Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Forensic Anthropology Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Randall Skelton

Commitee Members

Katie Baca, Mark Heirigs


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Animal Studies | Anthropology | Biological and Physical Anthropology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Forensic Science and Technology | Other Statistics and Probability


Objective: This is a meta-analysis focused on the success rates of scent detection canines and potential factors that could influence their accuracy. A series of statistical analyses were conducted to determine if certain demographic factors, such as the dog’s gender, age, and breed, have an effect on a scent dog’s accuracy during a search. Or if more circumstantial factors, like the dog’s level of experience in scent work, the type of target scent, and their handler’s awareness of the target’s location, affect the outcome of the search.

Materials and Methods: A dataset was created from 37 different articles consisting of 215 canines (203 dogs and 12 wolves). Due to several sections that were missing information, not every canine could be used in every test. Six hypotheses were tested in this analysis: 1) 137 dogs were included to determine if females make better scent dogs; 2) 135 dogs were used to determine if older dogs are more accurate; 3) 7 breed categories included 180 dogs to see which breeds are better for scent work; 4) 95 dogs were used to determine if more experienced dogs are more accurate; 5) 5 target scent categories included 196 to determine if dogs are better at locating some scents over others; and 6) if the handler’s knowledge of the target’s location affects the outcome of the search.

Results and Conclusion: It was determined that a dog’s gender, age, and level of experience did not significantly influence the dogs’ success rates. The breeds that were originally bred for herding tasks performed significantly better than the breeds originally bred to assist in hunting. The dogs in this dataset were significantly less accurate in locating the scents of chemical mixtures, including narcotics, explosives, and other chemical scents. Dogs tend to be better at locating biological scents. At first, the handler’s knowledge of the experiments did not show to be a significant factor in the results of the search. However, there were 7 dog-handler teams that took both blind-experiments and known-experiments, and their results were statistically significant. Meaning that the dogs are using their handler’s body language to locate their targets rather than their sense of smell. Further research with a larger dataset and more complete demographic information is needed to confirm these findings, but this dataset can be used as a starting point for similar analyses in the future.



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