frequently asked questions

about the website

Q. What do I do if I forgot my password?

If you've been locked out of your account or don't remember your password, use the Forgot Password link on the login page, or click this link:

Your username is your email address.

about dogs

Q. What are the age requirements for our canine partner?

A canine should be 18 months of age minimum before enrolling in the Canis Minor mentorship. There’s no mandatory retirement age. Our senior canine partner may serve for as long as they show their interest in working and to the extent their health permits.

Q. Why is the minimum age 18 months for our canine partner?

While each individual canine matures at their own pace, by 18 months of age working canines typically have the maturity, focus, impulse control, basic training, socialization and life experiences they need to maximize their efforts in the Canis Minor mentorship program.

Q. Are there things we can do until our dog is mature enough to enroll as a Canis Minor?

Yes. We can provide a solid foundation for our canine by working with a local force-free, fear-free trainer who will guide us in learning how to understand the language of dogs - and specifically, how our own dog communicates with us.

Our local trainer will also guide us through gentle socialization, low-key and varied positive community experiences, basic obedience and public access handling skills. Our local trainer will consider our canine’s developmental stages as we develop a solid foundation.

  • We always allow our dog to gently learn at their own pace, comfort and capacity.
  • We avoid exposure to places, things, and people our dog regards as ‘big scary things’.

Q. How do we find a fear-free, force-free trainer near us?

To find a fear-free, force-free trainer nearby visit the Pet Professional Guild website. Simply enter a zip code to see a list of trainers in our area.
Visit the Pet Professionals Guild website

Q. How will we know if a trainer is a fear-free, force-free trainer?

For 10 Questions You Should Ask a Professional Dog Trainer -Before You Hire Them! visit the Pet Professional Guild website page:
Visit the Pet Professionals Guild website

Q. What should we look for in our canine partner?

Tolerance. Social affiliation towards unfamiliar people. Empathy. Compassion. Patience. Social confidence. Environmental confidence. Eagerness to learn. Energy and interest in working. Collaboration. Resilience. Good health. Social and/or neutral to other dogs.

These are the characteristics of the canines who partner with us to work critical incidents.

A few of these characteristics are present from birth, and observable in puppies as young as 8 weeks old. They are who our dog is as an individual and who he’ll be throughout life.

Many of the characteristics change with time -maturity, health, learning and experience - for better or worse.

Q. Is there a particular breed for crisis response? Are females better than male dogs?

These characteristics can be found in individual dogs of any breed, sex or age. Yet, only rarely do we find the individual dog that possesses a balanced combination of these qualities. In other words, we’re looking for the proverbial tan dog in a desert windstorm.

Q. My dog is very large/small. Does that matter?

We ought to consider the adult size and weight of our canine partner and how they might restrict the types of incidents we can respond to. Smaller canines weighing less than 7 pounds may be at greater risk of injury. Larger canines that weigh more than 90 pounds may be too large for to fit under the seat of public transportation or too heavy to load onto disaster area transportation. Very large canines may find limitations on training and response opportunities because of their size and weight.

about training

Q. How long does it take to train a certified response canine and handler?

The answer to this will vary for each of us. As a canine team we’ll usually complete the Canis Minor curriculum and practicums in 6-10 months, and the Competency Practicum in 1-3 months.

Often though, we may need additional time depending on our previous experience, existing involvement with community organizations, and the time we can commit to regular training. When needed, we may extend our training up to a maximum 18 months.

Q. What does the NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines curriculum include?

The Canis Minor mentorship includes training in areas specifically focused on the real world challenges handlers and canines will face in responding to critical incidents and people in crisis.

Some of the topic areas include FEMA Incident Command System, psychological first aid, suicide prevention, confidentiality and ethics, conflict resolution, public access laws, communication technologies, peer support for responders, and the canine partnership.

Q. Is the NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines training a distance learning program?

The Canis Minor mentorship is a hybrid distance learning program. Each topic area includes a blend of on-demand online courses; real world practicums for us and our canine partner in our local community; and live virtual Q+A’s with experienced responders and subject matter experts.

Q. Is the Canis Minor mentorship open enrollment?

No. The Canis Minor curriculum is based on the quarter system. This means limited enrollment cohorts begin in February, May, August and November each year. Cohorts will work together for the first two quarters (Q1 and Q2). 

NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines offers open enrollment to its new Get Started online course. Get Started is on-demand and self-paced. Successful completion of the Get Started course is a pre-requisite for enrolling in the Canis Minor mentorship.

Q. Is it possible to preview or audit the Canis Minor curriculum without enrolling in the mentorship?

Yes. As a preview to the Canine Minor mentorship, NATIONAL offers the Get Started course.

Our Get Started course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of working as a crisis response canine team. The Get Started course is open enrollment, on line, self-paced and allows us to begin exploring whether crisis response is right for us. 

Subscribe to the Get Started course today! 

Q. Is the Get Started course a prerequisite to enrolling in the Canis Minor mentorship?

Yes. Completing the Get Started course provides us with a better understanding of (1) the level of effort we’ll be making a commitment to, and (2) how we’ll experience and adapt to the hybrid learning experience.

Q. What is included in my Get Started course subscription?

Your subscription includes access to the course materials for 90 days. The Get Started subscription is renewable.

Q. Is there a cost to subscribe to the Get Started course?

Yes -and for less than US$1 a day, it's really affordable. Both the Get Started course and the Canis Minor mentorship are subscription-funded. You'll find our best subscription offers here.

Q. Are there other costs for training?

Local Trainer: While we're training with NATIONAL to become a crisis response canine team, we’ll also work with a local fear-free, force free trainer to develop canine handling and communication skills; public access skills; and a working relationship with our canine partner.

Our local trainer may be a member of the Pet Professional Guild or a trainer who will provide a letter stating their commitment to fear-free, force-free training methods. The cost of working with our local trainer is not included in the Canis Minor subscription. The cost is negotiated between the trainer and ourself, and paid directly to the trainer.

Gear: Because some of the gear we might now be using with our pet dog is not appropriate for the work of crisis response, it’s likely we’ll need to purchase gear for our canine and ourself that allows us to work safely. During the Canis Minor mentorship we identify and discuss in detail the gear we’ll use as responders.

Veterinary Care: As canine handlers, we’re responsible for the safety, health and ethical treatment of our canine partner. As such, our local veterinarian, who knows our canine, is an important part of the canine team. A current rabies vaccination (or titers), annual intestinal parasite test (fecal parasite test), and microchip are prerequisites to training and responding. Our veterinarian may recommend other preventatives, supplements or vaccinations for our canine partner.

Criminal Background Clearance: NATIONAL’s promise to our community partners is that the people they serve are safe and protected. Each volunteer initiates a criminal history background check using NATIONAL’s technology partner for conducting encrypted, secure criminal history searches. As a volunteer, we'll specifically authorize the search results to be shared with NATIONAL.

Our volunteers working in licensed professions that by law require criminal history background clearances, are presumed to be cleared and are not required to initiate an additional background search.

ethical treatment

Q. What kind of collar can we use with our canine partner?

Because our canine partner wears a working harness with the lead attached to the harness, collars aren’t used.

If we prefer our canine to wear a collar with their ID and rabies tags, it’s okay to wear a non-metal flat or round collar. The lead is always clipped to the harness, not the collar.

A harness is required for every canine who accompanies a NATIONAL volunteer. This includes canines in training, certified canines, and service dogs.

Q. What kinds of collar are never permitted for our canine partner?

Here are just a few examples of gear that doesn’t foster the ethical treatment of our canine partners. Metal collars; shock collars; e-collars; TENS collars; choke collars; prong/pinch collars; nose halters; ill-fitting gear; leads attached to collars.

Q. Does our canine partner have to have a microchip?

Yes. Microchips are required for every canine who accompanies a NATIONAL volunteer. This includes canines in training, certified canines, and service dogs.

Q: Is an intestinal parasite exam required?

Yes. The intestinal parasite exam, also referred to as a fecal parasite test, determines if our canine is free of intestinal parasites, such as hookworms, roundworms, tapeworms, whipworms and others. These intestinal parasites are a significant health risk to our canine, and the humans and other dogs s/he comes in contact with.

The fecal parasite test is required for every canine who accompanies a NATIONAL volunteer. This includes canines in training, certified canines, and service dogs.

Q: Is a current rabies vaccination required for our canine?

Yes. Rabies vaccinations for dogs are required by the laws of each state, or by local ordinances.

NATIONAL Crisis Response Canines requires that our canine's vaccinations comply with the rabies vaccination laws of our place of residence. If we have more than one residence, vaccinations must comply with the stricter requirements.

A current rabies vaccination is required for every canine who accompanies a NATIONAL volunteer. This includes canines in training, certified canines, and service dogs.

Q: Is rabies titers acceptable instead of a current rabies vaccination?

Maybe. If the state, tribal, territorial or local laws permit rabies titers in lieu of the rabies vaccination, NATIONAL may accept our veterinarian’s signed statement that the rabies vaccination would adversely affect the health of our canine.

NATIONAL refers to the AVMA Publication on Government Regulations when making a decision to accept the rabies titers for our canines.

Q: Will the rabies titers restrict where we can respond?

Maybe. Because state, tribal, territorial or local laws vary on acceptance of rabies titers in lieu of the rabies vaccination, it’s possible our canine may not be permitted to accompany us to an area where the laws do not provide any exemption from the rabies vaccination.

Q. Are we required to have a veterinarian for our canine?

Yes. At NATIONAL the ethical treatment of our canines includes providing health, wellness and medical care guided by a veterinarian familiar with our canine.

Q. Which additional vaccines, medications, preventatives, probiotics, nutritional supplements, diet does NATIONAL recommend for our working canines?

NATIONAL believes our canine’s veterinarian is the professional that can best provide us with specific guidance about vaccinations and other health care for our canine.

Seeking health and medical opinions from someone other than our veterinarian puts our canine’s health at risk -with potentially fatal consequences. So we direct all our health questions to our trusted veterinary professional who has the education, clinical experience and first hand knowledge of our canine’s specific medical history.

No one at NATIONAL is authorized to provide medical information, advice, opinion, diet or health-related recommendations.

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