For this month’s Learn With Me, we ask Connie Swaim to talk to us about search and rescue teams, using live search dogs and human remains or cadaver dogs to locate missing persons.
Note, there was a problem with our audio transcription, and it looks like the solution is for me to finish it manually, and that is not going to happen in the same week that I am trying to handle a novel launch, an audiobook launch, and Christmas. /sweat drop/ But I didn’t want to delay the post any longer, so please note that the transcription is only about two-thirds of the video.
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Search & Human Remains Dogs! Getting them right, with handler Connie Swaim (a Learn With Me episode) – powered by Happy Scribe
Oh, hey, we have a new follower.Thank you so much.
That was like I went live and poof! message.Awesome.
Thank you.That is.
Oh, I don’t know, PJzoofit?
Is that how you say that? I’m sorry.
I’m really bad at identifying usernames’
preferredpronunciation, so, OK.
Hey, everybody, welcome,this is To Write And Have Written,
and I am Laura VanArendonk Baughand that is three,
three weeks in a row that I haveremembered to introduce this thing.
So I’m going to make it.
We’re going to, we’re gonna go.Yeah, it’s awesome.
So really fun chat tonight.
I do know we have some new people,so thank you. If you guys
are just clicking over to to watch.
That’s fantastic, if youwant to chat with us live.
Please make a Twitch account.
To do that you can use yourAmazon account, I think,
to do that.
But then you can put questionsand comments into the chat.
There is a tiny bit of a delay,so just be patient.
May take us a few seconds to get back
to you, for a few secondsbefore we even see things.
So I have a really fun episode this week.
I’m going to try to make most of them fun.
But this week I’m really excited.
I’ve been asking
and trying to work on this onefor a few months to get this organized.
We have Connie Swaim here tonightis with the Hoosier State Search
and Rescue Team, and she is a handlerfor search and cadaver dogs,
Skywalker and Falcon,which will tell you how cool she is.
So let me bring Connie in with the magicalpower of, oh, look, she’s on screen.
That’s great.And I unmuted her because I’m such a pro.
I’m going to get this right some day,some other.
Otherwise you have to read my lips, right.
Well, I had poor,poor Carla Hoch on a few weeks ago,
and I somehow muted her like everythingwas fine, pre-going live.
Somehow I killed her sound in real life.
So she’s like writing thingswith a marker and holding them up and.
Yeah, yeah, it’s great.So anyway,
so feel free to throwquestions in the chat as we go
kind viewers, but we’re justgoing to have a great time.
I’ve got some things
to talk about with Connie and I’m justexcited that we’re going to get to have
this conversation because this is the kindof wonderful, horrible topic that I love.
So, um, so
let me just say, Connie,
first, why why I really, really wantedto get someone in to talk about this.
This is one of the things that is so
different in reality from the wayfiction often represents it.
And I know that we talked just a little
tiny bit about things wehave seen go terribly wrong.
I guess let’s just talka little bit to start with
wayswe have seen this misrepresented and
and how why then we should talk about howto do it correctly. So.
Oh, hey, Bridger. Bridger in the chat says shehas been looking forward to this all week.
And Bridger if I recall correctly,
has a dog who is related to Connie’s dogbecause it’s a small world, after all.
It is a small world.
you throw in the chat,that exact relation again,
because I don’t remember it and Ijust like to pass that along.
It’s Falcon’s niece.
I’m sorry? It’s Falcon’s niece.OK.
All right, Connie cannot see the chat,
so I have to be the go between,so guys in the chat, I’m sorry.
I am trying to havea conversation and keep up.
And, just noneof it is Connie’s fault.
Let me just say that up front.
one of the things, I was watching a show
a few years ago, I will bekind and not name it because,
this show had a lot of potential.
But on this point,the writers really got lazy.
And so these two guys are being pursued.
They’re running for their lifefrom the bad guys who have search dogs
and they’re hiding in likea culvert or something.
And one of them
discovers that the other one is carrying acheese sandwich that his girlfriend made.
And he’s like, “oh, you fool.
Now the dogs are going to find us becauseyou’re carrying this cheese sandwich.”
So he takes the cheese sandwich away
from the guy and he throwsit like six feet over.
And he’s like, now,
now we can get away because wedon’t have a cheese sandwich on us.
And I’m sure that, like,there was supposed to be a lot of pathos
about throwing away the cheese sandwichthat his girlfriend made and all of this,
but I was hurting too hard laughingto get any of that pathos.
Can you talk a little bit about
the effect of cheesesandwiches on search behavior?
Yes.And I should say that while my dogs
personally only find human,the odor of human remains,
I do work them on the search teamwhere dogs do find live people.
And a lot of the informationis the same for
drug dogs, bomb dogs, dogs that findcancer, anything that is scent related.
So but yeah, soa live, a dog that’s finding a live person
might go, oh, cheese sandwich,extra bonus for me.
But most dogs, their paycheck for findinga person is so amazing that the cheese
sandwich is probably goingto not be that exciting.
So they’re going to find the cheese
sandwich or the person and then theymay go eat the cheese sandwich.
So for my my dog,
he was just on the search notthat long ago and he was lovely.
We found, we were looking for a bodyand there was this disgusting, I mean,
very ripe deceased deerby the side of the road.
I’m like, he looked at it and he’s like,
“oh, I would really loveto go see that deer.”
But he worked.He knew that that was not his job.
He kept working.
So at the end of the search,we didn’t find anything.
And so I said, oh, all done.
Which is to search is, for you to just know,OK, we’re done now.
And I threw his toy and instead of getting
his toy, he ran straight to the dead deer,jumped on it and started rolling in it.
And I’m like, OK, but he leftthe deer until he was done searching.
Because he wasn’t searching actually
for a dead deer or a cheese sandwich,right? That is not.
so and you touched on this briefly.
I was going to do this later.
But actually, let’s do this now, because I
feel like this might be one of those–a lot of times for the Learn With Me,
you know, we’re talking about thingsthat I am not that familiar with.
And I here I know just enough to be
dangerous because I don’t workprofessionally with scent, searching.
but I do come in with probably a little
bit more grasp on the vocabularythan the average person.
So go ahead and, you know,
break down a little bit between,like live search versus cadaver dogs.
And I love that you saidthat the principles are for the same
for all the applicationsthat we use dogs for scent in.
And we can talk about thatapplications a little bit later.
so you don’t, do youhave a dog that does both?
Why do you do one way orthe other with a dog?
Just break that down a little bit for us.
So for a search team,
most search teams are going to havetwo to three different kinds of dogs.
That also, it kind of dependson the search team.
But the more common ones you’re goingto see are dogs that find human remains or
dogs that find the odorof a decomposing body.
And you’re going to find dogsthat find a live person.
The dogs that find a live person are
generally going to break downinto two different categories.
Most people, when they think of the dog
finding a live person,think of the bloodhound.
They you know, they show the bloodhound
a T-shirt and they say, “old Roy,go find the person” and things like that.
So that’s a specific dog,meaning that that dog is going to find
something connectedto that specific scent.
There’s also what are called live areadogs and live area dogs are dogs that
will find any person in a given area.
It might not be the person we’re lookingfor, but it is going to be a live person.
And so that’s really good.
If, let’s say that a 10 year old goesmissing in a park,
we may not have the scent article, wherehe was last seen may be far from his car.
So we can tell a lot of areas,search dog, just go find a live person.
And we’re obviously going to know whetherwe found the missing 10 year old.
And so we can then tell the dog, OK,this is not our missing 10 year old.
So we’re going to keep going.
But those kind of dogs will find anyspecific or any person that is alive
in a given area.
Good for like a disaster searchsituation, because, you know, you don’t want to say,
“I’m sorry, we can onlyfind people in collapsed buildings
if you bring us a scent article
that belonged to them.” No, it’s buried with them.
So yeah.OK, yes.
So for dogs that do disaster,
especially like the FEMAdogs and things like that.
Those dogs are going to be lookingfor either a dead person or a live person
depending on what they’vebeen trained for.
You also can find dogsthat are called article dogs.
So let’s say that someone is runningor it could even be a missing child.
And you want the dog to tell you if you
find a sneaker or if you finda wallet or if you found something.
So these dogs are really amazing becausethey can go down a track or like, say,
along a roadway and they’ll tell youwhat the most recent human scent is.
So there could be a lot of trash
on the roadway, but that dog is goingto say, oh, but this one is more fresh
than that one, which is the otherreason dogs’ noses are amazing.
So they can make distinctions between, likethere are dogs
that will at airports find peoplecarrying a certain quantity of money.
So, you know, they’re not going to stopeveryone that has a ten dollar bill.
But they may stop alert on you if you have
fifty thousand dollarsin one dollar bills on you.
But the things that a canine nose can doare crazy, phenomenal, like, yeah, that’s.
so those would be a dogswho would, you know, go down and be like,
hey, this cheese sandwich was droppedby the person we’re looking for.
So, yeah, it actually would
be a disadvantage to throwthat cheese sandwich away.
So I guess another myth that I see a lotin fiction and I think I know where this
comes from, but it’s definitely not truetoday, are the search dogs that attack
the people when they findthem, because this is…
So would you like to speak to that, please?
So it really be sad if I’m looking
for a 10 year old and the dog decidedto drag him after he found them.
So a lot of people, when they think dogs,they have it in their mind,
a police dog like what are calledlike dogs or takedown dogs.
And those are dogs that are specifically
trained to the handlersays that’s a bad guy.
Go stop that bad guy no matter what.
But we want dogs that are friendly,oddly enough, to people so that they want
to find the person and that they are superexcited to find the person and that they
hopefully won’t terrify the persononce the person is found.
So the live find dogs I’ve worked with, likethey are so excited to find a person.
I mean, there is nothing better in yourlife than to be hiding behind a tree
and have a giant bloodhound comeand slobber you with kisses.
When he finds that he has finally gotto his person and he’s like,
I found you and now I’m goingto slobber all over you.
So those, you know.
So, yes, we don’t want dogs that are
finding live people,nor do we want dogs that are finding dead
people to drag the dead person away,especially if it is like a crime scene.
Obviously, the police are notgoing to be very excited.
I’m like, oh, yeah,
my dog found your body, but it’sabout ten feet from where it was.
So we also don’t want dogs that.I think that finding the dead person also
means we will play withthe dead person, right?
That’s not, that’s not how that works.Yes.
And I think that comes out of, you
know, there were times and placesaround the world where
dogs were used to search for people, for,you know, you’ve got dogs hunting escaped
slaves, you’ve got dogs hunting prisonersand you and then all of that got taken.
Right.Bad stuff that got taken and then
fictionalized into the bloodhoundsleaping at people’s throats.
And then even though that’s not a common
image today, that culturalconsciousness is still there.
But that’s not how, I mean,
I’ve hidden for searchdogs to find for training.
And I think I’ve been viciously nose poked
and perhaps licked on my chin, like, it’s not a high risk activity.
So it is definitely not high risk.
And, you know, and we actuallytrain our dogs,
especially the live find dogs,because sometimes people we may find be
looking for a person who has dementiaor a person who has some kind of
spectrum issue with, you know, autism,anything that might make them more afraid
or even a little kidwho’s terrified of dogs.
We actually also train our dogs what to do
if they find a person who the dog getsthere and the person is not excited.
So we might train the dogs to not give up.
If the person suddenly gets up and runs
away for them or the personstarts screaming.
I do a lot of scenario training with ourteam, which means that I try to think
of really weird,may or may not be realistic kind of things
where we’re going to try to make it seewhat the dogs will do if we do X or Y.
Well, yeah, you want to just,you know, prep them for all kinds.
I mean, I had a handler tell me once that,
you know, not everybody wants to be found,so they have to prep dogs for if somebody
is trying to scare the dog awayfrom them and, you know, just.
Absolutely, there’s a lotof things to to to think about.
one of the good things abouthaving a human remains only dog.
I worry about my dog going, oh,
the person got up and walked awaywhile I was coming back to find you.
I am a speculative fiction writer.
So, you know, I think we were
discussing not too long ago,we were discussing, you know,
would cadaver dogs be the best,you know, in the zombie apocalypse?
You know, they’rethe best warning systems.
The cadaver dogs are like, hey,you know, zombies coming that way.
So so this is something that also humanremains handlers will often debate is
like, what’s the dog going to do? Likethe dog is going to be confused, going,
hey, they smell dead,but they’re moving.
So it would just be training.
We’d have to live long enough throughthe zombie apocalypse to train the dogs.
So, yeah, so we’ll just.
That’s your that’s your next HR team exercise.
Yes, surviving the zombie apocalypse.
So let’s talk a little bitabout how scent works,
because, again, this is one of the things
there’s so much mystique about it that itjust I think people think about it as like
there’s a dotted line where peoplewalked and that’s where scent happens.
But that’s not exactly how that works.
So can you explain, like, in my mind,
scent is a fluid, but I don’tknow if that translates well.
So how would you explain scent?
So the easiest way for people to lookat it is get a smoke bomb and let
the smoke bomb go and watch wherethe smoke goes, throw it like watch what
happens if it’s on the wateror near the water.
Watch what happens if it’s in the trees.
Watch what the wind does with it.
So you’re going to notice that itdoesn’t just go on a line.
If the wind is blowing,
the scent is going to keep blowingthe direction of the wind.
If the scent is on the water,it may go with the current.
It may also go against the wind.
you have to know all of those kindof things of how that is working.
But when you see a dog work,
generally what the dog is going to dois try to find it’s called a cone.
So you just I think of it more as a Vwhere the dog starts out with the V very
wide at the end and the dog starts goingback and forth across the V going, OK,
I ran out of scent over here,but to go back, I ran out over here.
So I’m going to keep tracking backand forth until I get to the place where
the scent is the strongest or where Ihave odor in the strongest concentration.
And so dogs have a pretty amazing senseof smell that we obviously do not have.
I always think of their dog,a nose as the dog superpower.
So different studies have said anywherebetween 10000 and 100000 times,
a dog is ten thousand to one hundred thousandtimes greater at smelling than we are.
I mean, obviously, we can’t,like, just say to the dog,
hey, why do you smell, buddy?
So a couple of people have tried to put itinto perspective, like Alexander Horowitz
said, think about if you could smella teaspoon of sugar in your cup of coffee.
If you put that teaspoon of sugar into an
Olympic swimming pool of water,the dog could find a teaspoon of sugar.
Another analogy I saw said that if weswitched it to vision,
which is easier for people to visualize,obviously, then if we were only talking
about 10000 and not 100000 times greater,it would be like you being able to see
a third of a mile and the dog being ableto see like three thousand miles away.
So their sense of smell is amazing.
They can smell very minute things.
So you’re not going to smella lot of what the dog smells.
We might find a dead person, a dead animal
once it’s decayed for a couple of days,especially if it’s really sunny.
We’re going to smellthe smell of petrification.
But a dog
decomposition starts within minutes after
death and blowflies will start comingin within, I think an hour after.
So dogs can start to smell whensomeone has died really quickly and we’re
not going to come in andsmell anything at all.
Same with drugs.
Same with anything else.
So dogs also are really good
at distinguishing what isonce and what’s another.
So if you decide that you are going
to hide in coffee grounds because you’regoing to think, oh, the dog can’t find me
because I’m hiding in a giant pitof coffee grounds, the dog is still going
to be able to go, oh,those are coffee grounds.
And yeah, they smell.
But I also smell the personthat I’m looking for.
So I’ve seen dog handlers,
especially drug dog handlers,use things like coffee, gasoline,
even having a dog in heat, working,having the person who has got the drugs
have to have a dog in heat with thembecause a lot of the drug dogs,
a lot of search dogs,a lot of working dogs are not altered.
So and they found that the dogs will still
keep working no matter whatthe person tries to do.
We also know that dogs have been reliable
on finding bodies up toI know, at least 15 feet.
I’ve heard far more than that, too,but at least one hundred feet in water.
So they are pretty good at finding what
they are looking for, no matterwhat is going on around them.
So the way I personally visualize this is,I’m listening to you and I think this is
this is fitting, this matches up, isyou know, we tend to think of the smell
like the coffee grounds are so strongthat it overpowers all the other scents.
But I try to imagine itas a dog smelling the way we see.
So you can have, you know,a hundred yellow tennis balls.
But I can pick out the onered one that you put in.
And so I think that’s that’s how Ivisualize how dogs scent distinguishing
works, because, you know,they would be like, yeah,
that’s a lot of yellow tennis balls,but there’s a red one.
Right.So in the chat,
jumping back to when we weretalking about, you know, the dogs
not attacking the people they’re finding,
Bridger is saying that her mom was tryingto tell her about meeting a human remains
dog and referred to him asa “cadaver retriever,” which is
definitely not what youwant in a human remains dog.
And and I’ve actually seen that in shows,although usually it’s not a cadaver dog.
It’s usually like on somethinglike a crime show.
And they start at the beginning
and someone’s pet goes out and bringsback a human hand or something like that.
But yeah, we don’t generally want ourhuman remains dogs to to disturb.
Where are the where the person’s final?
There’s a legal process and a dogcarrying off evidence is not.
Yeah, probably not good.Yeah.
So let’s talk about
you.You touched on this with dogs being able
to pick up, you know,human remains deep, deep in the water.
And it’s phenomenal because this is one ofthe huge myths, right? Cross the stream,
and then the dog won’t be able to find me.
And yeah, criminals.
You keep thinking that.
OK, so, you know, can you talk a littlebit about how water affects this?
Because that is the that’s whatI see in fiction all the time.
That’s right.So wrong.
So for one thing, we also have to go back
to the fact that the dogis not working alone.
Dogs have a handler for a reason.
And I don’t think of my dogas just the dog going out.
We’re always considered a team.
So search dogs and police dogs and drugdogs, they are certified as a team,
not as just the dog or just the persongenerally, because it’s really important.
So if my dog goes up to a streamand he noses around and noses around
and can’t find anything on, you know,on the side of the stream where I am,
and it’s not a very big stream,I’m immediately going to go across
the stream and see if hehas anything over there.
But if the person walks up the river ordown the river, the scent is still going.
This is when it gets really fun.
If you have a smoke bomb like you puta smoke bomb on a log and watch it float
down the river and watch where that smokegoes, the smoke is going to go
to the sides of the riveror the sides of the water.
And the dog can find that therebecause it’s going to be collecting.
It’s going to collect in the grasses.
It’s going to collect on the rocks.
If it’s warm, it’s going to beon the rocks or on top of the rocks.
It’s going to be drawn into places
and the dogs are goingto be able to pick that up.
So that’s my or it’s the handler’s job
then to go to try to help the dog ifthe dog gets lost to go, OK,
where can I get my dog back wherehe can find the scent again.
And then it’s up to the dog to go, oh,wait, I’m smelling something over here.
See, even with human remains when we work
water, I’ll see my dogs goin and they’ll bite the water.
Sometimes it’s like it looks like they’re
like I’ve had police go,your dog is playing in the water.
And I’m like, no, he’s like hedoes play in the water for sure.
But this looks very different.
This is him deliberately snappingup the water and like taking it in.
And you’ll see him like,
look around and he’ll sniff downin the water and then they’ll start
sniffing along the edge of the shoreand he’ll track back and forth to try
to find the the place wherehe smells it the most.
And again, he can’t get to it.
So we worked a scene once wherea person had drowned in a pond.
They weren’t 100 percent sure he was
in the pond, but he haddisappeared from a party.
Most likely he was in this pond.
So my dog is running up and downthe shore, running up and down the shore.
He’s very interested.
He keeps looking out into the water,
looking out into the water,looking back at me and going
the water go out into the water.
And so finally he went out onto a dock,
which is as far out as he could get,and he gave his trained
final response or what some people call
an alert at that point as well,because but he was he was frustrated.
He was whining at me and.
He was like, OK.
I can’t take you to it,but if you go out there and look,
I think you’re going to find that thingyou want me to tell you about.
So, yeah, so the water is not goingto trick the dog.
Petter, not going to trick the dog,
all of those things, you know,
running through a pig, you know,running through a pig sty.
I was watching a Cool Hand Luke
Bloodhound scene in preparationfor this talk today.
It’s like jumping fences.
He’s running through a creek.
He jumps off a trestle,and we train for all of those kind
of things as well so that we know what ourdog is going to look like if he
if somebody decides they’regoing to jump off a trestle.
And so you’re trekking across the trestleand all of a sudden the scent ends
and the dog is looking down overthe trestle, then I’m going to go, OK,
I think he jumped off here. Samewith people getting in a car,
there are dogs that will trail carsbecause the scent’s coming out of the car
and sometimes policemen will get orhandlers will get their dogs out
at intersections to see if the dog canfigure out what direction the car went.
So it’s pretty incredible.
That is crazy stuff.
So I’ve got a real quick question and then
we’ll get to someof the stuff in the chat.
I just want to interject real quickly.
Can you talk about what scent is?Because,
you know, it sounds like this vague,mystical thing, but it’s a physical thing.
So can you identify that and thenwe’ll get to the questions.
So they have identified four hundredand fifty seven or four hundred forty
seven odors that makeup human decomposition.
So they’ve used, there’s several body farms
in the United States where forensicand FBI people,
they put bodies out and they watch howthey decompose so that they see what bugs
come up to them, so that if they do finda body and it looks like this,
they’re going to know, OK, this person wasout under these conditions for this long.
So we know a lot about human natureof human decomposition from that.
And the while, a dead animal,
a dead anything is going to havesome of that same scent.
Those same odors in common with a dead
person, they’re not goingto have all of the same odors.
So when we’re looking for dogs,
whatever it is that we’re training themto find, we want to train them to find
those specific odorsin various combinations.
So my dog has to know that a body smells
like blood and teeth and tissueand all of those kind of different things
so that he knows, OK,I’m looking for this bigger picture where
I smell all of these things together, orat least parts of these things together.
But they’re not sure because,
again, it’s really hard to test how manyof those odors dogs actually alert on.
But they they know seven or eight for sure
that we know dogs alert on and we know
that they are different from pigsor chickens or other dead animals.
So that’s the big thing that people ask me
all the time is,how do I know that your dog isn’t
going to lead me to a deaddeer or somebody buried a cat.
And we like we actually had a search like
that where somebody founda grave in the woods.
It had toys on top of it.
It looked a tad suspicious,
but a dog didn’t alert on it,but they wanted to dig it up anyway.
And it it was somebody’s pet.
So we trained for that.
Like, we use animal bones,
like there’s dead animals in the woodsall the time where we train as well.
And our dogs just don’t get paidfor finding those kind of things.
So the dog goes, yup,that’s kind of like what I look for,
but I never get paidfor that specific pictures.
So I am going to ignorethat specific picture.
And the other thing is wherewe when we breathe in.
Our scent and we breathe out,
we’re pushing all the scent out of ournose, but for everybody who has a dog
at home, this is something that veryfew people notice about their own dog.
If you look on the side of your dog’s noseright here, there’s going to be a slit.
And that’s where if your dog is breathing,he breathes in through his nose,
but his exhale goes out through that slitso he can keep breathing even when he’s
panting, even when he issticking his nose underwater.
He can still smell things because he’s
taking in air or scent about 12 percentof the scent he takes in or the air he
takes in goes through an olfactory processthat we don’t have to think of it like it
goes to its own supercomputer in his brainand it says, oh, bunny rabbit, deer.
Oh, the thing that mom says,if I find it for her,
she’s going to throw my ball for meand she gets really excited.
So instead of the deer or the bunnyrabbit, let’s go look for that thing.
So it’s also amazing that their noses are
just set up so much differently thanours that that’s why scent dogs work.
so we’ve got some questions in the chat,one is about with underwater searches,
when do you do underwater searches,like for a drowning victim,
I think you mentioned something like that before.
What are the characteristicsof scent on water? Is it a narrow cone?
Is it a wide dispersed cone?
How is it distorted by the current,that kind of thing?
So people who do water searches
especially deep, like some ponds,I am in awe of them.
I personally don’t have a dog that’scertified on water because where I live
and the kinds of cases we get,I would rarely use that.
But I have friends in Michigan and otherplaces where lakes are huge and there are
unfortunately more drownings and theirdogs are simply amazing. But you also have
to be a real big geek because you haveto know where does the outflow go? Is this
a lake and is there an outflow or is therea current through this lake? And you want
to know what is the bottomof the lake look like?
What and what direction isthe wind going that day?
How long is the body been down?
So your dog might alerton a log because that’s where the scent
might have pulled or he mightalert in the middle of the lake.
But chances are the body is not going
to be directly belowthe dog’s nose at that point.
So that’s when you have to know, OK,
where where it’s the wind currentor what’s the wind doing?
What’s the current in the water doing?
Where is it going to?
Temperature makes a bigdifference as well.
And the big thing you have to also know is
that there are some lakes that havebeen built on top of cemeteries .
So there have been a couple of times when
people have had dogs that have alertedand then it turned out that, oh, well,
there could be a cemeterydown there as well.
And that’s one of the things I also tell
people is especially for human remains,my dog might alert if I don’t see a body.
Or I can’t tell you that that’sthe person that they ask me to find.
All I can tell you is that my dog is
giving me his trained final responseand that he has found something.
And it’s not my job then to say whatever,I’m just going to give the police my idea
of what he’s doing, but all Ican say is he gave me his trained
final response, because dogs also find
residual odor, which means that the bodycould have been there,
but somebody came back or it’s a zombieand it got up and walked away.
So (also a risk, yes) the dog will go,
oh, he was there orthere was something there.
But it’s not there now.
But I’m going to tell you what was there.Yeah.
And I think, you know,we hear stories where the dog and I loved
what you said earlierabout you are a team.
It’s absolutelyyou certify as a team.
It’s not a the dog goesout and does things
because the dog tellyou where the scent is.
The dog can’t necessarily tellyou where the scent came from.
You know, I have to say,(not me, I’m not doing this)
But, you know, the handlerhas to be, you know, OK.
Yeah, the dog alerted on this log,
but this log came from thisdam upstream or whatever.
And so that’s, you know,so another question.
Is it true that training in a
non-SARS scent sport, such as nose work,barn hunt or any of those would disqualify
a search team or make any evidencefrom them not admissible?
So I’m not an attorney, but this issomething that is bandied about a lot in.
Look at search conferencesthat I’ve gone to,
so definitely people who are on a searchand rescue team, even if it’s a volunteer
team like I’m on, we canget called in to court
for various reasons.
And there certainly have been caseswhere a search handler’s testimony.
Wasn’t got something kicked out of court
or it did not end well for whatthe search handler might have wanted.
We definitely want to make sure it’s all,
basically the short answer is, Ishould have started with this way.
The short answer is it’s allabout your training logs.
So if I can bury an attorney underpaperwork that says
my dog can find birch tree oil and hisalert for birch tree oil is
a paw touch but is alert for findinga deceased person is a down.
And that I have all of this evidence underall of these different circumstances
that prove that I have testedthis theory numerous times.
Then your chances are good thatyou’re not going to have a problem.
But the big thing is everyoneit always comes down to you.
I’ve been on some mock trials
and stuff where, you know, they go,OK, well, your dog’s alert is down.
Does he just lay down? And you have to go,
Well, he does.Yes, indeed lay down.
Well, how do you know he’s laying downbecause he found a dead person versus,
you know, so you do you have to kindof think about all of that stuff.
And so, like, just for anything,for drug dogs, bomb dogs,
anything that could go to court,it’s all going to come down
to the handler’s training logs, probablywhether you can prove that your dog.
Knows or does not know.
So, like I have a training log that says
my dog found a human bone in a room wherethere were 12 different animal bones.
So, I mean, it was a training set up.
But I mean, I can I have that in my logs.
So somebody says.
Have you ever done this,I can look back on my logs and I can say,
well, yes, indeed, on thisday this is what happened.
So if they have a follow up question,
if that did not answer theirquestion, let me know.
Yeah, those are that’s good to know
because especially as writers,we know we’re trying to
you know,if I want to use this in a murder mystery
or something, you know,like the bury them in paperwork is always
a great element that isunderused and but that’s legit.
you know, you want to.
For me, as a trainer, I look at a dog casually lying down
or a down to alert on something,those look nothing alike.
But yeah, to an attorney,I said the dog lies down.
And so, yes, that’s one of those you needto be able to explain it to the layperson.
So and you also have to be able to talk
about your dog’s body language,which goes back to being a team because.
My dogs, they they’ll do they’re trainedfinal response, but I almost always I know
when my dog is getting close to findingsomething because he changes his body
language, changes the wayhe breathes changes.
And and when he does do his trained finalresponse, especially my first dog, Condor,
I always said his alert was a stare,but I could never put that on it.
Like no one would takethat for a certification.
But he would just, like, go, oh,my God, you’re about to throw my ball.
And I’m so excited you’re about to throw
my ball that all I can do isstand there and stare at you.
Oh, wait a minute.I’m supposed to sit.
But he would always giveme that stare first.
And the stare, that was really I’mlike, oh, yeah, he found something.
Oh yeah.There he just sat.
so going back to, like,really common myths,
another one that I just like because it’sso wrong and I just I’ve read stories
where it backfired because the bad guy,you know, believed the myth that you could
get up high and then the dogcan’t pick up your scent.
Do you have any any any storiesof that?
I you actually have proof on yourphone of a person hiding in your barn
in your hayloft and a bloodhound findinghim and looking directly up at him.
So we also we again, we train for thatfor both live people and people who
a certification I just did with my dog,
I think on the certification testone of the hides was up 10 feet.
And so my dog actually alerted maybe five
feet from there,but pointing directly at it.
So the scent had come down.
It followed a log.
The heaviest poolof scent was right there.
But he was actually looking so hada real dead body been in that tree.
I could have looked over and said,oh, my dog alerted here.
But actually, if you look over there,there’s a guy hanging from a tree.
So, again, most of the time it’s again,it’s about reading your dog.
So I’ve had problems whereit’s been in the ceiling.
I’ve had some problems where it’s been 15
foot up on a wall, like on an electricaloutlet that was really high.
And the dog is like climbing the walland sniffing up along the wall.
And he probably just alerts
as underneath the place where he issmelling the scent drop because it’s going
to go down, doesn’t justgo up into the air.
It is going to drop downunderneath where you are hiding.
So you get a bad guy who runs and he
climbs the tree because he thinks that’swhat’s going to get him away and he
doesn’t realize he’s making it basicallya lake of scent underneath the tree.
So I actually when I was a general
assignment reporter,I covered a case of a guy who escaped
from jail and he was actually capturedby cattle because the farmer noticed
that all his cows were outin the field looking up into a tree.
And the person like the cows were like
just standing around this treestaring up and they would not leave.
And the farmer knew the guy had escaped
and he called the police andthe guy was up in the tree.
The cows were all like, hey,what are you doing up there?
I was like, this is the most interestingthing that’s happened all day.
So we have a question about what dogs
are there certain breeds that are favoredfor this and roughly how long is
the training process to, you know,from start to active, active deployment?
So any dog can smell.
So that’s the big thing people ask, sohow do you train your dog to find things?
And I go here, he knowshow to find things.
I drop a piece of food on the floor.
He is going to find the pieceof food without any help from me.
So what I’m looking for are what mosttrainers or handlers are looking for when
they’re looking for a dog to do some kindof job with is a dog that has a paycheck.
That is really amazing.
A dog that has something that he loves somuch that he will do almost anything to be
able to play or eat orengage with that object.
And it depends on the dog.
My first search, my firstcadaver dog was a tennis ball.
He just loved playingfetch more than anything.
Skywalker does not like fetch at all,will not play fetch,
but he loves to play tug, but he actuallyjust loves me to be excited as well.
And Falcon, my dog in training, his isdefinitely back to the tennis ball.
He will do anything to go,
Will you throw my ball for me?
So the first thing is you want a dog
that has some kind of a reward systemthat makes him want to go
and run for possibly hours and jumpon things that are kind of scary. The
other thing is you do need a dog that ispretty rock solid in terms of going
in and that novel stimuli don’t stress it,because one thing I’ve learned being
on a search team is you can absolutely nottrain for real life. I was
on a search and they go, can you takeyour dog up into the hay mow and search?
And by the way, there’sa bunch of goats up there.
And I’m like, I actually don’t know whatmy dog will do in a haymow of goats.
But he was like, he searched. That’s not what you’ve practiced?
No practicing in a hay mowof goats for a dead person.
Dogs have to jump on things.
They have to be able to go through things.
So that’s why we look at breed too.
So a Chihuahua might be able to hunt well,but is he going to be able to jump over
all the logs that hemight have to jump over?
Is he going to be ableto swim across the creek?
And so going back to our giant breeds likeGreat Danes or something like
Irish Wolfhounds, I want a dog that cango for a really long time as well.
And some breeds just can’t go that far.
And when you get into the
brachycephalic dogs, which aredogs that have really smashed noses.
Sometimes they just can’t breathewell enough when they run.
So it kind of all goes into it.
So there’s not one breed.
My dog Skywalker is actuallyfrom an animal shelter.
So his he’s a mixed breed.
We do know that he’s part German shepherd,
but the rest of them is unknown.
And but you do see a lot of working dogs.
So German Shepherds, Labradors,Golden Retrievers, Malinois.
I know a Boxer, though,who was amazing as a search dog.
So it also just depends a loton the dog and what he wants to do.
But you definitely want a dog thatis athletic, has a good paycheck and isn’t
going to be freaked out by weirdthings happening in his life.
And then how long is your training?
So what commonly people say is two yearsand that basically that’s because
until about two, the dog ispretty much an adolescent.
And like most of the dogs,my dogs that I worked with,
it seems like I always go, oh, my gosh,this dog is horrible.
I don’t know what I’m doing with this dog.
And then around 12 months to 14 months,
I start to go, oh, well,I think he might be getting it after all.
But you want to make sure that when you’re
training that you trained for allof the different contingencies.
Because my search team and again, the thebad thing is there’s not an overarching
federal agency that hasrules for a search team.
So every search team kindof has its own rules.
Our search team,
we we won’t deploy a dog and handler teamunless that team has been certified
through an outsidecertifying organization.
And we like we don’t takeall the certifications.
We’re kind of picky on whichcertifications we’re going to take.
But so that’s what I’mtraining for as well.
I’m training first the, you know,can my dog do all the trained behaviors
that he’s going to need to doto pass the certification test?
And then is he stable enough?
And is he reliable enough that ifthe police call me that I feel
responsible enough that I’mgoing to take him on a search?
So a couple of more questions,
what does the training look like?And can you condense two years
into a quick answer for us, and thena question about search practice.
But we’ll go with, what doesthe training look like first.
So for, human remains training, youactually do have to have human remains.
So this is the big thingthat most people ask me.
So it depends on what state you live in.
It is legal in the state Ilive in to own human remains.
That is not the case with all states.
Most human remains handlers have their own
collection of thingsthat they have had donated.
So is is easy
placenta’s pretty easy to get.
You just find a pregnant person who isOK with donating their placenta.
You can actually buy bonesin lots of places online.
You can buy human bones.
I actually bought a skeletonlast year at an auction.
It’s tissue and things likethat that are hard to get.
And that’s the bad part about humanremains or anything is
I can’t tell you what my dog will dowith a full body that’s buried under snow
for five hours because I don’tever get to train for that.
So I so we have to trainto the best of our ability.
But definitely you do have to have
for human remains, you have to havelike some place people will use
pseudo-scent, which is a fake scent thatsupposedly smells like human remains.
That’s pretty controversial.
Like not everybody thinks it’s good.
And in some countries where having humanremains is not acceptable, they use pigs.
But that’s also controversial because
then you have a dog that mayfind only dead pigs.
And I’m going to mention real quickly,
because I think this is one of thosethings that unless you geek out
about dog noses, you wouldn’tthink of this, but.
Perceiving a small amount of scent
and perceiving a large amount of scentlike you said like you’re hunting,
you’re training with this, but thenthere’s a whole body under the snow.
You know, those can be different things.
Sort of go back to my tennis ball example.
You know, if I’m used to looking
for a single tennis ball, I might missthe school bus that is also yellow.
But I’m used to looking for tennis balls.
And so I just wanted to throw that outbecause that’s something that, you know,
we tend to think of
well, all scents are scents.But they’re not.
Right, and that’s somethingthat we struggle with.
Any handler of a dog that finds thingsbased on scent, whether it’s a drug dog or
a human remains dog,like if you only train your dog on
a half a teaspoon of methamphetamineand you never train on more than half
a teaspoon of methamphetamine,your dog may go over a pound
of methamphetamine becausethe picture is totally different.
Same with if I only train on a tooth ora little drop of blood
and my dog finds a body, he may go,well, part of the picture is there.
And a lot of dogs.Well, actually,
if they haven’t been exposed to fullbodies, they’ll get you to the area,
but they may not actually get as close tothe body as you would think they would.
They go, OK, yeah,it’s like 10 feet that direction.
And I’m going to alert out here becausethat’s the picture that my brain is
telling me, that you payfor that picture in there.
That’s a lot.
Too big, too much, too big, too much.
So this goes back to being a team.
And if my dog gets me to an area
and doesn’t alert and I smell a lotof odor, I might go, OK,
let’s go this direction and seewhat’s in here in this thicket.
So the question on how much area would you
expect a team to coverin an average search?
So like how close is a dog
and the handler, are theyworking next to each other?
So and how much how much area wouldyou cover in an average search?
So that goes back to some of the petpeeves that I asked my friends about.
So one of the things that people likethat I often get wrong is the person
holding the dog like on a tight leashand the dog is walking right beside them.
Even with trailing dogs,the dog should be out at the end of a 20
foot line or longer, not right next to theperson who’s holding on to a tight leash.
So everything is different.
My dogs work off lead.
A lot of trailing dogs work on lead.
It just kind of depends on the discipline
and the handler and alsohow safe the area is.
Like I’m going.
I also train my dog to work on leadbecause if I’m looking on the edge
of an interstate,I may not trust that a bunny rabbit won’t
jump up and my dog might dartinto the traffic momentarily.
So I will do both.
But my I want my dog to range, which meansI want him to be within
anywhere from 10 to 20 feet from me,possibly farther if I can see.
And I want him to go coverbecause that’s a big thing.
Like I’m limited in my physical ability.
I’m limited in my sensibility.
He can travel.
I like go check way down in that hollow.
I’m to stay up here.
So we teach our dogsdirectionals like go.
You know, if I point a direction,my dog will go, Oh, you want me to go down
that way and look, I’ll go down that wayso I don’t have to go that far.
But how there’s no set
answer to what a search looks like because
I’ve been on searches where it was a house
just, you know,tiny little house with a basement.
And I’ve been on a search where in a day
we went to four different areasin the woods and we were out for eight
hours with just a couple of breaksfor the dog to take a rest.
So it just kind of depends on whatthe search parameters are.
But it could be anything from a locker
to hundreds of acres and you could beout there with your pack overnight.
Because we also carry, my search team,we always carry anything we might need,
like I carry a first aid kit,I carry a canine first aid kit,
I carry water, I carry gloves,I carry flagging tape.
I could carry everything I wouldneed for 48 hours for me and my dog.
But I hope to never use that, right.
That’s the Murphy’s Law of Packs.
If you have, you won’t need it.
So you actually touched on another
question, how long doesa complicated search day last?
But you just said eight hours.
So that’s that’s what it could go.
I mean, I’ve been on searchesthat have lasted multiple days.
So unfortunately, oddly enough,
many people who might haveinformation about a deceased person
might not always be the best peopleto give you information, so they might go,
yeah, “I think she died and wethrew her body out here.”
So I went on a search that was like fourdifferent counties and we never found her.
And no search dogs foundher, but hunters did.
And she was in a countythat we never went to.
But the person who had knowledge of where
she was was like,”I think she might be here.
No, wait a minute.She’s in this county.
I don’t know where she really was.”
Somehow not the best source.Yeah.
So actually, most human remains searches,
we don’t find, we don’t find anyone.
So that’s the other thing search people
have to know is that a lot of times we’regoing out and we’re not finding anyone,
but we’re giving the police informationor we’re giving the family information.
We’re saying, OK, we can checkthis place off of the list.
So sorry, I see morequestions in the chat.
I just want to ask this one really
quickly, because it’s reallyto what you’re saying, where,
you know, you may not find something
for yourself to wrap up that particularsearch or, you know, and as you said,
his reward is you getting really excited.
And so you find a murder victim ora suicide victim or a somebody who’s
walked off in a snowstormand died or whatever.
And you know, you haveto be like, “hurray, good job!
We found this guy!”
You know, how how do you balancethat as a handler, as a team?
You know, working with law enforcement,
working with families, you know,where’s the awkward?
How do you handle that?So that’s a great question.
So we try to be extremely sensitive.
we’re very hyperaware if family is near us.
So if family is there,
I try to be very low key with my dog,like taking him back to his crate.
And I might be tugging with him,but I won’t be over the top.
But at some of the big disasters that make
national attention,there have been handlers who were
criticized for looking like theywere happy with their dogs when
something sad was happening.
But again, from the dog’s perspective,my dog does not go,
“We’re going to go outand find a dead person.
And that’s really sad.”
My dog is just going out and going,”we’re going to find this thing.
And if we find it,we’re going to have the best party.”
So most of the time,we’re only with law enforcement.
So there’s no one else there.
And if I’m back at my vehicle where
there might be reporters or there might befamily members,
I try to make sure that I’m not you know,that I try to be cognizant of what
the picture of me and my dog mightlook like going back to my vehicle.
But it is something I mean, we talk aboutit, we talk about it, search seminars.
And it is something it’s the same thingabout if you’re using a radio or some kind
of form of communication,you don’t know who’s going to be listening
and you don’t want the familyto hear something over a radio.
Yeah, so if we find something,
it’s always going to bea phone call to a police officer.
So question and she says maybe this isn’tsomething you want to answer
on the Internet or whatever,but in the context of writing a believable
story, what, if anything,could trick a tracking team?
So, again, if you would have to know what
I could see, it would beeasy to do a crime novel.
If you knew the search people and you wereon their team, you would know how to trick
them because you would know whattheir dog or handler weaknesses were.
But if you know again.
So you need your murdererto be part of the team.
That’s what I think aboutall the time and everything.
So for human remains,pigs don’t leave much behind.
So it would, most dogsaren’t going to find much.
There could be blood in there.I know.
Like so I’m tryingto think of what could be.
And most of the dogs that I knowin training is sure there’s going to be
something and but most of the time,what you’re going to see that trick that
trips up the dog is probably going to besomething that the dog never trained
for so that the criminal might notknow what that is going to be.
But basically, it’s probably going to be
like the dog goes, oh,my God, goats terrify me.
So I can’t walk you throughthis pasture of goats.
Like we went through a cow pasture one
time and my dog kept looking backat the cow because the cows are curious.
Cows are super curious.
So this cow was followingus all over the pasture.
And my dog is like.
Why is that thing following usand can you make it go away?
So hard to concentratewhile it’s staring at me.
So those are the kind of things that aregoing to probably trip a dog up.
More than just like saying, yeah,
use Tabasco sauce,which is not going to necessarily trip
the dog up,or if you set up I’m just brainstorming
here, like if you set up a problem,you know, like we said earlier,
that the dog,the dog can tell you where the odor is,
but the dog can’t tell you necessarilyall the points about where it came from.
So set up something where that it’sa thought problem for the human team.
So the dog says this log smells,
but it’s not clear wherethat log came from or something.
So what if you’re a human remains handler?
I have been hiking with my dogwhen my dogs have suddenly gone.
This rock smells interesting and I’m like,OK, we’re going, let’s go.
No, I don’t see anything.
We’re off the clock.We’re not addressing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I know I have.
Someone I knew with an HR dog,
the dog would alert on their walks,you know, for several months and
and she did the same thing like,nope, we’re not not discussing it.
And then the spring thaw cameand they found somebody and.
Oh yeah.So that’ll happen.
There’s your story hook.There’s your opener.
So you told me the most amazing thingwhen we were prepping for this.
I had no idea that trees could pick upcadaver scent.
Like, can you talk about that?Because I’m sorry.
That’s that’s crazy.
And it’s going in a book somewhere.Yeah.
So it does make sense.
If you think about it.It does.
I just hadn’t really thought about it.Right.
So the tree has roots, so.
Let’s say that somebody buried a person
five years ago and in those five years,the vegetation around that home is
growing, includingthe trees on the tree line.
So you get there and especially,let’s say someone
put a building on top of where the bodywas like they built a garage or something.
And then you’ve got the dogs and they’relike going around and you can tell
that they’ve got scents, butthey’re like climbing a tree.
And you’re going, OK,I can see to the top of this tree there is
not a body up there that hasbeen missing for five years.
So if my dog is climbing this treeand grabbing leaves out of the tree
and like, trying to drag the treeto the ground, I have to go, OK?
There is something about the tree
and does that mean there is really aperson buried somewhere on this property?
Because, again, my dog is not sayingthe person is underneath that tree.
My dog is telling me that he smellsthe odor that he was trained to find.
And it’s my job to interpret it as best I
can and to then givethat information to law enforcement.
My job is not to tell themwhere to dig or what to do.
My job is to give them information
and let them decide what theywant to do with that information.
So but how so?
Yeah, yeah, so
things that like you’ll see that in oldcemeteries, especially old cemeteries
both prior to embalming and priorto everybody being in big sealed caskets
when people were just buriedin the ground or in a pine box.
I, I have access all my farmland to anold cemetery and the dogs will they’ll be
all over all those old trees upin the tree sniffing the trees and.
Yeah, because to them it’s just like here.It’s here.
I don’t know what you want me to tell you.That’s OK.
It makes perfect sense.
But also, just like I had never thoughtabout that in that context, so.
OK, PJzoofit says in the chat,this has been really informative.
By the way.Thanks for the interesting topic.
So thank you.Thanks for coming by.
And I, I find it fascinating because I
just this is how I learned that treescan smell like dead people.
So let’s talk about more some moreprocedure for for the writers.
So, you know, one thing that I hear,
you know, is by the time somebody callsthe dogs, you know, you know,
somebody somebody goes missing at a parkand they spend 12 hours walking around
calling this person and thenthey call the search team.
So what is the what’s the actualprocess that happens there?
How do you work aroundthe fact that people have been trampling
all over this thisarea where you could start scent?
You know what?What is it?
What is your procedure?
So almost all search teams wish that if
somebody, especially a live person,if a live person is missing,
it is far better to try to get allthe resources, including dogs,
But again,a lot of police might not know
that there’s a local search team,search teams like mine, we’re volunteer.
So it’s you know, people have to knowabout us in order to call us.
And we often do go into searches where theperson may have been missing for a while.
So if I have a specific dog like
a bloodhound,then if 500 people have walked across
that and I have a really good dog that, I’m not saying that dog can’t find that.