Seminars and Workshops

The National Search Dog Alliance is a community of K-9 handlers committed to sharing ideas, training, and experiences. NSDA is proud to host periodic seminars and workshops with the intent of bringing in new ideas and training opportunities. The goals are to offer canine handlers from across the country an opportunity to train under experts in the field, develop their skills as searchers, and better the K-9 team who in turn make a positive difference in service to their communities. Whether you are building a foundation for your wilderness dog, preparing for certification, or focusing on advancing your skills for deployment, we welcome you to join us!

November 1st — November 3rd, 2024: Warrenton, Missouri. Multi-discipline field seminar offering instruction in Area/Airscent, Firearms Detection, Human Remains Detection and Trailing.

Click here to read about our instructors!


Area Search Instructors

Gail Collins

Gail Collins has been serving in K-9 Search and Rescue since 2005, and has trained, deployed, and certified dogs in multiple disciplines with civilian SAR organizations (OSSA, NSDA, IPWDA). She has served as a K-9 Unit Lead, K-9 training and testing coordinator, and incident commander, and currently holds elected Board positions with search and rescue organizations both locally and nationally.

Gail is a SAR K-9 Principal Evaluator (OSSA, NSDA), and has multiple certifications in search management. She has been an instructor since 2014, with a special affinity for real-world problem solving and mentoring K-9 teams. Gail continues to be deployed on missions and investigations across the West, and has had numerous live finds and recoveries with her canine partners.

She has also spent her life in the outdoors and worked as a Wildlife Biologist for over 20 years, specializing in large carnivore research in some of the most remote wilderness of the US. Gail currently is deploying her fourth K-9 partner, a 5-year-old certified Belgian Tervuren (Wyatt) in Live Find and Human Remains Detection.

Firearms Detection

Mike Swindle

Mike Swindle has been active in the working dog industry since 2000. He has served as a handler and trainer in multiple K9 disciplines and is a Master Trainer with AMPWDA, where he runs the forensic K9 section. Michael retired from the Illinois State Police and recently started his own company, JET K9 Training & Consulting LLC out of the St. Louis, Missouri area.

He specializes in K9 substance detection, however, also trains students in tracking/trailing and air scent live find. He is the president of Gateway Search Dogs, Inc. and performs team training and search manager duties. Michael currently handles K9 Jette who is trained in firearms detection.

HRD Instructors

Lisa Higgins

Lisa Higgins is the co-founder of one of the first SAR teams in LA, Louisiana Search and Rescue Dog team otherwise known as LaSAR beginning in 1989. The team has responded to well over a thousand calls since 1991 when they were first used to locate a teenager under three feet of sand and four feet of water in May of 1991. Lisa now serves as the team's senior handler and lead trainer.

Lisa began a career in Law Enforcement as early as 1978 retiring a commission with thirty years in 2008 with St. Tammany Sheriff's Office as a SSgt. in the Special Operations division. She continued working as a canine contractor with the FBI Forensic Canine program from 2005 until 2018.

Lisa continues to work with LaSAR as a volunteer now with thirty-three years field experience. Lisa continues to instruct seminars all over the country and is a canine evaluator for various national organizations including NSDA.

Brad Dennis

Brad Dennis has over 30 years of experience in search and rescue and 22 years as a K-9 handler. He is currently working his 4th HRD K-9, Grace, a labrador retriever. Brad is the National Search Director for the KlaasKIDS Foundation Search Center for Missing & Trafficked Children. He managed the community-assisted search effort following the abduction of 12-year-old Polly Hannah Klaas in 1993 from Petaluma, Ca.; which has become the model for child abduction search strategies.

He has managed search efforts for over 300 missing/abducted children around the country. He travels extensively throughout the United States providing dynamic and relevant instruction concerning search and rescue operations, advocacy to families of missing children, child abduction search management, sex trafficking of minors and serves as "Evaluator" for the National Association of Search and Rescue (NASAR). He has been instrumental in the rescue of numerous children from sex trafficking and the intelligence he has gathered has assisted in taking down several child prostitution rings.

His rescue efforts for missing children have been chronicled on CNN, The Early Show, The Today Show, Dateline, MSNBC, and 48 Hours. He has been awarded the Commissioner's Award from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the prestigious Justice Award from the Foundation for Improvement of Justice for his efforts to locate missing children.

Robin Houston

Robin Houston worked in law enforcement for 29 years with the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department, retiring at the rank of Major. After retirement, she served within the KCPD Canine Unit as a reserve for five years.

Robin volunteered with the Missouri Search and Rescue K9 Unit for twenty years serving in a variety of roles (i.e. K9 handler, Training Officer, Treasurer, President). She has certified canines in the disciplines of live find area search, scent specific trailing, and human remains detection. Currently, Robin has a bloodhound certified in scent specific trailing and a border collie certified in human remains detection.

She believes that it is important for tenured handlers to help others in their journey to become proficient in disciplines within search and rescue.

Christi Raak

Christi Raak is an AMPWDA-HRD Master Trainer and instructor for various other organizations. In 2012, she found the SAR world and was immediately fascinated with every aspect of the working dog world and giving back to the communities. In 2018, she started training dual and single purpose K9's for LE in narcotics and accelerants, explosives, bite work, tracking, obedience from start to finish and teaching handler schools to prepare/teach officers become handlers learn to handler their K9 and for their cert. In 2021, she began training and working her own explosives K9.

She enjoys helping handlers develop and progress through their training. She loves to continue to learn and share any knowledge that she can pass on! In her working K9 career she has trained and deployed with 5 partners including x-trained live find/hrd, an article detection dog, a trialing dog and an explosives detection K9.

She currently has a 5-year-old certified GSD (Jude) in HRD and a 9 month old bloodhound in training for trailing.

Rob Ward

Rob Ward joined the Louisiana Search and Rescue K9 Team (LaSAR) in September of 2013. He trained under the watchful eye of the team trainer, and co-founder, Lisa Higgins. He and his K9 partner, Niko, certified in land-based human remains detection within 14 months of joining LaSAR and water-based human remains detection shortly after.

Rob is currently the president of LaSAR, an HRD instructor and a senior K9 handler for the team. He is also an instructor at the annual LaSAR HRD water seminar. From 2015 through 2018, Rob served as the secretary / webmaster for the National Network of Canine Detection Services (NNCDS) and as an assistant instructor at their annual seminars.

In 2019 he began, and continues to, serve as an instructor and evaluator for the organization. For the past two years, Rob has served as a HRD water instructor at the Shreveport Fire Department / Ark-La-Tex K9 SAR in Texas. Rob has done field work, both land and water, for local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. He has also assisted local anthropologist doing historical survey work.

Trailing Instructors

Neil Day

Neil Day is the owner and lead instructor for All Day Dog Adventures based in Montana. He is also an operational member of a SAR unit and K9 team in Flathead Valley, Montana. Neil served with the British Army and was a Police Officer with the Metropolitan Police service in London for fifteen years.

Neil has been involved in K9 Search and Rescue since 2009 and since that time has trained and certified three dogs in multiple disciplines. He continues to be operational and deployed on missions across Montana. Neil and his canines have had multiple finds in both live find and human remains detection. He has been an evaluator for various organizations and is currently an NSDA Principal Evaluator in multiple disciplines. He also has training and leadership roles in various SAR organizations.

Neil has been leading and instructing multiple seminars in multiple disciplines throughout the United States since 2018.

Mark Holmes

Mark Holmes with a thirty-nine year career in Law Enforcement, has been a Detective in the Criminal Investigations Division for the last 27 years and is assigned to Homicide/Cold Case Homicide of the Jefferson County, TX Sheriff's Office. Mark also holds the Master Peace Officer Certification from the State of Texas. He became a Law Enforcement K-9 handler in 1994.

As a K-9 handler, he has been called upon to assist the F.B.I., U.S. Marshall's Office, U.S. State Department, The U.S. Department of the Interior - National Park Service, the United States Consulates Office, the Mexican Consulates Office, National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA - Space Shuttle Disaster), and Texas Department of Criminal Justice - Office of the Inspector General.

Detective Holmes has also worked numerous canine related mantrailing cases throughout Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida including federal and state prison escapes. As a K-9 Handler, Mark is recognized as an Expert Witness in both Texas and Louisiana Judicial Court Systems. He is a nationally recognized canine mantrailing instructor and Founded and is the President of both Texas Bloodhound Search and Rescue and the United States Mantrailing Association.

Mark has taught well over 100 canine mantrailing seminars/ courses throughout the United States and has authored/co-authored numerous training articles relating to canine mantrailing and scent specific canine training.

Todd Raak

Todd Raak joined Search and Rescue in 2015, and he trained and nationally certified with his first bloodhound Letti, deployed on numerous searches and fell in love with the discipline of trailing. Todd's search and rescue experience includes search manager, assisting with training K9s in various disciplines, field support and K9 handler. In 2019 he stepped away from the unit to focus on a new career position.

Todd has continued to share his passion for trailing with handlers and their K9 partners by volunteering with several organizations. His training style is breaking things down into individual components/steps allowing the dog/handler teams to successfully put the pieces together. Todd enjoys sharing any knowledge he has and watching teams be successful.