Starting in 1998, IFRI/NFSTC Detector Dog Team Certification program
working with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) Contraband Interdiction
Program and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) and
other partners established the first Statewide K-9 trainer and
detection team certification program with independent scientific
validation. The program is intended to provide recommended scientific
standards of practice for trainers and organizations and to make
available an additional layer of credentials for detection teams.
The ongoing goal of this program is to continue to advance scientifically
sound detection K-9 validation programs which are internationally
recognized and which improve contraband interdiction from local
enforcement to courtroom defensibility.
Annually, more than 100 detection teams from dozens of different
agencies across the State of Florida including all of the FHP’s
narcotic and explosive detection teams have been certified through
this program. In addition, teams have been certified in other States
as well as internationally including Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
The program includes all types of detection canines including arson,
currency, drugs, explosives, persons, pests and weapons and since
1998 has been offered free of charge to agencies via grants and
IFRI & NFSTC hosted the 2nd National Detector Dog Conference
(NDDC) from May 22-25, 2001 in North Miami Beach, Florida which
brought together more than 30 invited speakers and 110 participants
from dozens of different agencies and various countries. IFRI & NFSTC
also hosted the 3rd NDDC from May 19-23, 2003 with the theme of “The
Expanding Role of Detection Canines in Homeland Security”.
This meeting brought together over 40 invited speakers and 130
attendees including many of the world’s leading experts in
the field of detector dogs including scientists, handlers, trainers
and administrators. Draft best practices for detector dog teams
have been developed and refined and will be published in the near
FIU is a public Research I University located in Miami, Florida.
IFRI was the first academic Forensic Center approved by the State
in 1997 to serve law enforcement efforts in the application of
scientific principles to the administration of justice. FIU houses
some of the State’s premier forensic science programs including
undergraduate programs since 1978 and the first State approved
graduate program in Forensic Science starting in 1998. The NFSTC
is a Florida not-for-profit corporation located in Largo, Florida.
The NFSTC was established by the American Society of Crime Laboratory
Directors (ASCLD) in 1995 and has, as its mission, the development
of several initiatives aimed at servicing various segments of the
forensic science community.
Contact: K9 Program Coordinator, International Forensic Research
Institute, FIU, CP304, University Park, Miami, FL 33199. www.ifri.fiu.edu.
Tel: 305-348-6211. Fax: 305-348-3772
IFRI/NFSTC CERTIFICATION GUIDELINES
IFRI/NFSTC certification is evidence that the trainer and/or detection
team has satisfactorily met and passed all applicable standards.
The IFRI/NFSTC certification is valid for one year from the date
of issuance and non-transferable. To be eligible for re-certification,
the trainer’s agency must have a written policy mandating
the keeping of training records by the detector dog team.
IFRI/NFSTC Minimum Certified Detector Dog Trainer Requirements
- A minimum of five (5) years experience as a detection canine trainer.
- A minimum of 200 hours of formalized training by recognized detection
- Completion of a 40 hour IFRI/NFSTC Trainer Certification Course
(or approved equivalent) including instruction by a recognized
detection canine trainer(s), law enforcement, legal and scientific
experts in the area of detection canines.
- Supplying the IFRI/NFSTC with standardized detector dog school
certification guidelines relevant to the trainers agency approved
by an external IFRI/NFSTC review panel of at least two (2) individuals
from outside the trainer’s agency.
- Successful training of detector dog team(s) using the approved
guidelines as determined by a review team of at least two approved
individuals from outside the trainer’s agency.
- Separate guidelines should be developed and separate detection
teams trained for each class of odors such as Accelerants, Cadavers,
Currency, Explosives, Hidden persons, Narcotics, etc.
- Multiple specific odors, varying amounts of target odors, and varying
conditions should be incorporated into the trainer’s course
and testing protocols.
- Training/judging with members of local, national or international
detector dog organizations is recommended.
- Occasional videotaping of training sessions is recommended for
trainer/handler critiquing. Archiving of videotapes is not recommended.
IFRI/NFSTC Detector Dog Team Certification Recommendations:
- Finds may be provided by the IFRI/NFSTC or the requesting agency.
- Pseudo scents must not be used for certification tests.
- For narcotics detection, each find should be less than two years
old or authenticated by an approved local, State or Federal lab
prior to use in a certification. A purity of 85% or greater is
- Scented rewards must not be used during the tests.
- Each hide should contain at least one (1) gram or item to be detected
with a maximum of 1000 grams for any one test.
- There should be only one find of each type in each designated area.
- At least two different search areas/items should be incorporated
into the certification tests such as building, vehicle, luggage,
open areas, etc.
- At least one blank search area/item should be incorporated into
the certification tests for each different search area/item.
- Distractors should normally not be part of the certification test
but should be widely employed in training and results documented
in training records.
- All finds should be placed in the search area at least thirty (30)
minutes prior to the test.
- Ideally, the search area should be previously swept by the dog(s)
to be tested to reduce the potential of contamination interference
and to randomize dog odor if multiple dogs are to be tested in
the same area.
- Ideally, find(s) should be confirmed with a previously certified
team under the supervision of an IFRI/NFSTC certification team
prior to testing.
- There should be a minimum of 10 total finds (including blanks)
and the team should accurately locate 9 finds out of 10 (90%) or
greater for certification.
- Results of the certification tests should be pass or fail rather
than judgments of style (see example certification sheet).
- The maximum time to complete an individual search should be less
than five minutes but disqualification due to time should be left
to the discretion of the master trainer.
- Recommended search areas include the following: Vehicles – at
least 3 vehicles including one interior, one exterior and one blank;
Building – a minimum of 200 sq. ft. and maximum of 1200 sq.
ft. (with furniture) including at least one blank room; Baggage – a
minimum of 10 articles and a maximum of 25 articles; Open area – a
minimum of 1000 sq. ft. and a maximum of 3000 sq. ft.
- Certification is for the handler and the dog as a team and if the
dog changes handlers then a new certification is required
- The certification team should include at least one individual from
outside the trainer’s agency and should preferably include
at least one trainer and one scientist.
- Documentation of the team’s detection proficiency training
should be maintained by the certified trainer and available for
inspection including the certification documents, training records
and a certificate of completion of an approved narcotic detection
academy which includes the number of hours the team attended the
- A detection team which fails to complete the certification process
should wait at least 30 days (and complete additional training)
before making another attempt to certify.
- Any complaints or suggestions regarding how the certification was
conducted should be sent in writing to the trainer and certification
team within two weeks of the completion of the test.
- Determination of the reliability of the detection team should be
based primarily on the certification records and secondarily on
the regular training records but should not use deployment logs
as unconfirmed alerts do not accurately evaluate a detection team’s
performance (i.e. residual odor can be present or concealment may
The IFRI/NFSTC Certified Detector Dog Trainer Guidelines scientific
review panel includes:
Dr. Jose Almirall,
Ph.D., International Forensic Research Institute
Dr. Kenneth G. Furton, Ph.D., International Forensic Research
Kevin Lothridge, M.S., National Forensic Science Technology
Dr. Lawrence J. Myers, D.V.M., Ph.D., Auburn University
Dr. Stefan Rose, M.D., Univ. Medical and Forensic Consultants,