How To Join

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

An Application must:
  • read everything on the website to get familiar with the team.
  • 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 10 miles of NH or VT.
  • have excellent navigation skills with map, compass and GPS.
  • be familiar with search and rescue training/protocol.
  • be physically fit as to not be a liability to the team. Fitness test: Trail hike of 3.5 miles that includes an elevation change of 800-900 feet carrying a 20lb pack in less than 105 minutes.
  • have a flexible schedule allowing for immediate departure from work or home to respond to a search and have the ability to be absent for an unknown amount of time – possibly overnight or into the next day.

NEK9 members are volunteers and all costs are the members responsibly. Expect to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket each year. There is no charge for the training itself, but all equipment, travel costs, etc. are the member’s responsibility.

Some of the expenses involved are:
  • vehicle maintenance
  • gas (expect to drive 5,000-10,000 miles per year)
  • canine food & equipment
    handler equipment
  • veterinary costs

If you do not have a canine, please wait until you have some firsthand experience training with the team. NEK9 looks for specific characteristics and temperament for a SAR canine. We have seasoned handlers who can assist you with the selection process.

If you currently have a canine under 3 years old, an assessment will be made through observation and testing. Temperament and drive are the two necessary traits in the SAR canine. A canine that is not afraid of people, new places or loud noises and that will play with a toy endlessly are good candidates. Our canines train and search for long hours in difficult conditions all for the reward and praise from the handler.

Recommended books and online learning programs:
  • Search and Rescue Dogs: Training The K9 Hero -American Rescue Dog Association.
  • Scent and The Scenting Dog – William Syrotuck
  • Be An Expert With Map And Compass – Kjellstrom (or an online map and compass course)
  • Online learning for the Garmin Alpha 100- (GPS currently used by NEK9) Garmin Support

Application For Membership

Your application should clearly and accurately reflect your canine, outdoor, first aid, and past SAR work skills.

Trainee Status

The commitment to each trainee is long-term and there is nothing about this work or this team that is casual. Though the training and searching can be fun, each member takes this life saving responsibility with utmost seriousness and that includes selection of new members.

Once accepted as a trainee, an experienced handler will be assigned as a mentor to supervise training of the canine and handler. The mentor will write a review of the handler and canine’s progress every 6 months to recommend continuing or revoking trainee status. The trainee will be expected to meet NEK9 attendance requirements: 80% of monthly training (3rd Saturday of each month) and 60% of searches. The trainee will be required to keep a training log and document at least 16 hours of training per month.

The trainee when deemed ready by their mentor will start the observation process, the first step towards certification. 5 senior/certified handlers will observe the handler/canine and all will have to approve they are prepared for certification testing. Unless the handler or canine has previous SAR experience, the expectation is that it will take 1- 2 years to be certified.

Certification Standards

Although NEK9 is a volunteer organization, the nature of this work requires a professional level of performance. NEK9 places great emphasis on rigorous training and certification which meets, or in most cases, exceeds the industry standard. Trustworthy teams are the result of the quality of the partnership between the canine and handler, not simply an accumulation of skills.

NEK9 searches for both live and deceased subjects; therefore, testing for certification simulates an actual search. Trainees are required to pass 6 certification tests over the course of two seasons. Tests mimic search situations with variations in terrain, weather, vegetation, area size, and the presence of evidence and subjects. For tests 2, 3 and 4 the trainee will not know how many subjects will be in the search area.

  • Night, trail search. Minimum of 1 mile in length, not to exceed 3 miles. (1 subject)
  • Day, area search of 120-160 acres. (0-2 subjects)
  • Night, area search 60-80 acres. (0-2 subjects)
  • Day, two area search. (each area between 40-60 acres) (0-2 subjects)
  • Water: Shoreline search of 1/2 mile. (1 large scent source-HRD)
  • Land: 40 acre search. (1 large scent source-HRD)

NEK9 also has ADV HRD certification for both land and water search. Contact us for the full list of certifications.