Dogs have become an integral part of forensic science

Dogs have become an integral part of forensic science

Dogs have a long history of working in partnership with humans, whether as a guide dog, police dog or sheep dog etc, but now dogs have proved their worth by aiding in forensic science.

Dogs have excellent skills of detection thanks to their heightened sense of smell, they are able to identify odours which may not even be picked up by their human counterpart, and are able to differentiate between new and old scents. This allows the dog to track and follow scents, known as a trail.

Forensic dogs are trained to display specific behaviours to alert their handlers that they have picked up a scent, this may include barking or certain behaviours such as that can be interpreted by their handler.

“There are different types of forensic dogs”: Forensic dogs may work within a range of different occupations such as narcotic dog, tracking dog, bomb detection dog, arson detection dog, search and rescue dog, body detector dogs, cadaver dogs and human remains specialist dogs.

What all these different types of dogs have in common is that they are highly trained. Common traits of the dogs include being focused and alert as well as being  responsive to training and reward. Different breeds of dogs can meet this criteria and chosen dogs go through rigorous screening to make sure they are up to the task. The dogs temperament is pivotal to the role of being a forensics dog.

“Dogs can even help in the courtroom “. Forensic dogs also have a part to play where further evidence is being obtained such as in an interview situation. Facility dogs may work within centres where children who have gone through traumatic events have to undergo evidence interviews.

The dogs can act as a calming, reassuring influence for the children. Evidence shows that stroking animals and being in their presence can cause the release of a hormone known as oxytocin. Oxytocin produces feelings of well being, security and contentment, which may make reliving traumatic experiences a little easier to handle.

The faculty dogs can also act as a welcome distraction to children who may become stressed.

It has been suggested that even old murder cases can be solved by dogs. For instance a Cadaver dog known affectionately as Buster recently picked up the scent of a woman murdered in 1947.

Famously known as the Black Dahlia case, Elizabeth Short was  horrifically mutilated and killed in Los Angeles, the murderer has long eluded identification. Buster picked up the scent of human remains in the soil of a holly wood home and samples have now been sent off for testing. The results could finally identify who murdered Elizabeth Short.

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Dogs have become an integral part of forensic science Credit Picture License: West Midlands Police via photopin cc