American Working Dogs
Search and Rescue Certification

American Working Dogs was founded by handler's throughout the United States and now around the world to offer another practical avenue to certify their K9 teams.

The canine team shall be evaluated by an approved K-9 team evaluator prior to general law enforcement deployment and at least once annually. If the canine team fails the testing, they may re-test after a 24 hour period. Certifications are good for a period of 1 year from the date of testing. Certification Forms and copies of the Certificate are property of AWD and shall be kept on file by AWD

*** Please click here to find an American Working Dogs Certifying Official in your area.***


Buildings Search Test

This test is to simulate a working situation. Three (3) types of buildings are to be selected and described for this test. The Certifier will be in attendance at all time during the test.

Building Types:


  1. Residential
  2. Barn, Warehouse (open area within the building)
  3. Multiroom interior (school, motel, etc.)



  1. Ten (10) minutes before test starts victim will be hidden
  2. Hidden in a place of concealment (not visible to dog or handler)
  3. Will be a person unknown to the dog (if possible)
  4. Dog and handler should not come in building the same way victim came in building
  5. Will be placed in concealment at any height



  1. Will tell the team what area of the building to search
  2. Will tell the team where to begin the search
  3. Will be with the handler at all times during the test (but not being in the way of the search)
  4. When the certifier can obviously tell that the dog is no longer searching for the suspect, Certifier will notify the handler of the failure at that point.



  1. Normal equipment may be used (collar, harness, etc.). Test may be done off lead.
  2. Certifier and handler will decide before the test starts on how the Certifier will observe the test.
  3. The handler will accompany the team at all times during the test, command and praise when needed.
  4. Handler is NOT allowed to open any doors during the search. Rooms with doors already opened will be searched.
  5. The handler is allowed to convey to the Certifier that the dog has indicated that the victim is behind the door. The dogs indications must be obvious to the Certifier.
  6. The test is for 20 minutes.


The Certifier will decide if the team will be certified. The test given is a pass/fail test. The dog and handler are considered a team, and the team will be certified. If at any time the team are separated (handler gets new dog, dog gets new handler), the new team will need to be certified.

This certification is valid for one (1) year from date of certification


Area Search Test

This test is designed to test the team’s ability and proficiency in searching designated areas to locate a lost or missing person.

Sociability Test:

The K-9 is not allowed to show any signs of aggression during the next exercises, if it does that will constitute a failure. The team is required to pass the sociability and temperament test.

While in a heel position next to the handler, a stranger will approach the team and begin a conversation with the handler, but ignore the K-9. After this takes place the stranger will make non-threatening physical and verbal contact with the K-9.

The Certifier will be made aware of the K-9’s alert before going into the search area. The victims will be strangers to the K-9. The use of GPS devices is allowed during this portion of the test.

Test Areas:

Two test areas are needed for this test. The combined test areas will be at least 20 acres and no more than 40 acres. The terrain shall be light to medium, if the terrain is denser then shorten the area. There will be anywhere from zero (0) to two (2) victims in each area. When the team locates the victim it will be up to the handler to decide if the victim stays with the team or leaves the area. The victim will not do anything (speak, move, etc.) to get the K-9’s attention. The alert most be obvious to the Certifier. Two (2) hours is the time limit to complete both areas

. There will a break between search areas. The team may stop inside the area for the break. This will not count toward the 2 hour time limit. The Certifier will decide the length of the break.

The team will have to find all of the victims in the time limit, if not this is a failure. The Certifier will determine if the team will be certified upon completion of test. Test is pass/fail. A team miss is any wrong response by the team. The team consists of the handler and the K-9, and the team will be certified. If at any time the team separate, the new team will need to be certified. The certification will be good for one year.


Article Search Test

The test is set-up to test the working dogs ability and proficiency in searching a particular area for articles having human scent on them. This search should be as if the team is searching for discarded evidence or lost items. Certifiers and handlers should go over these rules in full. The Certifier will observe the test outside the search area. The Certifier will designate the search area.

Search Area:

The area designated to search should be no less than 40 feet by 80 feet. The terrain will be heavy with vegetation no less than ten (10) inches tall. The area to be searched will be contaminated prior to the test by one or more persons with dogs.


Search Articles:

Three (3) different types of articles will be thrown at random into the search area. The team will not know what articles are thrown. One (1) article will be of metal composition. Articles that can be used, but not limited to:

  1. Credit Card
  2. Shotgun Shell
  3. Leather wallet
  4. Empty metal hand gun
  5. Empty cap gun



The time limit for this test will be Five (5) minutes. A warning will be given when thirty (30) seconds remain for the test. When the handler sends his/her dog out to search at any point around the perimeter the time will begin for the test.



The handler can enter the search area as if this was an actual situation. The handler may elect to recover the articles themselves. After each indication and article recovery the handler will command the canine to continue searching. Judging will be done on alert and indication to the search article. This must be obvious to the Certifier. The dog must make two (2) finds out of the Three (3) with a strong indication on both to pass this test. Biting the Certifier or assisting personnel, lack of control by the handler or disinterest on the part of the dog may be reasons for not passing this team on the test.

The Certifier will determine if the team will be certified upon completion. All tests given this team are on a pass/fail basis. The team consisting of the dog and handler will be certified. At any time should this team separate from each other the certification is void. This certification is good for one (1) from date issued on certification.