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

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Video: Training at Target

This video of Bo and Austin was taken during a training session at Target this morning. We were in the electronics section and the music is loud on the video. You may want to mute or lower your volume before playing it.

Austin and Bo training in public at the local Target store.
Bo and Austin walking side-by-side at Target.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When A Low Goes Undetected

Austin woke with a low of 73 this morning but Bo did not show any signs of smelling it. I reminded myself that he is still a puppy and he is still learning but I still felt disappointed. I'm going to reach out to the D.A.D contacts I've made through social media, to inquire if this has happened to them and what (if anything) I should consider if this becomes a pattern.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Loved Pup

Bo curled up napping after a busy day at Syl and Gil's house.
Every day I think about how fortunate we are to have our neighbors Syl and Gil who take Bo to their house and care for him when we are at work. They provide him with a loving, fun and safe home-away-from-home. I know the socialization, love and play he gets at their house is contributing to his training success. He is one HAPPY and LOVED pup! (Syl sent this picture to me while I was at work. It warmed my heart and put a smile on my face.)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bo's Second Alert

Bo had his second alert this evening. I was checking Austin before bed and he was 70. I had Austin sit on the floor to see if Bo would smell the low. Sure enough, he did! He got excited sniffing and then paw swiped Austin twice. I treated Austin with three glucose tablets and I "treated" Bo with Zuke's training treats. I rechecked Austin and he was on his way down; this time he was 67. Austin was back in bed by now but Bo could still smell the low. With his front paws propped up on the edge of the bed, he paw swiped Austin again. This continued as I re-checked and retreated Austin. He went to 63 before eventually coming up to 94. Good low Bo!

Austin and Bo Working in Public

We met Helen at Lowes this afternoon for our training session. We chose to meet at Lowes for its variety of distractions, friendly employees and outdoor furniture. That's right, when training in public it's helpful to have a place where you can sit and talk following the session.

Helen brought Merlin, her 9-year-old Papillon, with her to our session today. She walked him past Bo while Austin had Bo in a down stay. The idea was for Bo to stay down and focused on Austin when he really wanted to go and say hello to Merlin. She started at a distance and moved closer. During the first pass at close distance, Bo broke his down stay but on the second and third tries he held it.

Helen had Austin practice putting Bo in a down stay near the check-out lanes. People passed by and made eye contact with Bo and he stayed down. One of our homework assigments is to set-up scenarios where Bo is in a down stay in public and people walk by and look at him. This is so he learns to stay at Austin's side even when strangers make full eye contact with him.

Next week, Austin will begin handling Bo in one of Helen's level one puppy classes. The purpose of this class for Bo will be to learn to work and stay focused on Austin in the company of other dogs. Austin is looking forward to Helen's group class. He really enjoys her training style and her personality. "Helen is so nice," he said following today's session.

I forgot my camera today but Syl remembered hers and she was kind enough to let me use it. I hope you enjoy these pictures of boy and pup working along side one another. They are going to make a great team!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Busy Weekend of Public Access Training

Bo's public access training is going really well. We trained at Lowes, Target and Austin's basketball game over the weekend and he did fantastic at each venue. At Lowes and Target, we practiced walking the aisles with the distractions of carts, adults and children. We also practiced sit stays and down stays both tethered and untethered. There was one time in Target where he broke his down stay when I dropped the leash and walked a few steps away but we "tried it again" and he kept his stay. Good job Bo! 
At Austin's basketball game, we practiced an extended down stay. That was tougher for him especially with the distractions of bouncing balls, cheering crowds, blowing whistles and clapping. When he got distracted we tried again and sometimes we walked a circle to get him back on his mat. This was the first time we positioned Bo on his mat along side of Austin's seat on the bench. Each time Austin came off the court, he would acknowledge Bo and breath on him. 
Tired Bo after a busy day of training.
After one hour at the game, Bo was tired and he was ready for a nap when we got in the car. He had a frozen Kong waiting for him when he got home. He ate his Kong for dinner in his crate while we at our dinner at the table. A nice end to a great training weekend.

Tomorrow we meet with Helen to do more public access training at Lowes. Austin will handle Bo while Helen gives direction and support. I will bring my camera to take pics!

Diabetes Alert Dog Training

Building the bond between boy and pup.

For the past two weeks we have been training Bo on how to do a nose bump while we are in motion. We started this training by shuffling our feet across the floor and now we are walking and he is bumping his nose on our leg. We are also training Bo to drop objects in our hands rather than on the ground. Bo has learned this skill quickly. We continue to play tug with Bo. This skill will come in handy when we eventually train Bo to open the refrigerator door to get a juice for Austin. Bo's low scent training continues daily and low parties happen at every opportunity. We anxiously await his second low alert in real time.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bo & Austin Make Front Page of Paper

Today our local paper ran a front page story about Austin and Bo. We are truly grateful for the opportunity to raise awareness of children living with Type 1 Diabetes by sharing our story. 

It was a news article that first introduced me to dogs being trained to alert on low and high blood sugars. My hope is this article, about Bo and Austin, introduces another family living with Type 1 to the possibility of a D.A.D.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bo's First Alert

Bo had his first alert on Austin this evening and it was the most amazing sight to see; one that will be etched in my memory forever. I had a feeling we were on the cusp of his first alert because of how well he was doing alerting on hidden low scent samples. Earlier in the week, I told Austin we just needed the opportunity for him to experience a real time low in his training range of 70-80. Tonight that opportunity presented itself!

When Austin got home from basketball practice his blood sugar was 72. I suggested he sit on the floor and see if Bo showed any signs of smelling his low. Show signs did he ever! Bo immediately recognized the low scent and showed signs of excitement. He started sniffing vigorously (just like he responds during scent training) and after only seconds he raised his right paw and paw swiped Austin's leg. It was perfect and incredibly emotional. I hugged Austin and squeezed him, and hugged him some more, and we treated Bo with a jackpot of treats. Austin was calm in comparison to me. I got so wrapped up in the moment, Austin had to ask me to get his juice box. It was a glorious moment and one I wish I could have captured on video but I suppose there is something special in it being witnessed only by the three of us.

We still have a lot of work ahead of us with Bo's training, however his alert tonight is a huge milestone in our journey.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Bo's New Freedom Harness

Bo removing his Freedom Harness.

We got a no pull Freedom Harness for Bo. It's quite the fancy harness. The chest strap has Swiss velvet on it to keep it from chafing your dog's fur. It has hooks in the front and the back for optimal control. As Bo grows, the Freedom Harness will help Austin maintain better control of him. The harness is pricier than most and is not sold at Petco, Pet Smart and other chains but it does have a terrific warranty against damage.

Austin and Bo will start a level one puppy class at the end of February. Austin will handle Bo and I will observe. Helen suggested this class even though Bo knows the level one commands, because it will provide an opportunity for him to learn how to work with Austin with the distraction of other dogs.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Training in Public with Multiple Distractions

Bo and Austin taking a break from training at Lowes.

On Friday, we met Helen at Lowes for our training session with Bo. The purpose of this session was to provide Austin with instruction on handling Bo with multiple types of distractions. When we first got into the store, Helen had Austin put Bo into a down stay. She explained calming him in this manner was what we should first do with Bo when we are training in public. Once Bo was calmed, Austin began loose leash walking with Bo. It was so cool to see Bo checking in with Austin and walking at his side.

At Helen's direction, Austin put Bo in sit and down stays as he walked the aisles. Helen and I trailed behind the two of them and observed the great work they were doing together. Austin would stop walking, give Bo the down  and stay commands, then drop his leash and walk away to look at a product. Bo stayed and for his obedience he received treats from Austin.  There were plenty of distractions for Bo at the store including moving shopping carts, a walking toddler, materials on the floor, customers and workers.

Helen also showed Austin how to cue Bo to go down when he stopped walking. After a few times using a verbal cue to get Bo to go down, Austin tried it without a cue and Bo evenutally figured out what Austin expected him to do. The idea behind this lesson is for Bo to learn to "take a load off," when Austin stops to shop or talk to someone.

At the conclusion of our session, Austin and I met with a reporter from our town's local paper. He interviewed us for a story he is writing about our journey to raise Bo. Austin did most of the talking and let me tell you that kid can give one heck of an interview! (If you know Austin, this may not surprise you.) He was more articulate than I was. I just watched and listened to him as he answered the reporter's questions with confidence and ease.