Graduation Date

Fall 2018

Document Type



Master of Arts degree with a major in Applied Anthropology

Committee Chair Name

Dr. Marissa Ramsier

Committee Chair Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Second Committee Member Name

Dr. Marisol Cortes-Rincon

Second Committee Member Affiliation

HSU Faculty or Staff

Subject Categories



The purpose of this study was to investigate the reliability of trained Human Remains Detection (HRD) dogs in the field. HRD dogs are trained to locate deceased individuals, typically in conjunction with law enforcement agencies, by using their enhanced olfactory systems to detect scents that humans cannot. Limited research has been conducted on both the strengths and weaknesses of these dogs and their abilities to locate human remains. This study focused on one North Carolina based organization that trains HRD dogs. Data were collected by distributing surveys and by observing regularly scheduled training exercises conducted by the organization. The collected data were used to design an experiment. Specifically, dogs were tasked with locating human bone samples buried under four common North Carolina soil types from the following regions: Southern Piedmont, Southern Coastal Plain, Atlantic Coast Flatwoods, and Tidewater Area. It was predicted that identifications of bone by the canines within the various soils would become faster over the course of experimentation, which could indicate an ability to learn and apply new skills quickly. Meaning, that even though a canine may not have been exposed to a specific soil type through training, their enhanced olfactory abilities and adaptability to new environments would make them well prepared to perform in multiple locations, thus increasing their overall reliability. Results indicated that canines responded quicker and more reliably to the soil most local to their training region. Future recommendations would be to continue this research to see if other HRD teams report similar results.

Citation Style