I attended the certification week at Westover Air Force Reserve Base April 25 and 27 2017. My assignments were to photograph Stanton Dog Foundation K9s and their handlers in addition to creating images on my own self assignment of the other units attending. One of the benefits of photographing at these K9 trainings is that I learn more and more about the incredible dedication these teams are required to have in the line of duty. Certification is hard work but required so it is necessary that all teams pass to do their jobs.
Certification of K9 teams is required to prove street worthiness and go out to patrol the respective communities in which the department resides or that particular team.
“Having a certified K-9 team is invaluable in proving credibility and reliability in the eyes of the courts… It is a requirement for effective prosecution of cases and liability protection.”
– Officer Joseph Brewer, Wilbraham Massachusetts K-9 Unit
There are several organizations that offer certification for teams. This certification was overseen by North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA).
“The test is completed on a pass /fail basis.Only an accredited NAPWDA Master Trainer may certify a NAPWDA member K-9 team upon their successful completion of any or all phases attempted. This certification is only valid for a period of one (1) year from the date of the test(s), and as long as the handler is a current member of NAPWDA and the team remains together.” NAPWDA Website
K9 teams may certify in several areas. A team may not certify in both Narcotics and Explosives, however, due to the means of identifying the scent and the special operations involved when managing a confirmed presence of drugs or explosives.
“To obtain a “Police Utility Dog” certification title, the police work dog team must pass all phases of the utility dog testing areas. Prior to testing for this title, the handler must notify the Master Trainer of his/her intent to obtain this title. The testing will be conducted during a one day test, unless it is conducted during a NAPWDA national or state workshop. The team must pass each phase on the first attempt and will be tested in the following areas:
1.) Obedience (MUST be passed to go on to the other areas.) – This test is to determine if the police work dog is capable of performing off lead obedience exercises. The test is designed to test the dog’s ability and proficiency and the handler’s total control over his/her dog. The obedience test must be passed during the current consecutive maximum 7 day testing period prior to attempting certification in the following areas: SAR Area Search, Building Search (Aggression Trained Dogs), Aggression Control and Cadaver Detection Teams.
2.) Article Search, (except for explosive detection teams) – This test is designed to test the police work dogs ability and proficiency in searching a designated area for articles having human scent on them. This would represent a search for discarded evidence or lost items. Master Trainers will observe the test from outside the search area. The Master Trainer will designate the search area.
3.) Area Search – The obedience test must be passed during the current consecutive maximum 7 day testing period prior to attempting certification this test. This test is designed to test the police work dogs ability and proficiency in search for a hidden suspect within a large area when no known track is available. The team being tested should use the wind and air currents to their best advantage.
4.) Tracking or Trailing – Tracking :: This test is designed to determine if the police work dog is capable of tracking an unknown subject in an unfamiliar area. This test is intended to be closely simulative of working situations. This is a test of the dog’s ability and proficiency and the handler’s control of the dog.
Trailing:: This test is to determine if the police canine is capable of performing a trailing exercise in a simulation of conditions which are encountered during working situations by the police work dog team. This test is designed to test the dogs ability and proficiency and the handlers control of the dog.
5.) Building Search – The obedience test must be passed during the current consecutive maximum 7 day testing period prior to attempting certification this test. This test is designed to be simulative of a working situation. Three (3) basic types of buildings are selected and described for use on this test. The Master Trainer will accompany the team to observe the entire test, as could happen when a backup officer or superior officer would accompany the work dog team during an actual search. Survival tactics should be considered.
6.) Aggression Control – This test is to determine if the police work dog is capable of performing exercises encountered by the police handler and his/her dog under simulated situations encountered while working. The test is designed to test the dog’s ability, proficiency, courage, and the handler’s total control of his/her dog… Whenever possible, the suspect will be unknown to the dog. The suspects may be other handlers being tested or volunteers with the approval of the Master Trainer, or in some cases the Master Trainer themselves. In the phases requiring the dog to physically apprehend the suspect, the dog must fully engage and hold/fight the suspect. Failure to engage or excessive, unnecessary mouthing and readjusting of the apprehension is grounds for failure. In the phases requiring the dog to stop his pursuit and apprehension of the suspect, the handler may use any command or series of commands to control the dog. Failure of the dog to release and/or to respond to obedience commands in a timely manner is grounds for failure. The handler must demonstrate sound tactics during all phases of the test. When a search of the suspect is called for the handler must demonstrate a safe approach, simulate handcuffing and search the suspect for weapons.” NAPWDA Bylaws
“SEARCH and RESCUE AREA SEARCH TEST – The obedience test must be passed during the current consecutive maximum 7 day testing period prior to attempting certification this test. This test is designed to test the K-9 team’s ability and proficiency in searching designated areas to locate a lost or missing person.
It is required that this canine team demonstrates sociability with the Master Trainer conducting this Search and Rescue Area Search Test prior to this certification. Any display of aggression by the K9 during any part of this test will constitute a failure.
This certification test is open to current NAPWDA Regular and Associate members. Any accredited full Utility or Tracking/Trailing Master Trainer who has either provided to the NAPWDA secretary written documentation showing that he/she has successfully completed a formal Land Navigation class or who has attended the approved NAPWDA Land Navigation class (includes administration of this test), may conduct this certification test. All handlers who wish to test must have a current certificate from the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross in Basic First Aid and CPR. Land Navigation Testing: All handlers must successfully complete Land Navigation Testing to the satisfaction of the Master Trainer prior to performing any field testing.” NAPWDA Bylaws
“NARCOTIC DETECTION TEST – This test is designed to determine the proficiency and reliability of dogs in the detection of narcotics. As defined by the NAPWDA narcotic detection rules for testing, the minimum acceptable level required to pass is 91.66%. The basic narcotic odors (and their derivatives) that can be tested in are marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine and are not to exceed five (5) different narcotic odors. The safety of the detection dog will be the sole responsibility of the handler, (such as overdose).” NAPWDA Bylaws
“EXPLOSIVE DETECTION TEST – This test will determine the proficiency and reliability of dogs in the detection of explosives. No electronic collar will be permitted to be worn by the K9 during Explosive Detection certification or training regardless whether or not it is active or inactive. Search Time: It is recognized that increased search time endurance and proficiency of the explosive detection canine teams for deployment and future training requirements is necessary. Agencies should be including this in their in-service trainings. Explosive Detection K9 teams should be training towards being able to work 30 minute searches and still be proficient.
During testing, all necessary precautions should be taken to ensure that the handler has no prior knowledge as to the location of explosives training aids. Canine teams should search the way they were trained. No assistance or leading the team by the Master Trainer or anyone else, shall be permitted.
The canine team should be able to locate all explosive training aids within a 2 meter (6.56 feet) radius of the source without disturbing the source, regardless of the height of the source, barring extenuating environmental conditions deemed relevant by the master trainer. If the handler identifies a canine final response that is within 3.05 meters (10 feet) of a hidden explosives training aid, but not in the immediate area of the explosives training aid, the master trainer will advise the handler “Not at Source.” Prior to the test beginning and to encourage handlers to trust their canine and discourage handlers from counting the training aids during testing, handlers shall be informed by the Master Trainer that once they leave a search area, (room, vehicle, etc.) they will not be permitted to come back to that specific search location.” NAPWDA Bylaws