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, January 15, 2011

Pepper goes to school

My clients' diabetic children attend public, private or home school. When the time is right, based on the child, the dog, and the kind of school, we begin the dog's introduction to a classroom setting. Pepper's handler, 11-year-old Cassidy, is home schooled. One day a week she attends a home schoolers' co-op, which is similar to a standard day in a public school. Yesterday, Cassidy attended her first day of the new session at co-op. Her mother was there, assisting in the classrooms. I joined them to evaluate 5-1/2 month old Pepper's ability to handle a full day of school. Following are some of my observations.

  • was well mannered for six straight hours. 
  • moved comfortably from classroom to classroom, through crowded halls, up and down the stairs, in the ladies' room, and in the elevator
  • had no toileting issues - going potty outdoors on cue each time we took a break between classes
  • did not try to interact with anyone but observed everything (gold star for that one!)
  • never vocalized (no whining, barking, etc.)
  • showed no anxiety when not in direct contact with Cassidy (they are bonded to the nth degree)
    • Note: I handled Pepper most of the day so I could closely observe even the most nuanced behaviors. This meant we were sometimes seated next to Cassidy in the classroom, sometimes across the room. It also meant I took the pup on potty breaks without Cassidy. Separation anxiety can be an issue with service dogs and their handlers. I'm thrilled this is not an issue for Pepper.
  • handled the chaos of an unexpected evacuation of the building (very much like a fire drill) beautifully
  • was extremely cooperative in a tight space when I took her collar and vest off to crate her briefly during lunch
Pepper's family and I will sit down and talk about the next step: when and how Cassidy starts the process of taking Pepper to school.

This was a stellar performance by a young dog. Bravo to everyone involved!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Service Dogs in Schools

Should a child be allowed to take his or her service dog to school? This question arises from time to time when a child's service dog is refused entry to the classroom. This time the story revolves around a 12-year-old in Fairfax County, VA and his seizure alert dog.

When questions concerning service dogs arise, I turn first to Federal law. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not specifically address service animals in the classroom. In general terms, access under the ADA applies to public areas of schools like the gymnasium during sporting events or the auditorium during a public fund raiser. Classrooms are usually not considered public areas. As with many laws, the intent of this one is murky - leaving it open for interpretation.

Virginia's Department of Education recommendations are more specific:
... the Code of Virginia, § 51.5-44 affords each student a near absolute right to be accompanied by a service dog in a Virginia public school; however, this right must be qualified, carefully weighed against the rights of other students who are equally entitled to receive educational benefits at the school. Furthermore, the right of the student to be accompanied by a service dog must also be weighed against the school division’s ongoing legal responsibility to operate, maintain, and supervise Virginia’s public schools.

From my perspective as a trainer, I believe each case should be considered on its own merit. Children who are very young, emotionally immature, or severely handicapped may simply be unable to handle a service dog in the classroom without assistance from a third party. Following are a few things to ponder.

Will the child be able to do these kinds of things with a dog in tow:
  • ride a school bus with his service dog plus a backpack and whatever else he's toting to school on a given day
  • change classrooms quickly and efficiently
  • eat lunch (dog + human food can = disaster)
  • participate in PE class
  • attend after-school programs
  • go on field trips
  • participate in fire drills
Also ask these questions:
  • If the child becomes ill or is injured at school and has to be taken to the hospital, what happens to the service dog?
  • Is the service dog able to lay quietly for long periods without get antsy, needing potty breaks or being disruptive?
  • Does the service dog have fear or anxiety issues of any kind like noise phobias (fear of thunderstorms, for example) or separation anxiety?
  • Has the service dog passed a public access test?
  • Has the dog been certified by a service dog trainer or organization

As service dogs become more visible, handicapped individual's rights will inevitably be challenged. It is the responsibility of everyone involved to ensure that each case be judged fairly and on its own merit.

And what has happened with the 12-year-old in Fairfax County and his service dog? According to "Andrew Stevens can now bring his service dog Alaya to school with him".