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About Us

The North American Police Work Dog Association (NAPWDA) was organized on October 22, 1977. The goal of this organization is stated as, "Dedicated to assisting work dog teams throughout the world". The objectives are to:


  1. Unite and assist all law enforcement agencies in the training and continued improvement of all police work dogs.

  2. Establish a working standard for all police work dogs, handlers and trainers, through an accreditation program.

  3. Provide educational material through publications, state and national training workshops.

  4. Improve the image of the working police dog to the general public.


NAPWDA strives to enhance the use of police work dogs by law enforcement agencies through continuing education in the form of local, state, and national workshops, held periodically throughout the year. At the time of organization, it was decided that all Regular Members will be full time or retired law enforcement officers (Federal, Military, State, County, or Municipal) involved with police work dogs. Associate Members would be permitted but with restrictions. Some years later the requirements for Regular Members has been edited to that which is shown below. Associate Members do not have to be law enforcement officers. They must be sponsored each year by a Regular Member and submit a current criminal history check. Additionally, Associate Members do not have any vote in this organization and may only attempt to certify with their dog team in restricted phases.


The annual dues are fifty dollars ($50.00) at this time. New members will receive a membership card, NAPWDA patch, copy of the Bylaws and Certification Rules and other periodic publications (NAPWDA Magazine) as they become available. Each January, when a member renews his/her membership, they will receive a new membership card.


Regular Members: Full initial membership in this association shall be open to any active law enforcement officer, military police, federal, state, county, municipal or correction officer who is a canine handler, trainer, canine administrator or person who was a law enforcement canine officer and is now employed full time as a canine trainer or handler for a recognized law enforcement agency. Full membership shall also be open to any retired (vested or collecting a pension) law enforcement officer, military police, federal, state, county, municipal or correction officer who was a canine handler, trainer or canine administrator at the time of retirement. Regular NAPWDA members who are current in their dues at the time they leave their canine unit and remain a law enforcement officer are still eligible to be a Regular member so long as they remain active in NAPWDA and current in their dues. All Regular members will be ineligible to vote at the first Executive Committee election following their membership acceptance. If a law enforcement agency pays for the member's membership dues, the agency has the right to reassign that membership to another person anytime during that dues period. The change in membership by the law enforcement agency must be in writing to the Membership Chairperson. The written change must include the current member's complete information and the new replacement person's complete information on a NAPWDA membership application. Accredited NAPWDA Master Trainers in good standing who have been in NAPWDA for twenty (20) years or more are awarded lifetime memberships.


Associate Members: An Associate member shall enjoy all privileges except that he/she shall not have any voting privileges, nor shall they serve on the Executive Committee Board. All Associate members must provide a current Criminal History Records Check at the time they initially join and upon renewing yearly. Any criminal convictions for crimes are grounds for review by the Membership Committee and can result in denial or revocation of or from Associate membership. All Associate members must be re-sponsored each year with the signature of a sponsoring member.


Associate members may include:

1. Any person who trains canines for an established law enforcement agency and sponsored by a regular member.

2. Any person sponsored by a regular member.

3. An active firefighter who is a canine handler or trainer with their fire department and is assigned arson investigation duties through the use of the trained Accelerant K9 for that department.


Certification of Associate member's dogs will be determined by the Master Trainer. Associate member’s dogs may only be certified in: Obedience, Article Search, Area Search, Search and Rescue Area Search, Tracking, Trailing, Building Search, Cadaver, Explosives and Accelerant (Accelerant is only an option if the Associate member is an active firefighter who is a canine handler or trainer with their fire department and is assigned arson investigation duties through the use of the trained Accelerant K9 for that department. This test certification will not be valid for any private or non Fire/Law Enforcement Department investigation.)


The organization is comprised of an Executive Board elected every four (4) years by the general Regular membership. The Executive Board is comprised of a President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer and Membership Chairperson. There are also three (3) elected Trustees along with an alternate. The Trustees are elected to four (4) year terms in the same manner. Trustee elections are held at the end of the second year of the Executive Board term. The President appoints committee members and chairpersons as needed for various functions. The NAPWDA Accreditation Board is a standing committee made up of Master Trainers. No member, including elected officers of NAPWDA receives a salary. Everyone volunteers their time.


The accreditation of Regular Members as NAPWDA Trainers or Master Trainers was formulated. These persons must meet stringent criteria before being permitted to apply for these positions. The rules for these accreditation's are annually reviewed by the Executive Board and updated whenever necessary. The requirements have been increased over the years so that we may be assured these persons are truly qualified for those positions. Trainers and Master Trainers are required to complete eight (8) hours of approved Continuing Education per year and to file an annual updated resume with the NAPWDA National Secretary where it is kept on file. The requirements for these accreditations are filed in the NAPWDA Rules for Certification and Bylaws Book.


Regular members may wish to submit their respective training areas for accreditation by NAPWDA if it meets the criteria required by NAPWDA certification rules. This accreditation is valid for two (2) years and must be renewed immediately if the area is changed or at the end of the two (2) years. The requirements are printed in the NAPWDA Rules for Certification and Bylaws book.


The increasing number of police canine teams indicates the immediate need for an aggressive organization dedicated to the development, improvement, training and certification of police work dogs. In order to protect the public safety and to add a useful tool to the police department, the canine team is in need of an organization with a large resource of information. Administrators and dog handlers are in need of an accreditation program to guarantee the trained canines performance. Valid certification benefits the officer when giving court testimony and making apprehensions. Valid certification also eliminates the liability of the poorly trained dog team.


The formation of this organization is to promote and assist in the development of thoroughly trained police canines, thereby becoming an effective and formidable team in the prevention and detection of crime. A minimum acceptable standard of performance for police canines should include the following seven areas:

  1. Obedience - Both on and off leash, verbal and hand signals

  2. Building Search

  3. Area Search - Large outdoor areas looking for felons or lost individuals

  4. Article Search - Lost or discarded evidence

  5. Tracking and/or Trailing - Fleeing Felons or follow the trail of lost persons

  6. Aggression Control - Apprehend the fleeing suspect while maintaining control during gunfire and physical arrest

  7. Additional training and certification is offered in Narcotic, Explosive, Cadaver, and Accelerant Detection and is a definite asset


Member K9 teams may elect to attempt certification as a team, which consists of a handler and his/her dog, in any of the accredited phases of police dog work, endorsed and offered by NAPWDA. The various phases offered for testing and the rules for the specific tests are printed in the NAPWDA Rules for Certification and Bylaws book. The rules are continually reviewed to mandate that NAPWDA minimum standards are in line with current law enforcement standards and specific law requirements. The test is completed on a pass /fail basis. No points or any other scoring of these tests are awarded as this organization is not one of competitions or contests. Only an accredited NAPWDA Master Trainer may certify a NAPWDA member K9 team upon their successful completion of any or all phases attempted. This certification is only valid for a period of one (1) year from the date of the test(s), and as long as the handler is a current member of NAPWDA and the team remains together. If for any reason the team is split up, then the new handler with this dog or the original handler with a new dog must immediately retest. Additionally, if the team which is certified were to attempt to test again within the one (1) year period, and fail a phase or phases in which it had been currently certified in, then the original certification is immediately void with notification being sent to the team and their department with the recommendation to retrain immediately and attempt to retest within six (6) months. Records of all certification tests, passes and failures, are kept by the K9 team, Master Trainer and the National Secretary. These records are entered into the organization’s computer system and kept for permanent record, able to be used for criminal and civil court matters.


NAPWDA publishes a Magazine which is sent out to members during year. Materials within this magazine range from announcements of upcoming workshops and advertisements, to a large number of training articles, techniques, veterinary medicine information for K9 health care, legal briefs and training aids.


The higher performance standard offered by this Association can be accomplished through informative working workshops that allow handlers and their dogs to participate in specific training exercises under the immediate direction of the world's most renowned experts. Part of this organization's training will include the introduction of successful training methods utilized by these experts. The free flowing exchange of knowledge and new techniques through workshops and educational materials, training aids and newsletters, is designed for the improvement of the proficiency and credibility of the canine team.

The Association is a non-stop source of vital information and enthusiastically invites all members to submit to the Magazine Editor any information they think would be beneficial. Upon review, this information will be reprinted and sent to members.


The list of accredited Trainers and Master Trainers is always being updated, and is published in the magazine as well as on the NAPWDA web site. They are always available upon request from the National Secretary, to insure the availability for proper training to any police work dog team member.


At present NAPWDA membership is approximately 2,600 total members, of which 286 are Associate members. The remaining members are either current or retired law enforcement officers. There are 55 state coordinators at this time.


NAPWDA currently has 38 Nationally Accredited Trainers and 76 Nationally Accredited Master Trainers. Remember these persons are either current or retired law enforcement K9 officers, not civilian or private citizens in a private business.


NAPWDA Master Trainers have certified over 80,000 K9 teams throughout North America.

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