disaster dog

Disaster K9 Workshop Summary: March 2018 Tulsa, OK

Disaster K9 Workshop Summary: March 2018 Tulsa, OK

Disaster K9 teams from 9 states joined us for our first Workshop of 2018. Registrants came together on March 20-21, 2018 to challenge their skills and learn from each other this week in Tulsa, OK at the US&R training site of OK TF-1.

Disaster K9 Workshop/USAR K9 TECC Course November 2016: VA Beach

K9 search teams and support personnel from 18 states came together to challenge their skills and share training concepts at our combined Disaster K9 Workshop/K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Course at Virginia Beach Fire and EMS Training Center November 28th - December 1st, 2016.

Superfit Canine returned to VA Beach this fall after a very successful event in July this year. The event started with our 2-day Disaster K9 Workshop. Attendees were teamed up with one of our experienced group leads as they worked through search problems in a variety of scenarios. The VA Beach Fire and EMS Training Center offers several FEMA Type I rubble piles, an agility yard, wide areas, and a 4-story burn tower. As a new addition, we were fortunate to offer an 18 hole golf course to provide very wide areas and an abandoned building for search operations. 

Live Find and HRD K9 teams rotated through stations where they were able to work through rough terrain, and scent/sound distractions. Thanks to the incredible rigging support from VA Beach Fire and EMS training center, attendees were able to be lowered with their K9 from the 4th floor of the burn tower to the ground where they were able to immediately send their dog into a search problem. 

Following our 2-day Disaster K9 Workshop was our 2-day USAR K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Course. This valuable course was provided by our friends from Veterinary Tactical Group, a company that offers veterinary emergency training for dog handlers, tactical medics and veterinary personnel. Attendees were presented with the latest evidence-based knowledge of the most common life-threatening injuries in working canines. Not only did students learn what can be done to mitigate the risk of injury, they also learned what steps can be taken in the field to improve survival using TCCC/TECC guidelines adapted specifically for the unique anatomy and physiology of the K9. In addition to case presentations and lecture based learning, students had an opportunity to practice their skills hands-on throughout the course in field scenarios. 

Several media agencies attended the event, and were very excited to share the incredible service that search dogs and their handlers provide across the country. 

The entire event could not have been successful without the incredible support from the folks at VA Beach Fire and EMS Training Center and VA-TF2. Their dedication to supporting the mission of improving the deployment readiness of K9 teams across the country is greatly appreciated by all of us. 

For a full gallery of images of this event, please visit our Photography Event Page

If you are interested in attending one of our future workshops, please check out our Disaster K9 Workshop page. We're adding new events all the time!

Disaster K9 Workshop October 2016: Australia

Disaster K9 Workshop October 2016: Australia

Canine search teams and support members from several agencies joined us for a 4-day Disaster K9 Workshop in Melbourne, Australia October 29th - November 1st 20

Sudden Lameness in a Working Dog: Searching for the Cause

The sudden onset of lameness in a working dog is surely enough to make a canine handler’s heart skip a beat. I know this because it happened to us today with 7 year old Disaster SearchDog Ben after a morning of agility, directional training, and rubble search. He just turned 7, and Eric and I work hard to keep him fit to avoid injury. 

We finished our morning with a short, two person search on a small rubble pile. Ben performed his usual acrobatics on the pile, leaping around fearlessly, and flawlessly. He was paid promptly with a few tugs and he did his victory lap with the toy on the way back to the truck. That’s when I noticed a very slight lameness of the left hind leg.

I performed a thorough musculoskeletal evaluation. I palpated each joint, putting them all through their full range of motion. I squeezed every toenail, looking for a cracked one (which is Ben’s specialty), and looked in between each toe, looking for a puncture (above is the photo of his paw). I probed each muscle belly in the affected limb, looking for a clue. No signs of pain, heat, or swelling, but he was still having an intermittent, mild decrease in weight bearing on his left hind leg (we’d call this a grade 0-1 out of 4 lameness).

Getting ready to pass it off as a soft tissue strain, I noticed him licking his left hind foot (his usual M.O. when he’s cracked a nail) and so I investigated further. Squeezing each toenail, spreading the toes….again. Then, there it was…a superficial abrasion of the metacarpal pad, the weight bearing, and shock absorbing portion of the hind limb. 

These abrasions are often seen as small flaps of paw pad tissue, and are often difficult to identify when the surface area of the abrasion is very small, and the small flap is still covering the wound. More severe abrasions can involve the entire paw pad, several paw pads, or multiple limbs. The rough, superficial tissue of the paw pad is a very specialized material designed to protect the sensitive and fragile epidermis that lies underneath. When the protective pad is worn away, the epidermis is exposed, causing discomfort when bearing weight.

The good news is, with superficial abrasions like this, the treatment is to keep it clean, and rest while it heals (and, in case you didn’t know…rest is a working canine team’s nemesis). A more severe abrasion (such as when the entire epidermis is abraded) might require more intensive veterinary care which may include bandaging, foot soaks, or even surgical debridement. Of course, always seek veterinary advice when treating things like this. 

Prevention? Well, That can be hard for a working dog. In my experience, these abrasions often happen after intense tugging, or retrieving on rough surfaces, such as asphalt, or gravel. The repetitive skidding of the paw pad against the ground causes loss of the superficial protective tissues. Limiting these activities when possible may help to prevent injuries like this.

Thanks for reading. Now….. off to tell Ben about the prescribed REST. Wish me luck!

Cadaver Dog Locates Last Remaining Victim of Train Crash



Superfit Canine’s very own Golden Retriever Wyatt and handler Eric Darling were deployed and tasked with locating the remains of victims of the Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia this past Tuesday. Along with teammate Labrador Retriever Pacy, a human remains detection K9 trained by handler Pat Kaynaroglu of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the dogs searched tirelessly throughout the night. Wyatt located the last remaining victim on Thursday morning.

Disaster search dogs and their handlers train for thousands of hours and travel thousands of miles all over the country to simulated disaster sites. All to ensure that the dogs are prepared for whatever terrain or environment that they may be faced with during a disaster. 

Their goal? Everybody comes home.

Photos are of K9 Wyatt taken at a simulated disaster training site. See more photos at superfitcanine.com

There are lots of ways to improve the fitness and conditioning of athletic and working dogs. This example is of the underwater treadmill (UWTM). The UWTM offers the cardiovascular benefits of the traditional land treadmill, but adds in the resistance of water to strengthen muscles and buoyancy to reduce the stress that gravity can put on joints during exercise. In addition to conditioning healthy dogs, it is used for the rehabilitation of injured or arthritic dogs. In this short video, Search and Rescue Dog Ben gets some exercise in the UWTM.