The story of a boy living with Type 1 and his family's journey to raise and train a diabetic alert dog.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Downward Dog: Bo on His Yoga Mat

Bo's Yoga mat is portable and easy to clean.
Now 12-weeks-old, Bo is consistently demonstrating his understanding of the commands sit, down and go to your mat and is also chaining these commands. In other words, when I give the go to your mat command, he not only goes to the mat but he sits, goes down and stays without me asking him to do any of these things. He then stays on the mat and waits for his reward and for me to release him. Following our session with Helen on Friday, I've been gradually increasing the distance I've been placing between the two of us.  I've also been been increasing the duration of time between the stay and reward/release. This week we will work toward me leaving his sight for a few seconds and him holding his stay on the mat.

Happy boy, happy pup!
We practiced the go to your mat command with some significant distractions Saturday at Austin's football game. Bo did well staying on his mat beside me as people walked in front of us cheering, clapping, running and looking at him. (Oh the attention he gets when we are out in public. I could dedicate an entire post just to this topic.) I rewarded and praised him generously for being calm and staying next to me on the mat. (When Bo is alerting and ready to work in public. His mat will be where he rests when in a restaurant or in class with Austin.)

There were several times when the distractions were too much and Bo left his mat. During those learning opportunities, I lured him back with a treat and we tried again. I didn't pack enough kibble to treat him through the full game, so once I ran out we changed our focus to sitting with a Busy Buddy chew toy.  I stabilized the toy while he worked to eat the gnaw hide discs.
Bo the diabetes alert dog in training in a sit position on grass.

This week, I'll be adding loose leash walking to our training activities. I learned the mechanics of how to train Bo on this type of walking during our recent session with Helen. Given her experience and skill, Helen's demonstrations are incredibly graceful and fluid. It takes choreography to get the correct body posture, hand positioning, and marker and reward timing. It wasn't easy for me. What was really nice however, is how Helen uses positive praise with her humans too! It's helpful to hear when I've gotten it right!


Diabetes Alert

As part of diabetes alert training, we've been playing 101 Things to Do with A Box. This game is an exercise in thinking creatively for dogs. The idea being for every interaction the dog has with the box, he hears a marker (click from a click or verbal marker 'yes') which is followed by a food reward and verbal praise. I have enjoyed watching Bo find new ways to interact with a plastic storage box in return for a reward. I can see how this game helps to raise a thinking dog.  A trait that will be critical to Bo's success as a D.A.D. for Austin.

We have also been playing a game of find it with kibble. I throw the kibble in the air with the command "find it."  Then I hide the kibble with Bo watching me and I give the command to find it. The goal is to work up to hiding the kibble without Bo seeing where it's hidden and for him to find it.

We continue to collect Austin's low blood sugar scent samples and to use them in conjunction with feeding Bo pieces of kibble out of a set of paper bowls modified to hold  both the sample and kibble. We want Bo to associate the low blood sugar with a food reward. The idea is to condition him to equate the low scent with a food reward. 

Bo's Growth

  • 12-weeks-old
  • 21 lbs

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