I had the pleasure of attending "What the Dog Knows" at Bouchercon 2015 with Cat Warren, Kate Flora, and representatives from the Durham Sheriff's Office. Cat Warren and Kate Flora are a wealth of information. I love dogs, and it was fun to watch Dreyfus the dog in action.
Here's what I learned...
1. Dogs with energy and drive make the best search dog candidates. Dreyfus is a black Lab.
2. Cadaver dogs can tell the difference between human and animal bones.
3. Many government and police agencies have dogs with training in several areas (search/rescue, cadaver, water rescue, etc.). Dreyfus, from Durham, is trained in cadaver searches and water rescues.
4. The toy/game and the collar/harness clue the dog into the type of work that needs to be done. Dreyfus has a different collar for water rescue than he does for cadaver searches.
5. The scent has to be available for the dog to find it. It often takes two weeks for the scent to rise up from a buried body.
6. These types of searches always require a team. It's usually the handler, dog, and other trained staff.
7. Missing person and searches for human remains are complicated. Searchers can go for days without a lead.
8. Dogs are often used in bedbug searches.
9. Watch the teamwork between the handler and the dog. If you're going to have a search dog in your writing, you need to observe a team in action.