How To Join

Application Process: 

Training, certifying and then searching with your canine represents a significant commitment in time and energy.  The entire team supports the trainee with this commitment. NEK9 is a small, select, skilled and dedicated group which places tremendous responsibility on each individual for the success of the whole. Therefore, applicants are accepted with great care.

Both applicants and canines will be tested for potential aptitude for SAR work. Applicants without canines will be guided in puppy selection should they qualify for trainee status. This helps to insure a suitable canine is chosen and that training begins during early weeks of development.

To be eligible for trainee status,  applicants must be a primary, legal resident of New Hampshire or Vermont or reside year-round in a town in Maine, Massachusetts or New York that has part of its town limits within ten miles of the NH or VT border.

Before considering joining NEK9, read all materials carefully and follow these steps:

  1. Read everything on the web site.
  2. Read each of these documents. 
    1. Time Investment doing K-9 SAR
    2. Startup Equipment Costs
    3. Search Pack (Minimum required)
  3. Email to inquire if applicants are being accepted at this time.
  4. Fill out Application Form.
  5. Send the application to PO Box 407 Grantham, NH 03753 or email to
  6. Purchase and read these books if your application is accepted.
    1. SAR K-9 Book List

Individuals interested in becoming part of our communications team, click here to read requirements. If you think you have the time, interest and some of the skills needed to help, email  for more details.

Membership and Training

NEK9 asks a lot from its members and trainees. We jokingly say,  “we are a looking for a few good fanatics who will marry us”. This is because training, certifying and then searching with your dog represents a significant commitment in time and energy. This commitment includes everyone within the unit —the trainee, their mentor, every other dog handler and all of the support personnel.

We are a small, select, skilled and dedicated group of men, women and dogs. The size of our unit places tremendous responsibility on each individual for the success of the whole. Therefore, any new trainee is accepted with great care. Sometimes we simply do not have space for new members at the time an individual makes application. We have learned that to maximize the training and searching opportunities needed to be successful not just as a search resource, but as an organization we need to maintain a membership of 15-20 people – striving to maintain a roster of at least 10 certified wilderness airscent dogs.

30 years of experience has taught us to be selective when adding new team members because the work is hard (physically and emotionally). The commitment we make to each trainee and later member is for the long term, in truth this is much like a marriage. There is nothing about this work or how we feel about our organization that is casual. Though the training and searching can be fun and is certainly challenging, each of our team members takes their life saving responsibilities with utmost seriousness – that includes selection of new members.

If you’re seriously interested in learning more about becoming a member of the NEK-9 team, download the following PDF files:

Membership Levels

Training, Attendance, Search Response, and Physical Fitness Requirements

Certification Standards

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 partnershipbetween 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.

Certification Standards (requires the free Adobe Reader™).