National Disaster Search Dog FoundationSEARCH DOG FOUNDATION - From Rescued to Rescuer

What the NTC Will Offer

Canine Evaluation and Training

Currently our canine candidates are transported from shelters and rescue groups to SDF's “boot camp” kennel in Santa Paula, CA, for evaluation and socialization, then travel to the formal training site in Gilroy, just south of San Francisco.

The NTC will bring canine evaluation, care and training to one location to give the canines the best possible environment for their intensive 8-month training program.

The Canine Pavilion will be the heart and soul of the canine program at the NTC. Here, formerly homeless, abandoned dogs will be given “a new leash on life” through expert veterinary care and training by compassionate professionals. The Pavilion will be a state-of-the-art 14,000 square foot facility accommodating 40 dogs in double-occupancy kennels, each complete with its own indoor and outdoor runs and plenty of space to rest and play in the fresh air.

It will include classrooms where Canine Search Specialists will share knowledge about training and deployments. These classes and workshops will be transmitted remotely throughout the country—and the world—with the goal of strengthening disaster response and rescue.

Dogs accepted into the program who don’t have everything it takes for disaster search will be given lots of TLC and obedience training at the NTC before making a career change or being partnered with a loving Lifetime Care Family.

Advanced Training Scenarios

Each time our Search Teams are deployed to a disaster, they encounter extreme conditions and challenging search scenarios that call for the highest level of training. In order to be fully prepared for any situation they encounter, the teams need to train in an environment that simulates these conditions. Right now most of our teams train on piles of rubble found at recycling centers. There are three problems with this:
  1. The training piles are temporary – they’re only there until the boulders or lumber are needed for another purpose.
  2. The search scenarios, as long as they last, are static – the dogs get used to the same search configuration.
  3. The piles are not sufficiently challenging – a “victim” buried a few feet under concrete doesn’t come close to what the teams experience in an actual deployment.

Our new training site will feature collapsed structures, mudslides, large-area rubble searches, “deep victim” searches, train wrecks and wilderness ravines. We will be able to reconfigure the “props” to create an infinite variety of challenging scenarios.

A “Home Away From Home” for America’s Search Teams

We want to give our very best to the people and animals who risk their lives for us. Whether the teams are training at the NTC for a weekend, a week, or a month, we will offer them a “home away from home.” That’s why our plan includes:

  • A Handlers Lodge for first responders and their families with a full-service kitchen, comfortable living room and play areas for children
  • Top-notch kennel facilities at the Canine Pavilion where Search Dogs will enjoy excellent care and daily training
  • A medical suite to serve all the canines’ health care needs
  • Well-equipped classrooms where handlers will be able to share what they have learned in training and on deployments with fellow handler

National Testing and Training and International Visitors

The NTC will be made available to all State, Regional, and Federal Task Forces for Certification testing—a requirement before teams can deploy. The NTC will also serve as a venue for joint training sessions with international Urban Search and Rescue agencies.

Photo left: Beijing-based Canine Search Specialist Zhong Sheng at the NTC with SDF Executive Director Debra Tosch and SDF Founder Wilma Melville during his visit to learn about SDF’s training methods – June 2012