Training Your Puppy to be a Diabetic Alert Dog

Training Your Puppy to be a Diabetic Alert Dog. My training manual is in
workbook format with links to online resources, training videos, recommended
products,how to use collect and use scent samples, forms to track
scent training,training checklists, and much more. 122 pages.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

First responders and service dogs

A note from Dena F. about an experience with her diabetic alert dog prompted this post. In her own words:

When I initially got Bailey, I worried about what would happen when paramedics tried to take care of me. She is a really good natured dog, but if she thought I was in danger, what might happen? And would I be able to take care of it? So, I encourage most men who want to pet her to do so, when she is controlled, and in a sit. I ask them to approach her from the front and pet her head.

When I was in training, more than a year ago, my last experience with the paramedics happened in Wal-Mart. We had been together about two weeks, Bailey and I. She DID lightly growl when the men wearing dark clothing and carrying tackle boxes walked up! That was why I decided to start working on introducing her to more men. I especially try to go out of my way to ask security people and police officers to talk to her and pet her.

I want her to be comfortable in a situation that might be frightening for both myself AND her. With my anxiety problems, I need to be especially aware of my state of mind when I am becoming aware again.

I also have been working with both of my children to teach them how to control Bailey in the case of something happening to me. And that means getting her to listen to their commands and walk at heel for them. Since my 5 year old is 40 pounds soaking wet, this is challenging. Bailey is NOT the most subdued of dogs! But, the work is paying off and I see results in her listening to their commands.

Our life with Bailey has been a FAMILY effort. It has paid off. I went 13 months without a visit from the paramedics! That is incredible in my world..... Every single day I appreciate her more!

Dena has hit on an extremely important topic for all service dog teams. I have a client in rural North Carolina with a medical condition that prompted her to contact me about training her adult Lab as a medical alert dog. As we began the process, I recommended she visit the local rescue squad who would respond to her home. First, they need to be aware of her condition and that she has a service dog in training. Second, her dog needs to meet the people who may respond to the home. On that visit, asking to get into the ambulance with the dog is a great idea, as well asking them to crank up the lights and sirens, if possible. I also recommended teaching her dog what to do if she is unconscious and is being attended to by emergency services workers. A down/stay nearby is one option. All service dog handlers also need to determine what happens if an ambulance has to transport him/her to the hospital. Does your dog go with you in the ambulance?

Congratulations to Dena, her family and her beauti
ful German Shepherd, Bailey for all their successes in the last year. Below: That's me, Dena, and Bailey at the diabetic alert dog workshop last summer.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Distance Training

I am regularly contacted by people from around the country seeking information about diabetic alert dogs. The simple fact is that there are not now, and may never be, enough dogs trained properly for the diabetics who need them. This recurring theme has prompted me to offer distance training services for people with dogs who are partially trained as alert dogs and people with a family dog who they think might be trainable as an alert dog. Interested? Contact me to arrange a consultation. Email:

Dee Bogetti
Canine Consultant
Author, Puppies chew shoes, don't they? - available December 2009

Delta Pet Partners #69749
AKC CGC Evaluator
AKC Star Puppy Evaluator
Full Member, Association of Pet Dog Trainers
Founder, Life's Journey Therapy Dogs
Co-host, Bark Radio

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Holistic Service Dog Training

Holistic is defined as “taking into account all of somebody's physical, mental, and social conditions in the treatment of illness”. My vision of holistic service dog training means working with the entire family, not just the individual who needs a service dog. It means establishing respectful, cooperative relationships between all family members and the service dog.

Through an in-depth interview process I come to understand a families’ lifestyle and dynamics, how a service dog will fit into that world, and the long-term impact of the dog on the family. I learn if there is resistance from anyone in the family about the service dog and that is addressed. If the service dog is for a child, I help the family understand the impact of the service dog on other children in the household, as well as the child’s friends. We discuss everything from other pets in the home to the realities of public access.

What does this mean to my clients? It means I can help families choose the right service dog for their family member ... the first time.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Love your dog? What happens if he or she has a health crisis in the middle of the night, on the weekend or a holiday? If your dog ingests something potentially life threatening, starts projectile vomiting , or injures himself, the last thing you need is to be frantically searching for the right phone number. When you finish reading this, gather everyone in the family together and put these 3 phone numbers in every cell phone and land line you own.
  1. Your veterinarian
  2. Local emergency veterinarian (24/7)
  3. ASPCA poison hot line: (888) 426-4435. There is a $60 consultation fee and it's worth every penny.

What's the "+1"? Your dog trainer. Throughout a dog's life, behavioral changes can occur. To understand why and what to do next, contact your trainer for a consultation.

Woofs & wags!

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Leave It"

Thanks go out to Rachel, the author of this post and the Mom in the best puppy-raising family ever! The family is "starting" another diabetic alert dog and Rachel shares here the process of teaching "leave it" - one of the most important behaviors you can teach your dog. Dee

In thinking through the list of commands that a service dog might need, it is probably wrong to say that any one of the commands is more important than another; YET, "leave-it" just might be the most important command you could ever teach your dog.

Diabetic alert dogs are encouraged to use their noses - and that *could* get them into trouble, if the handler is not ever-vigilant and if the dog is not trained to be attentive to the handler. SO, one of the earliest behaviors to catch and reinforce and build is 'watch me'. It has been best for us to have both an automatic "watch me" - the dog 'checks in' with you routinely- as well as a cued 'watch me'. If the dog sees something curious or exciting or inviting, he should immediately look to his handler. The handler should be ready to give the command 'leave it' if the dog needs to be discouraged from the object of his attention.

Having a very solid "leave it' could save your dog's life - and, it is a must when taking a service dog into a restaurant! (or anywhere in public)

Our family recently observed just how invaluable this command is as a young pup who is visiting with us struggled with temptations of crumbs on the ground while we were dining out. So, we began to work on this command.

To start teaching "leave it", we needed: JD (4 month old British lab from Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi), a handler, a helper, a kibble of dog food, a few small bites of Vienna sausage, and a clicker, of course! Abi sat on the floor with JD, her fist very lightly closed around the piece of dog food. I stood, holding JD's leash with the bites of Vienna sausage on a desk nearby and a clicker in hand. JD naturally wanted the bite of dog food in Abi's hand. He sniffed and located the temptation - immediately he began to try anything within his means to get that little kibble. He nosed her fist, he pawed her fist, he worked earnestly at getting that little piece of dog food. I waited patiently - AS SOON AS (timing is VERY important) he stopped trying to get that temptation and looked at me to help him figure out what to do, I clicked and offered the Vienna sausage. He was surprised and grateful, but immediately began to retry for the kibble in Abi's hand. As soon as he stopped trying and looked at me, click and treat. With each click, the amount of time he spent working to get the forbidden bite lessened. Within the first few attempts, he barely even sniffed or looked Abi's direction, but rather offered a crisp sit and 'watch me'. This was a good stopping point! Never push the pup too far when introducing a new concept!

We will continue to work on this behavior. In time, we will give it a name, "leave it". In time, the temptation will not be in Abi's hand but directly on the floor in front of him and in time, we will not be stationary, but walking slowly on lead. And, in time, after a great many 'leave its', this behavior will become an automatic response to any item on the ground. Along the way, we will work in various locations and vary the delivery of treats. Ultimately we will, of course, fade the treats.

But, today's training was successful and we were very proud of JD's session.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Lilly learns "under"

Reb wants Lilly to know how to down/stay under his legs, on cue. This is a great behavior to teach if you have a large breed dog - to keep her safe in high-traffic areas. We went on an outing this morning to a lovely little town north of Richmond and I decided to teach her this new behavior there. Prerequisite: solid down/stay, which we have been practicing for two weeks. In the picture below, not only is she in a lovely down/stay under my legs - she is executing a perfect "watch me". This puppy rocks! And she is just six months old.

Lilly also met a half dozen strangers while we were at the local farmer's market. She sat politely, was introduced, showed no fear. and allowed them to pet her. She was fine with all kinds of city noises and even a train crossing within a block of her. The last two weeks of intense daily training in a nondistracting environment (my house) paid off today. Lilly was focused, walked beautifully on leash, and never missed a cue.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Zero to 8 Minutes at Breakfast

Today's training focuses on self-control. When you welcome a new puppy or an adult dog into your family, hand feed morning and evening. Not only does this help with the human-canine bond but it's a terrific time to train your dog. This morning's training is with Lilly, a nearly six-month-old Lab and service dog trainee. She is doing a board and train stint in my home.

Lilly has very little self-control - pretty standard in pups. It is my job to teach it. Fortunately, she is food driven. And after a good night's sleep, she is hungry. Perfect training scenario.

Lilly has a terrific sit/stay but a sloppy down/stay. This morning she earned her entire breakfast working solely on the down/stay. Since measuring training results is extremely important, I pulled out the stopwatch. I put Lilly's dog food in her dish but made it inaccessible to her. She could see and smell it but couldn't get to it. Next, I needed a baseline. I learned she could not down/stay for 30 seconds, so I backed it up to 20 seconds. It took many false starts until she understood that a piece or two of dog food would be delivered only when she maintained the down/stay. Initially she popped up into a sit as I approached with kibble in hand. Each time she did, I put her back in the down/stay and started over. Finally, we got our 20 seconds. Then we got 2 minutes. Then 3 minutes 43 seconds. And the last, from which I released her for a potty break: 8 minutes 13 seconds.

While the above scenario played out, my two adult Labs were in down/stays about six feet from Lilly. As we worked on the stay, I walked around the living room and toward the end, out of sight into the kitchen. Other dogs and my movement were intentional distractions. More distractions will be added as Lilly gets better and better at her down/stay. For now, we work on duration.

Note: It is important when starting to train this behavior to deliver food rewards low, at nose height, to discourage breaking the stay.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Traveling With Your Service Dog

Dee Bogetti: "I recently had the pleasure of meeting Abi and her diabetic alert dog, Mr. Darcy, at the airport in Denver, CO. They had flown in from Atlanta on Frontier. Her immediate concern was to find a place for her dog to relieve himself. After a bit of misdirection by airport employees, Abi found an appropriate area. Later, as we made our way outdoors to find the shuttle for the rental car agency, we realized there was a place that was much easier to access for future canine "potty" breaks, as long as going back through security was not an issue.

"The above scenario prompted this post. If you have traveled with your dog - by any means including plane, train or automobile - please share your experiences and advice for others."

Abi Thornton:

Traveling with your service dog is always interesting! There is a lot of things we have to consider that people traveling without service dogs do not have to
think about. We have to remember our dogs safety, what they will need for the trip, etc.

Mrs Dee pointed out an interesting question about "potty".
  • Going Potty
Mr Darcy and I flew from Atlanta, Georgia, to Denver Colorado. The flight was a little over 3 hours long. When you take into account being at the airport 2 hours early and making your way through the airport to find somewhere to potty your dog after the plane lands, Mr Darcy had to "hold it" for over 6 hours.

I have found that the quickest way to get out of the airport is going out through baggage claim (i just wouldn't ask the security guards/airport employees because they will give you directions to somewhere that PETS are authorized to potty). Your service dog needs the quickest spot possible - so don't take your time, potty your dog immediately!

There is another problem when you have a connecting flight. In this situation it is not possible to go out through baggage claim because you would have to go through security all over again. I believe that the best solution is to teach your dog to "go potty" on cue (you can use any command..... "hurry up", "get 'er done", "go potty" etc.). If your dog has been trained to "go potty" on any surface you will be able to take your dog to the restroom, tell it to potty and be prepared to clean up :D

Another option would be to train your dog to "go potty" on a "potty pad". In this situation you could bring your dog to the restroom, lay out the Potty Pad, tell your dog to go potty, pick up the pad and throw it away. This option sounds more appealing than having to clean up your dogs potty! I have no experience with Potty Pads, but they sound like a good solution for an airport situation.
  • Going Through Security
Usually, with Mr Darcy, I take his vest and leash off. I tell him to "wait" on one side of the security check point as i walk through. When i get through, I then call Mr Darcy to come to me. He comes to me, and i put his vest and leash back on him. The farthest that i have ever had to be away from him is 3 feet while he "waits" on the other side of the security check point.
However, on the way home from our latest trip, his collar made the security alarm go off. I was alone and i did not feel comfortable taking his collar off of him. I then requested that an airport security guard pat Mr Darcy down. They had no problem with that and Mr Darcy thought it was the best day of his life because someone got to rub his belly for a few minutes!!! :)
  • Consider Your Dog's Safety
  1. Escalators: My advice is, "don't use them." They are potentially dangerous for your dog and can be very bad for the pads of their paws. I suggest finding an elevator or stairs.
  2. Elevators: Elevators can also be dangerous. When getting on to an elevator it is extremely important to get them in the back corner, away from the door. Make sure their tail is tucked away in a safe spot so that it is less likely for someone on those crowded elevators to step on it.
  3. Airport Trains: The trains in airports move very fast and are usually full of people who are in a hurry. I suggest having your dog in a "down" because of the speed of the train. I also think that it would be best to have them against the wall away from the crowds so that your dog will not get tripped on or stepped on.
  4. On The Airplane: Ask for bulk head seating so that there is plenty of room for your dog. Make sure the dog is as out of the way as possible so that your dogs tail/other body parts do not get stepped on/tripped over. I usually request a window seat so that Mr Darcy is not close to the isle.
  • Packing For a Service Dog
  1. Portable Water Bowl - keep your portable water bowl handy (maybe in the pocket of your dogs vest) so that you can easily reach it to get your dog water.
  2. Food - sometimes it is hard to pack enough food for an entire trip. I usually pack enough for a few meals and then plan to buy a small bag when I arrive at my destination.
  3. Law Card - I have a book that includes the service dog laws for each state. I remember to bring that on trips so that if i come across a public access issue I have (in writing) the law for the state that I am in.
  4. Treats/ Toys - What is your dogs reward for alerting? Mr Darcy gets a toy reward for alerting - I always bring his "low toy" with me. If your dog's reward for alerting is a treat, make sure to bring plenty.
  5. Poopy Bags - ALWAYS clean up after your dog :)
  6. Vest/ Leash/ Collar/ Harness etc.
I hope that this post can be of some help to fellow service dog handlers!

Abi & Mr Darcy

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Creating the Future

I flew into Denver, Colorado yesterday where I met Abi Thornton and Mr. Darcy, her diabetic alert dog. Our final destination was Wildrose Clear Creek Ranch, 2-1/2 hours from Denver. Mike and Cathy Stewart, owners of Wildrose Kennels in Oxford, Mississippi welcomed us to a three-day Type 1 Diabetic Alert Dog (T1-DAD) retreat. Our focus during this time is to develop a comprehensive training plan for diabetic alert dogs. During a break from brainstorming, Mike took us for a walk on the Continental Trail. That's Abi, Mr. Darcy, Mike, and Deke, the Ducks Unlimited mascost below.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It sucks to be a service dog! Or does it?

I often get asked if lucy ever gets to be a normal dog or people with very sad looks on their faces will say "poor dog has be dragged around everywhere with you." This sometimes upsets me but then I realize people just don't know what being a service dog is like. Lucy LOVES her job. When I say "its time to go" lucy runs as fast as possible to the door and waits for me to put her vest on. I guarantee she would rather be walking around, seeing new things, meeting new people and being with her favorite person in the world(me) then stuck in a crate or home alone for 9 hours a day. And the scent work? Its like a game to her. She's constantly checking me to see if she gets to tell me something that will make me super happy and will earn her a treat. I make sure that no matter how frustrated I am that I'm still low or high I never act upset but that would make lucy like her alerting upset me and she'd be less inclined to alert again later. If I make shopping, going to school/work etc fun for her by letting her do tricks or rewarding her for her good behavior she will look forward to the next time she gets to go out. If I was constantly yanking her around or getting frustrated with her when we were out in public then going out would not be something she'd ever want to do. Being a service dog might be more stressful but lucy gets to use her mind constantly and I make sure she gets plenty of play time and lots of exercise everyday. When we are at home lucy is out of her vest and gets to play with her toys and interact with whoever is at my house as much as she wants while still being aware of my blood sugars. By making everything fun and games lucy is a happy, energetic, well adjusted dog. Its all in how you train.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Service Dog Stories Wanted

If you have a service dog, author Kathy Nimmer wants to hear your a story. Ultimately selected submissions will become a published work. In Nimmer's words, it will be an anthology of "heart-touching, eye-opening stories". Honor the partnership you have with your service dog. Write your story.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Puppy Love . Chewing

This is the first in a series of posts for those of you who have puppies in your lives.

Puppies learn about their environment by putting things in their mouths. With that in mind, puppy proof your home before bringing puppy home. Remove those cute collectibles on low shelves, as well as framed photographs, books, CDs, etc. Exposed electric cords need to be hidden. Drapes to the floor? Great for a game of tug. And, of course, wooden table legs are always a favorite of teething puppies. If you have young children, understand that puppy does not know the difference in kid toys and dog toys. If you are not a neatnik you might want to become one, since shoes, socks, underwear, purses, cell phones, remotes, magazines, newspapers, candy dishes on low tables, etc. are puppy favorites.

Make sure there are appropriate chew toys available for puppy:
  • Kongs (keyword search "kongs" on this blog for stuffing suggestions)
  • Sterilized natural bones - stuff just like the Kong
  • Nylabones
  • Plush squeaky toys - only with supervision, as you don't want the squeaker to be removed and ingested by a playful pup
Do not buy toys with small sewn-on parts that can be easily torn off and ingested. If part of a toy or chewie becomes lodged in puppy's intestines, surgery may be required. In the very worst case, death can occur. Always supervise puppy's play. Puppies have more ways to get in trouble than you can possibly imagine. And literally everything goes in their mouths.

Puppy proof not only your home but your deck, yard, and vehicle. Poisons (including house plants like dieffenbachia, lily of the valley, mistletoe, philodendron, and poinsettia) must
be put away. There should be a gate at every stairway and trash cans should be out of reach. Yards are full of things puppies like to investigate. Make certain all poisonous substances (fertilizer, antifreeze, etc.) are out of reach. If your yard is fenced in, make sure there are no spaces a puppy can squeeze through and never leave a young dog unsupervised outdoors. Put the gardening tools away. Their handles make wonderful chew toys. Understand that if you have a yard your new pal may dig holes, bed down in the flowers, chew the corners off of deck steps, and bark at everything from butterflies to falling leaves. She may eat dirt and rocks and parts of trees. She is, after all, a dog.

Remember to praise puppy for playing with her toys rather than household items. And enjoy her, despite her razor sharp teeth. Soon enough she will be a mature adult and that adorable puppy will be only a fond memory.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Common Commands

The commands you use most often may different then what other people use but, these are the commands that I and several others use frequently.
-wait, leave it, heel, watch me, check me, sit, and down
Do you agree abi?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Earlier the Better.

When lucy first started alerting to low bloodsugar she caught them in the 50's and 60's. Now, she usually alerts when I'm above 100, well before I actually go low. This is sooooooo helpful! When a diabetic's bloodsugar goes low there are two related mechanisms the body has to help prevent severe hypoglycemia that can lead to death. One-the body releases epinephrine, ACTH, glucagon(that's why diabetics with low bloodsugar give glucagon shots when they are super low) and growth hormone these cause the body to break down fat and glycagon into glucose to raise your bloodsugar. This usually kicks in when blood glucose drops below 60 mg/dl but it doesn't always happen at the same level or raise your bloodsugar the same amount every time. Two-the release of these hormones also causes an overwhelming and uncontrollable need(not just a craving) to "eat everything in sight." Well these reactions both raise the bloodsugar they will usually lead to high bloodsugar. When the body releases the hormones to raise the blood glucose it doesn't just raise enough to put you back in the normal range. It will raise you FAR above normal(a rebound or somogyi effect). Because lucy is able to alert before I even go low, she prevents my body from releases those hormone that cause the high bloodsugars that are near impossible(at least for me) to prevent. Since I don't feel low when she alerts I don't have the desire to over eat. I am able to eat a specific small amount of sugar and stay within the normal range. I know that if I eat a small amount and its not enough lucy will alert again in just a few minutes so I don't have to worry about eating lots.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

24/7 Service Dog?

rachel said...

i want both of your responses on this one - and dee, too . .
i've had a few people ask me lately if a DADog needed to be with its handler 24/7 - or if, on occasion, maybe the team might 'take a break' and the dog stay home while the handler enjoys an evening out. my gut response is, 'of course, you need to be with your dog 24/7 . . .that is why you get a service dog - to be there anytime you need assistance.
but, i do know of dogs that alert even tho' they are not with thier handler 24/7 -
so, i'm just curious how y'all and dee would answer this question.

i'll be throwing this out at, too - so you might want to copy and paste answers there later!!!

Valliegirl said...

I don't think you need to be with your dog 24/7. While bloodsugars do change a lot...we've been without dogs for years so I think we'll be ok if we are without them for an hour or so. I mean I love riding my bike but I just don't feel like I can do it safetly with lucy so I ride without her occasionally. I also want to go to cedar point but it gets so hot in the summer and I'm planning on just going with cory. I think its cruel to take your dog to walk around an amusement park on hot tar in intense heat. If you've got an alternative for the dog while you are there then great! but I don't have one so I'll probably go without her. My bloodsugars would be as well controlled but its not worth risking her health and safety.

Abi Thornton said...

Yes, we were talking about going to six flags and i said that i would DEFFINATELY leave darcy at home... even though i would miss him!! i agree with you when you say that it is cruel to put a dog through that kind of misery. they go with us everywhere else and take care of us 24/7, we need to be cautious of their health and their needs.

BUT, i don't really understand having a service dog and NOT having him with you MOST of the time. that's why we got them, right? I don't think that it is right to pick and choose when it is most convenient for you to take the dog with you and when it isn't so convenient. After all, our dogs are always making sacrifices for us and they don't 'pick and choose' when to alert based on their convenience!

so... if someone asked me if a service dog needs to be with it's handler most of the time, i would say yes. i do know that when you have a service dog, sometimes it will be impossible to have him with you at all times - and i think that it is ok to leave the for an hour or two occasionally. but i could probably count on one hand the times that i have left Darcy home.
and i do believe that you should NEVER bring your service dog somewhere that will compromise their health.

what do you think, Mrs Dee?

Dee said...

I think that although the majority of the time your alert dog should be by your side, there are always going to be exceptions. What if your dog is not feeling well and there is somewhere you have to be? Allow him or her the time needed, at home, to heal from a physical injury, get past an upset tummy, recuperate from surgery, etc. Going to a rock concert? What about the impact on your dog's hearing? Plan ahead if you are participating in activities like snowboarding, whitewater rafting, skydiving, and so on. What about traveling abroad? Can your dog go with you? And, finally, remember the potential for separation anxiety. Your dog needs to be able to be away from you without being upset, right Abi? If you create opportunities for you and your dog to be separated for short periods, it just becomes part of the training, like any other behavior and never becomes a behavior issue.

7 Stages of Puppy Development

To better understand why your puppy doesn't listen at times, you need to understand her developmental stages. Remember that these are generalizations - each dog will progress at his or her own pace.

Stage 1
The Transitional Stage, 2-3 Weeks.
It's during this time that a puppy's eyes open, and she slowly starts to respond to light, movement and sounds around her. She will become more mobile during this period, trying to get her feet under herself and crawling around in the box (or wherever home is). She will start to recognize her canine family and objects placed in the box.

Stage 2:
The Almost Ready to Meet the World Stage, 3-4 Weeks
Your puppy undergoes rapid sensory development during this time. Fully alert to her environment, she will begin to recognize the humans who tend to her. It's best to avoid loud noises or sudden changes during this period. Negative events can have a serious impact on her personality and development at this time. Puppies learn how to be dogs during this stage, so it's essential that they stay with their mothers and littermates.

Stage 3
The Overlap Stage, 4-7 Weeks
Puppies begin the most critical social development period of their lives now. They learn social interaction with their littermates. They learn how to play and all about bite inhibition. They also learn discipline at this point from their mothers. Mom will begin weaning the pups around this time and will start teaching them basic manners, including accepting her as the leader of the pack. Pups should be handled daily, but should not be separated from either mom or littermates for more than about 10 minutes per day. Puppies removed from the family unit too early frequently are nervous, more prone to barking and biting and have a more difficult time with socialization and training. Puppies need to be left with mom and siblings until at least 7 weeks of age - and preferably a little longer - for optimum social development.

Experts say that the best time in a puppy's life to learn social skills is between 3 and 16 weeks of age - that's the window of opportunity you have to make sure your puppy grows up to be a well-adjusted dog. It is extremely important that puppy stay with her canine family during as much of this period as possible. Don't discipline for play fighting, housebreaking mistakes or mouthing - that's all normal behavior for a puppy at this stage.

Stage 4
The "I'm Afraid of Everything" Stage, 8 Weeks - 3 Months
This stage is characterized by rapid learning as well as a fearful period that usually pops up around 8-10 weeks. Not all dogs experience this, but most do. They can appear terrified over things that they took in stride before. This is not a good time to engage in harsh discipline (not that you ever should anyway!), loud voices or traumatic events. At this time your puppy's bladder and bowels are starting to come under much better control, and she should become capable of sleeping through the night. Simple behaviors like come, sit, stay, down, etc. can be taught now. Leash training can begin. It is important not to isolate your puppy from human contact at this time, as she will continue to learn behaviors and manners that will affect her in later years.

Stage 5
The Juvenile Stage, 3-4 Months
It is during this time your puppy is much like a toddler. She will be a little more independent and might start ignoring the cues for behaviors she has recently learned - just like a child does when trying to exert new-found independence. As in "I don't have to listen to you!" Firm and gentle reinforcement of commands and training is what's required here. She might start biting you - play biting or even a real attempt to challenge your authority. A sharp "No!" or "No bite!", followed by several minutes of ignoring her, should take care of this problem. Continue to play with her and handle her on a daily basis, but don't play games like tug of war or wrestling. As your puppy's strength grows, she is going to want to play-fight to see who's stronger. Even if you win, the message your puppy receives is that it's ok to fight with you. And that's not ok!

Stage 6
The Brat Stage, 4-6 Months
It is during this time your puppy will demonstrate even more independence and willfulness. You may see a decline in her urge to please you. Expect to see more testing-the-limits behaviors. She will be teething during this time and will looking for things to chew on to relieve the pain and pressure. She may try to assert his new "dominance" over human family members, especially children. Continue her training in obedience and basic behaviors but make sure to never let her off his leash during this time unless you're in a confined area. Many pups at this age will ignore a cue to come to their owners, which can be a dangerous, even fatal breakdown, in your dog's response to you. If you turn her loose in a public place and she bolts, the chances of injury or even death increase. She will also begin to go through the hormonal changes brought about by growing toward maturity. You may see signs of rebelliousness (think adolescent child). If you haven't already, you should have your dog fixed during this time.

Stage 7
The Young Stage, 6-18 Months
Sometime after your dog reaches 6 months, she will plunge headlong into adolescence – where hormones rule. Like people, dogs react differently to puberty. Some have an easier time of it than others, but a teenage dog of any breed can display unpredictable, even uncharacteristic behavior. It's not unusual to discover a puddle of urine, left by a formerly housebroken adolescent dog. Females use urine to attract mates; males use it to mark their territory. In adolescence, such tendencies may remain even though your dog is fixed.

The urge to chew also drives your teen-puppy's actions, and often is the first evidence that your dog is in adolescence. If you've let your crating rules lapse, you may arrive home one day to find significant damage done to a sofa, wooden furniture, or any chewable object. Around this time, your dog also goes through an intense period of shedding her puppy coat and acquiring the type of hair distinctive to her breed. Be prepared to brush him and vacuum your home often. The fact that your dog's skeleton and muscles are growing by leaps and bounds during her teen months can be a blessing for your relationship. You can't help but admire the enthusiasm and perseverance she applies in trying to coordinate gangly limbs.

Post-adolescence is a great time in your dog's life. She is young and exuberant but she's also learning all the things she needs to become a grown-up dog. Be realistic in your expectations of your dog at this time. Just because she's approaching her full physical growth and may look like an adult , she's not as seasoned and experienced as you might think. Gradually increase the scope of activities for your dog, as well as the training. Extend her activities to include more people and other animals. Allow her to interact with non-threatening, non-aggressive dogs.

Congratulations. You've survived the 7 stages of puppyhood and now you have a grown-up dog to enjoy for many years to come.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Ask Abi and Valerie

Abi and I have been training our alert dogs for quite a while; abi longer then me. We are constantly amazed by how awesome alert dogs are and we understand the frustration that training can sometimes bring. We want to help people find the success we have found so if you have any questions post them as a comment and we'd been happy to attempt to answer them or find someone else who might know the answer. We love to share our experiences so please ask away :)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Recommended Reading

I am regularly asked what dog books I recommend. The following list is by no means complete but it's a good beginning. If you read no other book about dogs, read The Other End of the Leash: Why We Do What We Do Around Dogs by Patricia B. McConnell. When you've reached the final page of this amazing book you will understand your dog on a level you cannot even imagine now.
  • Before and After You Get Your Puppy by Ian Dunbar
  • The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
  • Bones Would Rain from the Sky: Deepening Our Relationships with Dogs by Suzanne Clothier
  • Positive Perspectives: Love Your Dog, Train Your Dog by Pat Miller
  • How to Teach a New Dog Old Tricks by Ian Dunbar
  • On Talking Terms with Dogs: Calming Signals by Turid Rugaas
  • Dogs Are from Neptune by Jean Donaldson
  • 101 Dog Tricks: Step-by-Step Activities to Engage, Challenge, and Bond with Your Dog by Kira Sundance
  • Click to Calm by Emma Parsons

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Nose Knows

Anatomically, a dog nose is quite different from a human's which is why they are able to smell things we cannot. I once had dog scenting explained to me like this and its how I often explain it to others. If a human walks into a house where beef stew is cooking on the stove they say "Yummy beef stew!". If a dog walks in to that same house they think "yummy carrots, onions, beef, water, garlic etc" and no matter how many hours that dog stays in that house as long as the beef stew is cooking on the stove they can smell each individual part. All we are training our alert dogs to do is let us know when they smell two specific scents-the high scent and the low scent.
So what affects the scent?
-airflow/currents/wind help if they are moving from you to your dog
-scenting is easier in cool wet weather then hot and dry
-scenting when the dog is really hot is hard because when a dog pants they breathe through their mouth so not as much scent gets to their nose
-lotion, perfume etc does not affect scent (see beef stew story above)
-some medications can affect scent but most do not(I'm on quite a few and Lucy's doesn't have a problem)
-dogs can scent underwater. they have a Jacobsen organ then humans lack which allows them to do this.
-your movement helps the dog pick up the scent. I've noticed if Lucy is laying next to me for a while it sometimes takes a little longer to pick up the scent but, if I stand up and walk past her she immediately stands up to alert if my blood glucose is off.

I'm sure they are more but this is all I know so far.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

what I have learned so far

1. No two dogs are exactly the same they don't all learn the same and what works for one dog will not necessarily work for yours so be creative and do what works for your dog.
2. No dog is perfect-they all have behaviors you need to help them overcome.
3. There is not one trainer that will have the perfect answer to every dog training question/problem you have so surround yourself with respected quality positive method trainers and family's that are training their own alert dogs to help you.
4. It is easier to replace a behavior then to stop a bad behavior. If the dog likes to chew blankets then give him/her their own towel/blanket that they are allowed to chew every time they start to chew your blanket.
5. It is easier to get a behavior to stop by ignoring the dog then by constantly telling your dog no. Every time lucy would start to nip my hand I turned my back on her until she came in front of me and sat. She soon learned that nipping equaled me ignoring her and she loves my attention.
6. It is very hard to unteach a bad behavior so if you've got a puppy pay close attention to what you are teaching it. jumping on people, jumping on couches may be cute for a puppy but its so hard to unteach.
7. When you are deciding what alert to teach your dog think about your 50+ pound dog doing it during prayer at church(for example). Think about your dog doing it to others people after all alert dogs can and probably will occasionally alert to other diabetics. If your dog's alert is to jump on you and it jumps on a stranger at walmart you can be asked to leave at best or cause harm to a stranger at worst.
8. Dog training is suppose to fun for both you and your dog. So start a training session happy and end it with your dog wanting more.
9. Don't give a command to your dog unless you can make sure the dog will follow through with it. This applies commands your dog hasn't mastered. If you are sitting down with a plate full of food don't tell your dog who is across the room to sit because if the dog doesn't sit you've just taught your dog to ignore your commands.
10. Your relationship with your dog should be a partnership after all you are relying on your dog to save your life so give her reasons to want to.
Wow, I didn't realize I had so many and I feel like I just started. Please comment with additions I'd love to learn what everyone else has learned so far.

Sago Palm Can Kill

Home improvement stores are selling a houseplant that is poisonous to pets and children. The Sago Palm or Cycad is used in outdoor landscaping in the southern U.S. and as a houseplant in colder climates. The entire Sago Palm is toxic, including the seeds and root ball. Signs of illness include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy. The toxins in the plant can cause liver failure. It is estimated that 75-80% of animals ingesting this plant will die in spite of aggressive medical treatment. Please teach your dogs not to eat plants. Many green growing things are toxic.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

They Gathered in Mississippi

Heat, humidity, and hope found their way to Oxford, MS last weekend. Mike Stewart hosted a Diabetic Alert Dog Workshop at his world-renown Wildrose Kennels. California Trainer Rita Martinez led two days of obedience and scent work. Diabetics and their families gathered to learn and share information. From the very young to the not quite so young, the common denominator was Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetics live with the knowledge that some night in the future they could drop into a diabetic coma, no one would know, and they could die alone in their sleep. Can a dog prevent this from happening? Can a dog warn a diabetic when his or her blood sugar is dropping into the danger zone or going too high?

The simple answer is yes. The more complex answer is ... this service dog specialty is in its infancy. As a result, properly trained diabetic alert service dogs are rare ... good trainers even more so. And there is no training protocol. The good news is that a plan is in motion to change all that. There are a committed few who will, before year's end, announce the formation of a Foundation whose mission it will be to create the international standard for diabetic alert dogs and train dogs to those standards.

Mike Stewart will conduct another diabetic alert dog workshop at Wildrose in late 2009 or early 2010. Watch this space for information as it becomes available.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Canine Good Citizen Certification (CGC)

Note: The most basic certification - the CGC - should be required for ALL dogs. Can you and your dog pass it? If not, enlist the help of a positive dog trainer.

The American Kennel Club's CGC is a certification program that is designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and in the community. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs. All dogs who pass the 10-step CGC test receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club.

After signing the Responsible Dog Owners Pledge, owners and their dogs are ready to take the CGC Test. Items on the Canine Good Citizen Test include:

Test 1: Accepting a friendly stranger
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to approach it and speak to the handler in a natural, everyday situation. The evaluator walks up to the dog and handler and greets the handler in a friendly manner, ignoring the dog. The evaluator and handler shake hands and exchange pleasantries. The dog must show no sign of resentment or shyness, and must not break position or try to go to the evaluator.

Test 2: Sitting politely for petting
This test demonstrates that the dog will allow a friendly stranger to touch it while it is out with its handler. With the dog sitting at the handler's side, to begin the exercise, the evaluator pets the dog on the head and body. The handler may talk to his or her dog throughout the exercise. The dog may stand in place as it is petted. The dog must not show shyness or resentment.

Test 3: Appearance and grooming
This practical test demonstrates that the dog will welcome being groomed and examined and will permit someone, such as a veterinarian, groomer or friend of the owner, to do so. It also demonstrates the owner's care, concern and sense of responsibility. The evaluator inspects the dog to determine if it is clean and groomed. The dog must appear to be in healthy condition (i.e., proper weight, clean, healthy and alert). The handler should supply the comb or brush commonly used on the dog. The evaluator then softly combs or brushes the dog, and in a natural manner, lightly examines the ears and gently picks up each front foot. It is not necessary for the dog to hold a specific position during the examination, and the handler may talk to the dog, praise it and give encouragement throughout.

Test 4: Out for a walk (walking on a loose lead)
This test demonstrates that the handler is in control of the dog. The dog may be on either side of the handler. The dog's position should leave no doubt that the dog is attentive to the handler and is responding to the handler's movements and changes of direction. The dog need not be perfectly aligned with the handler and need not sit when the handler stops. The evaluator may use a pre-plotted course or may direct the handler/dog team by issuing instructions or commands. In either case, there should be a right turn, left turn, and an about turn with at least one stop in between and another at the end. The handler may talk to the dog along the way, praise the dog, or give commands in a normal tone of voice. The handler may sit the dog at the halts if desired.

Test 5: Walking through a crowd
This test demonstrates that the dog can move about politely in pedestrian traffic and is under control in public places. The dog and handler walk around and pass close to several people (at least three). The dog may show some interest in the strangers but should continue to walk with the handler, without evidence of over-exuberance, shyness or resentment. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise the dog throughout the test. The dog should not jump on people in the crowd or strain on the leash.

Test 6: Sit and down on command and Staying in place
This test demonstrates that the dog has training, will respond to the handler's commands to sit and down and will remain in the place commanded by the handler (sit or down position, whichever the handler prefers). The dog must do sit AND down on command, then the owner chooses the position for leaving the dog in the stay. Prior to this test, the dog's leash is replaced with a line 20 feet long. The handler may take a reasonable amount of time and use more than one command to get the dog to sit and then down. The evaluator must determine if the dog has responded to the handler's commands. The handler may not force the dog into position but may touch the dog to offer gentle guidance. When instructed by the evaluator, the handler tells the dog to stay and walks forward the length of the line, turns and returns to the dog at a natural pace. The dog must remain in the place in which it was left (it may change position) until the evaluator instructs the handler to release the dog. The dog may be released from the front or the side.

Test 7: Coming when called
This test demonstrates that the dog will come when called by the handler. The handler will walk 10 feet from the dog, turn to face the dog, and call the dog. The handler may use encouragement to get the dog to come. Handlers may choose to tell dogs to "stay" or "wait" or they may simply walk away, giving no instructions to the dog.

Test 8: Reaction to another dog
This test demonstrates that the dog can behave politely around other dogs. Two handlers and their dogs approach each other from a distance of about 20 feet, stop, shake hands and exchange pleasantries, and continue on for about 10 feet. The dogs should show no more than casual interest in each other. Neither dog should go to the other dog or its handler.

Test 9: Reaction to distraction
This test demonstrates that the dog is confident at all times when faced with common distracting situations. The evaluator will select and present two distractions. Examples of distractions include dropping a chair, rolling a crate dolly past the dog, having a jogger run in front of the dog, or dropping a crutch or cane. The dog may express natural interest and curiosity and/or may appear slightly startled but should not panic, try to run away, show aggressiveness, or bark. The handler may talk to the dog and encourage or praise it throughout the exercise.

Test 10: Supervised separation
This test demonstrates that a dog can be left with a trusted person, if necessary, and will maintain training and good manners. Evaluators are encouraged to say something like, "Would you like me to watch your dog?" and then take hold of the dog's leash. The owner will go out of sight for three minutes. The dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness. Evaluators may talk to the dog but should not engage in excessive talking, petting, or management attempts (e.g, "there, there, it's alright").

All tests must be performed on leash. Dogs should wear well-fitting buckle or slip collars made of leather, fabric, or chain. Special training collars such as pinch collars, head halters, etc. are not permitted in the CGC test. We recognize that special training collars may be very useful tools for beginning dog trainers, however, we feel that dogs are ready to take the CGC test at the point at which they are transitioned to regular collars. The evaluator supplies a 20-foot lead for the test. The owner/handler should bring the dog's brush or comb to the test.

Owners/handlers may use praise and encouragement throughout the test. The owner may pet the dog between exercises. Food and treats are not permitted during testing, nor is the use of toys, squeaky toys, etc. to get the dog to do something. We recognize that food and toys may provide valuable reinforcement or encouragement during the training process but these items should not be used during the test.

Failures – Dismissals
Any dog that eliminates during testing must be marked failed. The only exception to this rule is that elimination is allowable in test Item 10, but only when test Item 10 is held outdoors. Any dog that growls, snaps, bites, attacks, or attempts to attack a person or another dog is not a good citizen and must be dismissed from the test.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sometimes it's all about the gear

Following are some of my favorites - things I recommend to students and use with my own dogs.

First, there is the standard buckle collar. The collar below is rolled leather, the kind Murphy, my Lab, wears. This collar is for your dog's tags: rabies, I.D., local registration (as required), etc. This collar stays on your dog at all times, except when he is crated or kenneled. All collars should be removed when crating because dog's have been known to choke to death - somehow getting their collars entangled in the metal parts of a crate or kennel.
One of the best solutions for young dogs and dogs who pull is a front-connecting body harness. The best are the Halti and the Sensation. The key to success with both of these harnesses is that the leash is attached to a ring on the chest. Why is that important? Because it's the dog's center of gravity. Uses? These harnesses are great for small people with big dogs, dogs with neck injuries, and dogs for whom nothing else works. A body harness does not replace proper dog training. If you do not have a positive dog trainer in your life, contact me.

A Martingale collar is terrific if you have a well-behaved dog and simply need a collar that is safe. The Martingale goes on over the dog's head. When adjusted properly your dog cannot slip out of it. I consider this collar insurance. I've seen way too many dogs get scared or excited and back out of a buckle collar, run away and then not come when called. This collar goes on your dog only when the leash does. Left on all the time, your dog can conceivably get his jaw caught in it's loop (not an issue when attached to a leash, if it's the right size).I recommend a four-foot leash for daily use. Leather is my preference since a good leather leash will last for years and is easy on the hands (especially with big pully dogs). If you need a double-ended leash (for the Halti harness) try the leather version offered at Southeastern Guide Dogs (below).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hot Weather Precautions

It's summer and time for you and your dog to enjoy the great outdoors together. Here are some great tips to keep your canine partner healthy and safe.
  • If you are tempted to leave your dog in the car this summer, remember that during warm weather the inside of your car can reach 120° in a matter of minutes, even if you're parked in the shade. Dogs don't perspire. They dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Dogs left in hot cars even briefly can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage, and can even die. Don't think that just because you'll be gone "just a minute" that your dog will be safe. If you happen to see a dog (or cat) in a car alone during the hot summer months, alert the management of the store near where the car is parked. If the owner does not return promptly, call local animal control or the police department immediately.
  • Summer is time for yard work. Remember that plant food, fertilizer, and insecticides can be fatal if your dog ingests them. In addition, many plants are toxic to animals.
  • Make sure your dog is always wearing a collar and identification tag. If you are separated from your dog, an ID tag may very well be his or her ticket home. Having your dog microchipped by your vet is another good idea. Remember that if you move you should notify the company that registered the microchip of your new contact information.
  • Check with your veterinarian to see if your dogs (and cats) should be taking heartworm preventative. Heartworm disease, which is transmitted by mosquitoes, can be fatal in both dogs and cats.
  • Another summertime threat is fleas and ticks. Use only flea and tick treatments recommended by your veterinarian. Some over-the-counter flea and tick products can be toxic, even when used according to instructions.
  • Pets and pools can be disastrous. Prevent free access to pools and always supervise a dog in a pool.
  • Provide plenty of water and shade for your dogs while they're enjoying the great outdoors so they can stay cool.
  • Dogs can get sunburned and yours may require sunscreen on his or her nose and ear tips. Pets with light colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears are particularly vulnerable to sunburn and skin cancer.
  • In summer heat your dog can suffer from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. These conditions are very serious and can result in death. The signs of heat stress can include heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, and a deep red or purple tongue. If your dog becomes overheated, immediately lower his body temperature. Move him into the shade and apply cool (not cold) water over his body to gradually lower his core body temperature. Apply cold towels or ice packs to your pet's head, neck, and chest only. Let your pet drink small amounts of water or lick ice cubes. Most important, get him to a veterinarian immediately.

And, finally, take the Red Cross pet first aid class.

Summer Wear

Here's a possible alternative to a vest or cape during the hot summer months. A cooling vest (under the belly) and a service dog bandanna.

Alerting in Hot Weather

Does anyone else's dog seem to have a harder time alerting when they are hot? Just curious. Bailey is on a no alert run right now, and she has been outside a lot more, with summer activities.

One Answer:
Again, referencing wilderness SAR, when dogs are worked off leash and are typically moving quickly in a large area - I always tried to be aware of how much my dog was panting. If I allowed her to get overheated the panting seemed to, to some degree, inhibit her most excellent nose. Another tip - from my vet: when your dog gets her Bordetella, ask for the injectable version rather than the intra-nasal. I don't know if the intra-nasal would interfere with my dog's ability to air scent but I never wanted to chance it. I also read that the intra-nasal version can cause sneezing, mild cough and even a fever 1 to 2 days following vaccination.

Alerting to Other Diabetics | Air Scent SAR

There is a correlation between DADs alerting to other diabetics and air scent search and rescue dogs alerting on the "wrong" person. Our dogs worked off leash, oftentimes in large wilderness areas. Note: the dogs were trained to find any human scent, on cue, off leash ... then return to the handler, alert, and take the handler to the found person. Both in training and on real searches it was not uncommon for a dog to "find" another searcher in the process of finding the victim. In all cases, when the dog found that spare person, he was given an "atta boy" and a "let's find another one". He was, however, not given his big reward (the thing each dog works for - a tug toy, a tennis ball for some of the retrievers, etc.) reserved for real finds. As with DADs, we never punished or discouraged finding the "wrong" person (scent) but acknowledged it and moved on. Knowing that your low/high scent is not unique will help you respond properly to your DAD alerting on the "wrong" person.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Alerting to Other Diabetics

I often get asked if lucy will alert to other diabetics and the answer is Yes. The high/low smell is the same(or very close) for everyone. Lucy has alerted to another girl with hypoglycemia and I should find out in the next week if she correctly diagnosed my boyfriends sister. My younger sister who is living with me at home for the summer is also a type 1 diabetic and lucy often alerts to her as well. When Lucy alerts to my sister lauren, I encourage it however, I never encourage/reward her for alerting to anyone else. There are far to many type 2 diabetics in the world and I don't want lucy alerting to 15 people everytime we walk through walmart; it would be stressful for me and for her. I should also mention that while lucy does alert for my younger sister she has not dropped off in alerting me and she does not alert to lauren as often or as close to going-out-of-range bloodsugars as she does for me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Cooling Vests

If you live or travel to locations where the weather gets really hot, consider a cooling vest for your dog. They also have cooling pads for crates.

Doggy Diaper Bag

Bringing a puppy out in public is a lot like bringing a new born baby out in public..... you need a diaper bag!

When you bring your puppy in public you should always have:
  • Poopy Bags - Always clean up after your puppy!
  • Wet Wipes - For just in case your puppy makes a mess!
  • Dog Treats - I used to bring a can of cheese wiz with me every where i went. But you know your puppy best and you know which treats they like the best.
  • Bone - You just need something that they can chew on and that will occupy puppy's time. Mr Darcy likes Nyla bones...... but Mr Darcy likes anything you put in front of him :)
  • Stuffed Kong - I believe Mrs Dee posted about how to stuff the kong.
  • Clicker - I keep a clicker on my key chain at all times.
  • Law Cards - Law cards are SO important, especially with a little pup because people tend to not take you seriously when you bring a cute, little puppy into a store.
  • Portable Water Bowl - Puppy's get thirsty fast! We have a portable water bowl from Outward Hound. It folds up and snaps together and fits right in Mr Darcy's vest.
  • A Mat (depending on where you are) - I always bring a mat with me to church. There is tile floor and Mr Darcy gets cold if I don't bring one.
  • Don't Forget your medical supplies!!! I have my meter, low snacks, a insulin pen, and glucagon in Mr Darcy's vest.

Now that Mr Darcy is older I do not have to bring all of these things with me everywhere I go. I have poopy bags hanging off of his vest, a water bowl strapped on top of his vest, and law cards clipped on to his vest. At this point, that is all Mr. Darcy needs in public. But when he was a puppy I had ALL of these things with me CONSTANTLY!

Hope this helps,

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dogs & Fireworks

Note: This is a post that I share every year with the general public. For service dog handlers it is a reminder. Loud noises can be scary to any dog. Like everything else, your dog should be properly introduced to loud noises. I always start mine at a sporting clays range (lots of shotgun shooting on a weekend) when they are fairly young. No matter how old your dog, remember to always be aware of his body language. You need to know what fear looks like so you can properly address it when it happens.

Every year on the 4th of July America's skies are bright with fireworks, sparklers and Roman candles as we celebrate Independence Day. Bangs, explosions and bright lights are accompanied by screams, sirens and howling dogs throughout the country. Dogs tend not to like fireworks. Fact: Every year dogs along with many other animals experience fear and confusion, sometimes alone when their owners are away enjoying an organized event. It is not unusual for dogs to run away from home after being frightened by fireworks. Another problem for dogs is the fact that fireworks seem to be going off for a few days leading up to July 4th as well, so there is no way of knowing exactly when your dog might be subjected to a loud bang. Below are some suggestions to help ensure that your pets can get through the fireworks unscathed.
  • Do NOT take your dog to a fireworks display.
  • It is a good idea to bring outdoor pets inside during the fireworks. Always remember how acute a dog's sense of hearing is. A loud bang to us can feel like a volcano erupting to a dog.
  • It may be hard, but try and stay with your dog during the fireworks. Your presence will help to calm your dog and while the noise may still frighten him, he will feel better and recover faster with you there. Do not inadvertently encourage your dog's fear by petting, cooing, or using a praise voice. Instead, use a neutral tone. Engage the dog in his favorite game, like fetch or hide and seek.
  • Always make sure your dog has his own special area where he can go to feel safe. Be it a crate or a place under the stairs, dogs love to have a den at their disposal.
  • Keep the windows and curtains closed during fireworks displays, as this will lessen the effect of the noise and bright flashes.
  • Normal household noises like TV or music can help to distract from the loud noises coming from outside.
  • Make sure your pet has identification on him. Dogs do run away from home because of fireworks. Even dogs that have previously shown no fear of fireworks can occasionally take flight at the loud noises and flashes in the sky.
Keep your dog safe and sound and wait until July 5 to venture outside in the evening.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


These are the best interactive toys ever. And most dogs can't destroy them. Get the Kong shaped like a snowman. In a container with a lid, pour a cup or more of your dog's dry food. Cover it with water. Put the lid on and put it into the refrigerator. Wait til the food has absorbed the water (you now have moist food). In the bottom of the Kong (where the little hole is), drop something really smelly and tasty like dried liver treats. Now stuff the Kong tight with the moist food. You can layer it with a few green beans, pieces of apple, anything to make it interesting. Remember, your dog will be able to smell everything in there. Now cover the big hole with peanut butter or cream cheese and ... here's the most important part ... freeze the Kong. This is awesome for teething pups - the frozen Kong feels great on their teeth and gums.

Stuffed Kongs are also great for when company comes. They can keep Fido busy while you're visiting. And, they can help ease the anxiety of your leaving the house. Going out for the day? The very last thing you do is give Fido that yummy smelling frozen Kong.

The red Kongs are for average chewers (fine for my Labs) and the black ones are for heavy chewers. If your dog does destroy one, take it back to the store where you bought it. Many will refund your money or give a store credit.

Water for your traveling dog

Here's my favorite way to carry water for Murphy - in the Water Rover. I like it because whatever water he doesn't drink drains back into the bottle.

Another Interactive Toy

The "tricky treats ball" is Mr. Murphy's favorite. Same concept. Every time I put it in my bag to take it to a demo he looks at me, like, excuse me? You're bringing that back, right? I like the texture of this rather than some that are hard plastic.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

a great toy!!

Once upon a time, Lucy shared a cool toy with Mr Darcy and now Mr Darcy has kindly shared the toy with Lilly. It is the grandest toy:
the Buster Cube :

It is a great way to provide mental stimulation for a dog and seems like a super way to reinforce scent work. (and a good way to let an energectic pup burn up some extra energy!)

a small amount of food is place in the 'core' of the cube. there is a small opening thru which the dog can 'sniff' the kibbles and thru which the food will come out, given proper rotations of the cube. so, the dog is 'rewarded' for playing. Lilly rolls the cube all over the yard - using her nose and her paws - and as small kibbles fall out, she stops to sniff for them in the grass.

THANKS, LUCY!!!!! And, Stacy, you might as well go ahead and get one of these if Dee likes it, 'cos Lilly LOVES it!!

click here to read more: BUSTER CUBE

To Pet or Not To Pet

Note: This started as an email conversation but it's such a good one, I've transferred the thread here to share it with others. Dee, the Dog Trainer

Rachel, a diabetic's Mom:
i wanted to bring up this topic as reb prepares to begin working with lilly. we have had plenty people petting lilly in public at this point - so that she can meet strangers, etc. however, i know that both abi and val find it a HUGE distraction when people pet mr d or lucy when they are in public. ??is a service dog to be petted or not?? for mr darcy, he LOVES people and loves the attention, but it distracts him. but, it is so hard to tell 'some people' not to pet . . some people who are good friends, etc. think that 'do not pet' refers to everyone except them. it would be good for Reb and Dee to hear from y'all (valerie, abi and amy). Amy, you *do* allow Duke to be petted while in vest, right?

I just had this conversation with the Boyds over the weekend. My opinion is that it is a decision that should be made case by case. Reb and his family are extremely social and not allowing anyone to pet Lilly simply would not work for them. Whichever way a dog team goes on this one, there may well be exceptions. I will work with Reb to identify occasions when it might be better not to allow petting. I believe that training a service dog should be collaborative among all parties: trainer(s), dog handler, and family members (when appropriate). I think that dictating one set of hard and fast rules is counter-productive. I consider a big part of my job to be creating an individualized training program that suits an individual's lifestyle.

Abi, a diabetic & Mr. Darcy, her diabetic alert dog:
I DO let people pet Mr Darcy! It doesn't seem to distract Mr Darcy too much at all. However there are occasions when i ask people NOT to pet him. When Darcy is already in a distracting place, and i am already working with him to re gain his focus, then i do not let people pet him. But in his normal public setting i have NO problem with him being pet because Mr Darcy is pretty good at ignoring it. Each time i let people pet him i try to explain the he is a service dog and that USUALLY you can not pet service dogs. I use it as time to educate someone. I remind them that they should ALWAYS ask first!! I really hate it when someone comes up to him and randomly starts petting him without asking me first......VERY rude! Sometimes i just don't have time to let people pet him. A quick trip into walmart can turn into a 2 hour ordeal!! ;)

As always, Abi, you have the wisdom to know what is right for you and Mr. Darcy. Let's try to make time for you and Reb to talk while we're at Wildrose. The education piece is something I'm all about. As far as asking to pet your dog, I insist on that for MY dogs. No one as the RIGHT to pet another person's dog in public - service dog or not.

Abi: Here is a pic of MR Darcy enjoying some kids petting him at the Blue Angels Air show!

Dee: You and Mr. Darcy are a wonderful ambassadors to the world. Great picture!

Valerie, a diabetic and Lucy, her diabetic alert dog:
This was something that took a while for me to figure out too. I'm going to be a physical therapist and I am already doing clinicals where there are lots of patients that not only want to pet lucy but, also seem to have very positive effects from petting her. So for me this is what worked...

  1. Family(other then immediate), friends and strangers always needed to ask to pet her even if they have pet her before

  2. I don't always let the same people pet her everytime-a family from my church is allowed to pet and play with her at my house but when we are at church they have to completly ignore her so that lucy learns not to pull away from me to go to someone else.

  3. I put lucy in a sit or down and tell them to calmly pet her and only talk to her in a calm voice. For a while I would tell people if she gets up you need to immediately ignore her until i get her to sit again. lucy learned very fast to stay seated.

  4. I really stress to people that it is soooo much better if they completly ignore her if I say they can't pet her. Lucy takes eye contact, happy voices directed to her as an open invitation to get up and go play with that person.

  5. I only let a limited number of people pet her in one sitting(usually one or two maximum)

  6. If lucy is already excited and distracted then I dont let anyone pet her.

I dont know if that helps but its working for us.

Thanks, Valerie. I love that you have figured out what works best for you and your dog. You are using common sense based on your own lifestyle. You will find that Lucy will change fairly dramatically as she matures. The positive training that you do now will become second nature to her and eventually, she will know instinctively what you want from her. She'll also get really good at reading our body language.

I should say that I tell people they cannot pet lucy way more often then I say yes and its especially hard with a puppy. While the size of the british labs is soooo perfect for service dog its a pain because lucy still looks like a 4 month old american lab. Also, people often ask why they can't pet your dog so its helpful if you come up with a sentence or two that explains how you need lilly focused on you and usually people are very understanding.