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A professional development masterclass for K9 detection teams and people who work with them.


  • Questions, ideas, and opinions from handlers across the United States and around the world.
  • Controversies and sensitive topics such as frauds, glory seekers, and credentials.
  • Methods and practical tips gathered from more than 27 years of training and field work.

It has been said that about the only thing two K9 handlers agree about is what a third handler is doing wrong. Whether in search and rescue or cadaver and human remains detection, there’s a variety of opinions in how handlers and dogs train and work. K9 Teams: Beyond the Basics of Search and Rescue and Recovery uses solid science and the experience of dozens, if not hundreds, of handlers to explore the issues teams and organizations commonly encounter in training and operations.

Vi Hummel Shaffer is a professional K9 handler who has worked in search and rescue and recovery, including mass fatality recovery, for over 27 years. Along the way she’s attended dozens of seminars, learned from some of the top trainers in the world, and spent countless hours in the field working with a wide variety of agencies. In K9 Teams, Vi compiles the questions most often asked, the issues handlers struggle with, and some of the best suggestions handlers share with one another.

K9 Teams explores dog selection, training methods, professional certification, team dynamics, issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, and much more. Everyone working with or interested in detection dogs needs this book. Those in law enforcement, fire departments, and other emergency response agencies will also benefit from the book by learning what K9s can—and cannot—reliably do. Get the most from K9 teams in the field.

Table of Contents

The Purpose of This Book
1. The Beginning: What It’s All About
2. K9 Search Disciplines: An Overview
3. Joining a TEAM
4. The Process of Membership
5. TEAM Standards, Procedures, and Bylaws
6. Evaluating Puppies and K9 Selection
7. The Dog’s Nose
8 Developments in Understanding Scent
9. K9 Trainers
10. Basics in K9 SAR/R Training
11. Understanding Training Methods
12. Training Sessions
13. Training Areas
14. Field Training
15. The Scent Article
16. Training Scenarios for Live-Victim Searches
17. Training Is Training, and Testing Is Testing
18. The Controversy over Cross-Training
19. TEAM Training Sessions
20. Seminars and Workshops
21. Certifications
Prelude to Human Remains Detection, Dr. William M. Bass, DABFA
22. What Is Cadaver / Human Remains Detection?
23. Odor of Death
24. Training Materials or Scent Sources
25. Handling and Storage of Training Aids
26. Training Materials Myths and Misconceptions
27. Introducing Odor, Imprinting, and Search Commands
28. The Alert
29. Training for Human Remains Detection
30. Law Enforcement and SAR/R
31. Search Briefings and Searches
32. Major Disasters and Mass Fatalities
33. Searching in Mass Fatality Incidents
34. Mass Fatality K9 Team Training
35. Emotions, Stress, and Post-Traumatic Stress
36. K9 Teams and Court
37. Websites and Social Media
38. Politics, Egos, Glory Seekers, Frauds, and Misunderstandings
A Final Note

This is an excellent book that has been needed for years! Great for all interested in detection dog work, from beginners to seasoned trainers, in addition to the law enforcement agencies who use them.

Billy Smith, Sr., Founder, National Narcotics Detection Dog Association (NNDDA); Co-Founder, Law Enforcement Training Specialists, International (L.E.T.S.)

This book explores areas that have not been discussed in publication before. It’s a must read for all scent detection K9 handlers and those who want to become one.

Harold “Ben” Bennett, former executive officer and head trainer of the Norfolk, VA, Police K-9 Corp

If you are wanting to get into the SAR field, this book is a must. Being a criminal investigator, I can say that if you are in Law Enforcement, this book will put you ahead of the learning curve when a SAR Team is en-route or already on scene and time is crucial.

Sgt William J. Fiveash, Criminal Investigations Division, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office

K9 Teams is a great read with valuable insights on the training and handling of search and rescue and human remains detection dogs.

Mary Jane Boyd, K-9 Search and Rescue of Texas

I believe this book will benefit all dog handlers working in SAR. This book covers most of the issues when training or out on deployments.

Jerry Numon, Co-Director of Goshen County Sheriff’s SAR Team

I wish I had this book in my hands 25 years ago or so. This book needs to be in every law enforcement library. Both young and experienced handlers alike will find this book to be the best all-inclusive guideline available.

Lt. Terry Lowe, Criminal Investigation Division, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office

For anyone wanting to know about the use of canines in search and rescue missions, and more especially, their use in the recovery of human remains, this book is a must read, and a must have on your resource bookshelf.

Jason Waller, Department Chair, Legal & Public Service Careers, Tyler Junior College

Vi Hummel Shaffer

Vi Hummel Shaffer has 27 years experience as a volunteer K9 handler specializing in forensic human remains detection. She is also an instructor, speaker, and consultant in SAR/R, and is an associate instructor with Texas Forensic Associates. In 2002, Vi was appointed the national chairperson of the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) Mass Fatality K9 Standards and Requirements Committee by the director of the U.S. Office of Emergency Preparedness/National Disaster Medical Systems/Department of Health and Human Services. In 2003, her dog Mercy was recognized by the federal government as the first mass fatality K9 in the United States and as the inspiration for DMORT’S K9 program. Vi and Mercy, at the request of the FBI, were a part of Operation Noble Eagle, the victim recovery team at the Pentagon in the aftermath of 9/11.