Bobcat Builds Elite Canine Team’s Training Grounds

Published on April 10, 2023

Discover how man’s best friend is trained to become a first responder in the aftermath of natural and man-made disasters — with the help of Bobcat equipment. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) relies on Bobcat machines to recreate life-like disaster areas for their elite canine teams, preparing them to locate seemingly impossible-to-find victims by scent, not sight and sound.  

Learn how SDF uses its 125-acre, state-of-the-art facility in California to train the next generation of canine heroes. 

They were there following the World Trade Center attack on 9/11, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and 2010’s 7.0-magnitude earthquake in Haiti. 

In the hours following some of the worst disasters the world has ever seen, a brave team of first responders sprang into action to search for survivors. One rescuer in particular stands out from the crew. One with the remarkable ability to locate seemingly impossible-to-find victims by scent, not sight and sound. 

The hero? You guessed it — man’s best friend. 

The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation (SDF) specializes in training elite canine teams to find survivors in the immediate aftermath of natural and man-made disasters. As you can imagine, teaching dogs this life-saving skill amidst a mass of dust, debris and other dangerous elements takes an intentional, tactical and careful approach.  

So to make sure their teams are trained, SDF relies on one compact-equipment manufacturer to recreate life-like disaster areas — Bobcat

“We’re training the next generation of search teams so that they are prepared before they step off a plane or a bus at the next disaster site,” says Denise Sanders, Senior Director of Communications and Handler Operations at SDF. “Bobcat® equipment helps us build up our training center even more and create that dynamic training experience we need.” 

Bobcat equipment helps us build up our training center even more and create that dynamic training experience we need.

Denise Sanders

Senior Director of Communications and Handler Operations / National Disaster Search Dog Foundation

From Rescued Dogs to Rescuer Heroes 

SDF gives abused and abandoned dogs a new purpose in life, regularly adopting them from animal shelters across the country. They typically look for bold, high-energy and tenacious dogs — not necessarily your ideal family pet. But those traits do make for the perfect search dog.  

To harness those traits to save human lives, SDF adopts a comprehensive two-phased training: 

  • Step 1: Selected canines must pass stringent screening and testing.  
  • Step 2: Before dogs are paired with first responders, like firefighters, each one undergoes 8-10 months of training with a professional handler.
Delta, a canine trainee with the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation, jumping over a pile of rubble.

Dogs, Debris and Dedication

Since 1996, SDF-trained search and rescue dogs have been deployed at 216 disasters.

SDF’s extensive approach has produced game-changing results. Before SDF introduced its program in 1996, only about 15% of the dogs became certified search dogs. But since then, SDF has helped boost certification levels to 85%. 

Building the Best of the Best with Bobcat Equipment 

SDF’s state-of-the-art training facility in Santa Paula, California, occupies 125 acres of donated historic ranch land about 90 minutes north of Los Angeles. The site features collapsed structures, large rubble areas, real-life train and vehicle wreckage, as well as wilderness ravines.  

It’s the perfect setting to pair some of the best-trained canines in the world with the best compact equipment known to man. 

“Without proper equipment, we would not be able to move anything around here,” says Denise. “We’re dealing with thousands of pounds of concrete, a lot of brush, downed trees. And there’s no way we could do our jobs safely and efficiently.” 

So, when it came time to purchase its first equipment, SDF chose a Bobcat E35 compact excavator and a Bobcat T750 compact track loader

An operator with the National Search Dog Foundation uses a Bobcat T750 compact track loader with a grapple attachment.

Rubble-Rousers

A Bobcat® T750 compact track loader with grapple recreates a disaster training area. 

“That’s my baby,” boasts Jim Wiggins, Director of Facilities and Equipment, about SDF’s T750. “This track loader can do anything safely. It’s very easy to operate. It’s very forgiving and very reliable.” 

They use the compact track loader and a variety of attachments daily to perform facility maintenance tasks like brush clearing and gravel road maintenance. But the machine serves an even higher purpose: Moving rubble to provide stimulating new courses for dogs during mock rescue missions. If courses aren’t regularly refreshed, the dogs memorize where the “victims” are hiding. 

Dogs are already man’s best friend. But thanks to the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s training team and a helping hand from Bobcat, they’re more than just buddies — they’re lifesavers.

Supporting Tomorrow’s Canine Heroes 

To learn more about the National Disaster Search Dog Foundation’s mission, and to donate, visit SearchDogFoundation.org.  

To support the foundation’s cause, Bobcat is donating 10% of sales of branded pet items on BobcatStore.com to SDF.  

One Tough Animal

Bobcat is donating 10% of sales of branded pet items to SDF.
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