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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Friday, December 10, 2010

The Power of 'Sit'

December 10, 2010

The more I work with very young puppies, the better I understand the power of the most fundamental trained behavior: Sit.

Working with a breeder, we started training pups at seven weeks. Day 1 of training meant introduction to leash and collar, lure-reward training, and sitting on cue. One of the goals: create dogs whose default behavior under any circumstances is Sit. What does that mean? It means that rather than jumping on people for attention, a pup will run up to a person and Sit. It means the pup is learning self-control and an implied Stay which can become a trained Stay. And it means pups are learning to love to learn.

Whether your dog is three months or three years, Karen Overall sums it up best in her book, Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals:
For a dog that already knows how to sit, the only problem is going to be to reinforce this for everything that the dog wants. The rule is: the dog must sit and be quiet to earn anything and everything for the rest of its life.  This includes sitting for the following:
Food and feeding
Being able to go out and come in
Having the leash, halter or harness put on
Having feet toweled
Being invited onto the bed or sofa (if desired)
Playing games
Playing with toys
Having a tick removed
Having a wound checked
Being petted
Anything the dog wants
If you train your dog to do two things well - sit for everything and walk politely on a leash - life with Fido will be good.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Service Dog Cards

All service dog teams, at one time or another, find themselves faced with a person who does not know about the rights afforded service dogs because of the Americans with Disabilities Act. For those occasions, a service dog card like this one is a simple solution. The cards are affordable handouts and are a wonderful way to educate.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Your service dog is on the job 24/7. It is your responsibility to keep him healthy. That includes his pads. To protect those pads in extreme temperatures, train your service dog to wear booties. Would you want to walk barefoot on hot asphalt or hot sand? Of course not. Remember, too, that if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, whatever is used to melt that snow may burn your dog's pads as you walk through a parking lot or on city sidewalks.

Look around at what is available but definitely consider Ruff Wear's Bark'n Boots Grip Trex. I found this review from a K9 handler:
I am K9 handler in the Florida panhandle. As you can imagine the extreme summer temperatures are rough on my partner, especially the asphalt in the roadway and parking lots. On a recent mission to we were tasked to assist the Secret Service, during a Presidential visit to the area. This required me to search for a canine boot that would stay in place and be comfortable while worn. Extended sweeps in parking lots and in vehicles which have been sitting in the sun produce temperatures that will burn my partners pads. I found Bark'n boots with grip trex and liked the concept. After the boots arrived I tried them on my partner and with very little adjustment he was up and running. The fit was fine and his working time was increased due to the comfort that these provided. His climbing and running had no effect on them. I wholeheartedly recommend them.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Public Access Training

Sammy is a Diabetic Alert Dog in training. As part of his public access training, he and his handler, Marcie, demonstrate how to enter a public place. Appropriate behavior in public is key to a well-rounded service dog ... and necessary for certification. Well done, Sammy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


What is a diabetic alert dog (DAD)?
A DAD is a service dog trained to recognize and alert on low and/or high blood sugar levels in Type 1 or Type 2 diabetics.

How does a dog know when blood sugar levels are falling or rising?
The dog uses his nose to recognize changing blood sugar levels. Identifying scent is a common trait in other working dogs, including search and rescue dogs, bomb and drug detection dogs, and arson dogs.
How long does it take to train a DAD?
It takes 1-2 years to train a diabetic alert dog. 

Can I train my own diabetic alert dog?
Maybe. Some people choose to train their own service dog. If you are considering this option, think about this: not all professional dog trainers are capable of training a service dog. If you do choose to train your own dog, work with a qualified service dog trainer to assist you along the way, insuring success.

Can my family dog be trained to do this?
Maybe. Contact us if you want to have your dog evaluated as a potential service dog.

How much does a DAD cost?
Costs vary but can go as high as $20,000. Choosing to do part of the training yourself can save you a considerable amount of money.

Where do I get a diabetic alert dog?

A DAD can be obtained from a trainer or organization specializing in this particular training protocol.

What breeds are best?
Many dogs have great noses and numerous breeds are potential candidates for the job. Those include Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and doodles (poodles mixed with Labs or goldens).

Do you certify dogs trained by other organizations or people?

Sometimes. Your dog must have his/her AKC Canine Good Citizen certification, be at least one year old, spayed or neutered, and up-to-date on all shots. Our staff will evaluate the dog for temperament and soundness. Dog and handler must then pass our public access test.

Do you only work with people who live in Virginia?

No. We work with clients worldwide.

I have a DAD from another organization who is not alerting (or not alerting consistently) to my (or my child’s) changes in blood sugar. What should I do?

Your dog needs to be evaluated to determine his/her scent ability. Contact us to schedule your evaluation.

The DAD I got from another organization seems to be afraid (or aggressive or lethargic). How do I figure out if he will be able to work as a service dog?

Your dog needs to be evaluated to determine his temperament, whether he has health issues that may be impacting his behavior, and whether additional training and/or behavior modification will help. Contact us to schedule your evaluation.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Public Access Testing for Your Service Dog

So, your service dog is ready to work. He or she has been temperament tested, has all necessary health clearances, been through numerous obedience classes, and has passed the AKC's Canine Good Citizen test. What's next? Since there is no national certification program for service dogs, trainers like me offer our own service dog certification. Passing my public access test means that your service dog is trained properly for going out in the world with you. The test is administered at a shopping mall. The service dog team is accompanied by an evaluator and an assistant. The basic elements of the test follow. Contact me to schedule an evaluation to determine if you and your service dog are ready to test. Verbal cues or hand signals or a combination can be used throughout the test. No training treats are allowed during the test.
  • CONTROLLED EXIT OF VEHICLE: Requires handler to safely and in a controlled manner exit vehicle with the service dog.
  • APPROACHING A BUILDING: Handler makes his/her way through the parking lot with the service dog. Safety is key. The team should work comfortably together.
  • ENTRANCE THROUGH A DOORWAY: Dog team enters through a door in a controlled manner.
  • HEELING IN A BUILDING: Dog and handler walk in a controlled manner through the mall following instructions given by the evaluator. 
  • COME WHEN CALLED: In a large, open area the handler sits or down/stays the dog, walks six feet away, and calls the dog. Dog remains on leash.
  • SIT/STAY: When cued to sit, the dog must do so immediately. At the evaluator's instruction, the dog will sit/stay three times: with food nearby, with a shopping cart being pushed nearby, and when an adult surprises the dog from behind. 
  • DOWN/STAY: Three distractions will be offered: a shopping bag or purse will be dropped on the floor near the dog; an adult and child will approach and stop to talk with handler; and an adult will step over the dog. Position must be maintained.
  • NOISE: As the team walks through the mall, the evaluator drops a clipboard behind them. A startle reaction from the dog is expected but should be followed by an immediate return to task.
  • RESTAURANT: The group enters a restaurant and is seated at a table. The dog will stay in a down under the table. If there is not enough room under the table, handler must determine the safest place for the dog to down/stay. Food will be dropped on the floor near the dog and must be ignored.
  • OFF LEAD: Sometime during the test, the evaluator will tell the handler to drop the leash and continuing walking until told to stop. The handler will then be instructed to have the dog return to the heel position.
  • LEAVING THE BUILDING: The team will leave the building in a safe and controlled manner and return to the vehicle.
  • CONTROLLED LOADING INTO VEHICLE: The individual loads the dog into the vehicle in a safe and controlled manner. 
Interested in taking my public access test? Contact me for more information. 

Monday, March 8, 2010

How old is my dog?

Here’s the scenario: you pay big money for a fully trained diabetic alert dog. When you take delivery of the dog, he comes with no vet records. You don’t understand why but you need this dog for you or a family member with type 1 diabetes, so you accept it and move on.

I’ve heard this story over and over again. The first time I heard it, warning bells went off in my head. Why would a reputable trainer or organization NOT include a dog’s health history, vaccination records, etc. upon delivery of a service dog? The answer came from my first encounter with a family who had a dog from an outfit in Missouri. This particular organization’s policy is that they own their DAD dogs forever. If the dog doesn’t work out as a DAD for a particular family, it’s the family’s fault and the family is contractually required to return the dog to the organization. Since many of these dogs were NEVER going to be working DADs (because of poor training and/or behavior issues), when they were returned to Missouri, I believe they were being recycled, and paid for over and over again by unsuspecting families. If vet records were made available to these families, they would know, for example, that rather than a 2-year-old service dog with a lot of years left to work - they might have a 5 or 6-year-old dog with way fewer working years left. Plus, who knows what health issues the dog might have that are conveniently invisible with no vet records. 

If your dog comes with vet records, how do you make sure they are for the dog you have? Check the obvious – breed, color and gender. Reputable dog people microchip their dogs. Have your vet scan your dog’s microchip and match it to your dog’s vet records. No microchip? Call the vet of record and describe your dog or email the vet with a picture of your dog. Hopefully someone in the vet’s office will remember him and confirm that he is who you think he is.  
This is a cautionary tale. Beware.