Cadaver K9 Search and Rescue Training

Cadaver German Shephard

Training a cadaver k9 can be a very challenging and exciting discipline to accomplish. Finding source material to train your HRD or cadaver dog can be difficult to acquire. Be sure to check local and state laws before obtaining any source material.

Some easier sources can be first aide materials form and injury including bandages. Check your local funeral homes and doctors offices for these materials, but keep in mind to always wear proper protection when handling these because of diseases. If you have blood drawn you can use your own blood as source material. Hair and teeth may be used also, although these are not the best sources since they do not decompose.

Remember to store your source material in refrigerator or freezer so it lasts longer. You can mix material, or keep it separate, this is individual preference.

Do NOT use animal remains to train and HRD dog, unless this is what you want the dog to alert on. Animal remains are used in proofing the dog. You can mix these remains in with the training to teach your dog to ignore the animal remains and alert on human.

Cadaver K9

Photo Courtesy FEMA. Photographer Mike Moore.

Most handlers introduce the dog to the scent of one source odor at a time, gradually adding other types, then there are some who encourage mixing materials. Choose whichever method works best for you and your dog. Just remember to add additional sources throughout training.

If you are training your dog in other disciplines like air-scent, trailing, or tracking, be sure that you teach him to alert differently than he would for the others. You may or may not be teaching him to do refunds, but if you are planning on working a large wilderness area and such, you may not be able to see him, so having him do a refined would be best.

Your HRD search command should be different as well. If you tell him to go find on a live search, then you might say search for your cadaver work. Expect your K9 to work slower and closer to you than he would on a live search as well.

To start your HRD training, lay out your samples in a random pattern, alternating it during each training session so your dog doesn't memorize where the source is hidden. You can hide them in coffee cans, wooden boxes or concrete blocks.

Timing is critical in the training. As soon as your dog lingers for 2 or 3 seconds at the source material, reward him. If your dog seems disinterested or has a lack of motivation toward working HRD, don't force it on them. Some dogs do not enjoy cadaver work. Just find another discipling he does enjoy doing.

Cadaver Dog

Photo Courtesy FEMA. Photographer Mike Moore.

Some dogs develop what is referred to as HRD depression. They know what they are looking for is not a live person, and some can become depressed with a sensory overload of HRD. Give him a break, and some play time for a while.

Dogs usually recover nicely once they take a little time from the training. Lots of love and attention can help them overcome their depression too. Sometimes, HRD depression will only happen once and your dog will never have an affect from it again. Remember that each dog is different, and you should try to recognize the symptoms if they occur.

Once your dog learns to identify the source, you can move to larger areas. Sometimes the source isn't in the first quarter mile of the search, so they need to be able to work longer problems. Remember as a handler to include Scent theory training when working a Cadaver search. When you're training, know where the source is located so you can accurately reward him for a find. You don't want to reward for false alerts!

Buried Searches
If your dog has hit on a particular area, you may want to use a ten foot grid pattern to cover the area in a more methodical manner. He may need time to find where the strongest source of odor is located.

Did You Know…

  • One of the oldest Cadaver finds was 175 years old?

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