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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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.