans can not. Since they are light weight dogs they also easier to carry.

The Beagle is a swift and excellent trailing dog. That’s why they are used to sniff out body remains and illegal substances and their long ears help them execute this.

Lastly, Border Collies are also a very popular dog breed to work with police because they are really energetic and easy to train. These dogs are excellent for finding human bodies. This means that the dogs can find human remains that have been burnt and get their location in burnt buildings or environments.


According to the experts cadaver dogs are almost never wrong. However, they are not always 100% right because they can make mistakes on some occasions. But if the dog gets the adequate training and works from time to time they will be able to get to their average of 95% accuracy rating.

It will all depend on the breed that is used, how long in a day the canine is trained for and how it is trained.

However, it goes without saying that if there are human body, no matter how soon or how long after death it has been, there is a good chance the cadaver dog will detect.

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