This page will cover the training and use of Cadaver Dogs. I have been involved in training and working these types of dogs since 1987 and am now on my 4th Cadaver dog. I have had 3 Labradors and am now training my first Border Collie named "Cody".This is a remarkable breed as far as intelligence and desire to please and work.We will also eventually cover some unique assignments we had to recover graves at a mansion that is "haunted",and find the unmarked grave of the woman haunting the house.
I have been very fortunate to have had Bill Tolhurst as my teacher and more important my friend.We have trained alot of hours together, been on numerous searches together,and later you will learn about the oldest bodies recovered by a cadaver dog that Bill and his dog "Candy" found in Canada.
I guess the first thing is :What is a Cadaver dog? Well the term "cadaver dog" came about after search and rescue dogs started to be trained to look for expired lost persons and suicides. It was first thought that the Cadaver dogs couldn't locate a Body untill the body was in Decomposition after a few days.I don't believe that now and will get into this later on when we discuss the training methods.We also will discuss a few cases where dogs made unbelieveable finds.
Here is a little on our training methods,it may not be the way you train or you may not agree but it is what has worked for us in the past. Back in the 80's we use to start a dog by using the "real thing". By that I mean we use to have a piece of tissue in a bottle with a small piece of bone .We use to either add Human hair,teeth etc that ever a was available to us. Getting this Training Aid was very difficult but to train a "Cadaver Dog" we needed it.We use to get the tissue scraping it off the road of fatal accidents,or at the scenes of suicides etc.When ever we got it we had to save it so we could use it over and over again.To do that we placed it in a plastic bottle with 2 caps for it.One cap was so we could tighten it so we could live with it and the other cap was drilled with small holes in the top to let the scent escape and the dogs could work it.If we burried this to simulate a grave we covered the top so dirt wouldn't get in the bottle,This bottle would be placed out for the dogs to find.Later on a Chemical Company named "Sigma Chemical"came out with a safe product called "PSUEDO CORPSE" 1 AND 2. We started using this product as it was safe to handler and dogs,easy and pleasant to handle,and store and transport.only fault was it was water soluble and it would break down under some weather conditions. Now we are using sterile guaze pads that coroners or funeral directors wipe down a body with. Also on Bodies with advanced decomposition a sheet placed in the body bag ,and left for a hour or two will absorb the odor of the body and can be then cut in swatches, placed in Plastic bags and placed in the freezer for later use.
When I started my first dog I had taken this bottle and placed it in a plastic zip-lock bag and placed a couple tennis balls in it, and sealed it up for a couple days. I then took the balls out and with the dog at my side threw the ball for him but holding him so he would hear the command NA-POO, an Indian word for "the dead", the complete command was KA-HA-NA-POO (where is the dead).We played like this for about 10-15 minutes and I placed the ball back in the bag for another time.The next time we did this I used the other new ball and on each throw I made sure the dog was listening to the commands. On the 3rd day I took the Bottle of training aid and placed it in high grass where the dog couldn't see it. I brought out the dog and made sure he saw a tennis ball in my hand and I pretended to throw the ball and gave the command Ka-HA-NA-POO, and when the dog brought me back the bottle I gave him his tennis ball as a reward.We later worked the dog to do a "Recall" by locating the scent and returning to the handler and walking him into the "body".
Here is a good page sent to me by "Da~Man" of Cadaver Dogs,Billy Smith of Texas.This is Tracking & Cadaver Recovery,Inc. They are an Associate of L.E.T.S..
"Da~Man"is with L.E.T.S. International. This is a very good page. L.E.T.S. will go anywhere........anytime to assist an agency. However THEY WILL NOT RESPOND TO PRIVATE REQUESTS.So if you need help in any Cadaver Searches Contact L.E.T.S.. And you can contact them at :
Here is a couple webpages that are very well done on Cadaver Dogs Forensic Evidence Canines: Status,Training, and Utilization This page contains some information for you.However I would never worry if my dog is alerting to Cadaver scent or Live scent.With him being an Article Search dog and a Tracking dog as long as he is working a scent I will be the judge of his work. But it is a good page,and you can be the judge,I am just passing it on to you.
The other page is the Cadaver Scent Project. I want to Thank the
Institute for Canine Forensics at www.Prusic.com/K9Forensics for the use of these pages.
These are all Dogs that received the "Big T Multipurpose Award over the years and all received this award for some type of cadaver work. As the award winner for 1998 this is the greatest honor that a dog handler could have and I am so proud of this award and to be on the same placque as these these other great dogs and handlers.It was the 2 dogs, "Junior" & "Candy" that impressed me so much and they along with Bill Tolhurst, and Billy Smith and a former FBI agent and dog Handler by the name of Bob Swabe inspired me to get into this business. Sometimes I am not sure wether to thank them or shoot them.But these 3 men inspired me so much and not to mention their dogs.
Back in 1987 a human skull was found in Fort Erie ,Ontario and was believed to be very old,and was sent to Toronto to be examined by experts.This skull was found in a construction site and all work had been halted untill a closer examination of the area could take place.The experts determined that this site was the Battle and Burial grounds from the War of 1812 and was known as Snake Hill
One of the Experts of the site was Dr.Robert F. Williamson and Bill Tolhurst not only made contact with him but the Dr. invited him to the site.So on December 14,1987 Bill Tolhurst along with New York State Trooper Don Martinick and Jim Carr and Bill's dog "Candy" they went across the border to Fort Erie .
After a discussion about the site Bill worked "Candy" in several areas and "Candy" had numerous alerts and Dr. Williamson informed Bill that remains had been removed at the locations the dog was alerting to.
Dr. Williamson informed Bill that there was an area of the site that they had not yet worked,as they were waiting for funding before they could continue.Bill was asked if he would work "Candy" in this area.They went to the area and it wasn't long and "Candy" gave an alert. She was praised and rewarded and everyone left the site.Sometime later after the funding was received Bill received a call that three more bodies were found where "Candy" had alerted.These bodies of one hundred seventy five years could be the oldest recovery of remains by a dog. This is all available in a book:"Death At Snake Hill,Secretsfrom the War of 1812"Ontario Heritage Foundation,Local History Series Number3 from Dundurn Press.
This is "Candy" and her alert to the graves of the soldiers from the War of 1812
A few good finds by "Margie" a Chocolate Lab that is an Accelerant/Cadaver detection dog.The first one was the case in Orleans County(NY) I was called to in the end of December 1997. I received a call from the investigators of the Orleans County Sheriff Dept.Investigator Meryl Fredericks who is now their Sheriff to bring a Cadaver dog to a cemetary outside of Medina, NY.I was informed that patrol spotted a trash bag at the back of a cemetary and it contained valuable items.After traceing some of these items it was learned they belonged to a Buffalo, NY man who had been missing since November of 1997.On my arrival I was asked to check the area behind the cemetary and the area surrounding the cemetary with negative results.The day of the search there was about 4-6 inches of snow on the ground and I was asked if I would check it again in the spring which I agreed to do.In May of '98 I returned to the cemetary and I checked the same area that I had checked the previous December. Again with no areas of the least bit of interest from "Margie". Time went by and in the beginning of 1999 a head was found on the Mix Road in Orleans County. This was 10-15 miles from the area I had searched in 1997 & 1998. After Identification of the head was made and it was the head of the missing man from Buffalo that I had looked for earlier.So in June of 1999 I received a call from UnderSheriff Rick Smith to come to Orleans County to help look for the rest of the body with "Margie". Onthe 23rd of June along with Special Deputy Bill Tolhurst, I met with the undersheriff and his investigators and members of the Monroe County Medical Examiners Office.We then proceeded to the Mix Road location and we split up. Bill Tolhurst with his cadaver dog "Tipper" and Investigator Billy Larkin went to check and area by a farm pond. Myself with Investigator Rick Harmer went across the road and as Rick stood in the road "Margie"crossed a ditch and entered the woods.We worked north for about100 feet and "Margie"'s head came up and she casted into the wind and started back for the road. She came to an area of rocks and as she worked one rock in particular I noticed a change in body language and she then gave me a solid alert.Jumping at the area up and down and barking.I was informed by Investigator Harmer and Undersheriff Smith that this was the exact spot the head had been found almost 6 months earlier.We searched the area and didn't find the rest of the body at that location.Later a suspect admitted to the murder and told of decappatating him and burning his body with 10-15 gallons of Gasoline. I was very impressed "Margie" would work this area of woods and go to the EXACT spot the head was found and alert to this area.
Another good find of "Margie" was a body of a 6 year old girl who was lost in a house fire in the City of Niagara Falls,NY on 3/14/98.Iwas working a full day of fire investigation training on a house the county had to burn and fires were set so the Cause & Origin guys could look at each room and try to figure out the cause of each fire. When I got home from this training I went home and as I was having supper a call came in from the Niagara County Sheriff's Deptartment that the Niagara Falls(NY) Fire Department and Bill Manth the County Fire Coordinator in charge of Investigations were requesting a Cadaver Dog to a fire scene.I responded with "Margie" and we arrived at the scene just as the firefighters were changing shifts. I talked to Fire Chief Paul Shanks and we entered the fire scene. He said we have this body of this young girl to find. I looked at the house and there was nothing in there,Just a hole in the ground and I was looking down in the cellar.They had taken a Back hoe and dug the whole house out and I was looking at a pile about70 feet in Diameter and about 8-10 feet high.I Informed Chief Shanks I was doubtfull I could help him as I looked at the pile and I saw the heating oil tank, 2 lawnmowers,several paint cans, and all kinds of items that would cause "Margie" to alert as she was also an accelerant detection dog.I told the Chief I would work her around the pile and hope she would ignore the accelerants but was prepared that she could very easily hit and area and she would still be doing her job.I gave her the command for cadaver work,NA-POO(dead) and KA-HA-NA-POO(find the dead) and she started working the pile very slowly. As I saw her ignoring an area where I could smell heating oil myself I thought we had a chance as she was definatlly working the area.As she gets to the southwest area of the pile I could read an attitude change in her.And within about 5 minutes I had and area and she gave an alert that you couldn't mistake. This was at about 5:45PM and at 8:00PM after removing every thing by hand we were able to recover the little girls body.I was so proud of "Margie" because she totally ignored the accelerants and she did what was needed to do.Margie has since been retired and I am using her now to help "Show The Ropes" to "Cody" the Border Collie Pup we are training now for Cadaver work.
This is "Margie". "Margie passed away on 8-1-01 and she is missed very much. Not only as a work dog but as my friend and partner.
This is "Asti" a 3year old female owned by Beverley Daniels and pictured with "Da~Man"Billy Smith from Texas.
We were asked to help locate the grave from the early 1800's of Malinda VanHorn.It is believed that Malinda was haunting the VanHorn Mansion in Newfane,NY for years.All of her Family's graves were moved to a local cemetary in the 1950's but Malindas grave was never found. When the Newfane Historical Society took over the propert her tombstone was discovered in the Carriage House. So with my wife Dorothy and her Dowsing abilities,and Bill Tolhurst with both his dowsing rods and Cadaver Dog "Candy,and my two Cadaver Dogs "Paul"&"Margie", and Special Deputy Bob Hoelzl, and a couple years of work we were able to put Malinda to rest.