An airscent SAR team depends on the successful integration of the very different skills needed by dog and handler. For NEK-9 SAR, the wilderness certification process evaluates these specific skills within the four field tests. But trustworthy teams are the result of the quality of the partnership between these different species, not simply the accumulation of specific skills.
The dogs bring their hunting and scenting skills to the assistance of the humans who must concern themselves with the sciences of weather, terrain and lost person behavior. Together, they “hunt” the lost person.
The handler must teach their dog partner what they are searching for, how they will search together and then must reward the dog’s success. The reward is the dog’s reason to share its successful “find” by returning to the handler, telling the handler of the find, and taking the handler to the subject. The dog can not use its nose to find the subject if the handler does not bring the dog into the subject’s scent cone. And the dog’s ability to scent is useless if it can not or will not tell the handler “I have found, let me show you”
Testing for certification is not a right of membership. It is an earned opportunity to demonstrate in-the-field search skills. The privilege of becoming a certified handler with N.E. K-9 SAR will only be offered to teams who demonstrate the specific field skills required to work with a high probability of detection in real search situations. It is assumed that any handler committed to excellence welcomes the opportunity to work extensively with and learn from the senior and certified handlers before testing.
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