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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Another Bedtime Alert

Tonight as I was sitting next to Austin on his bed, Bo jumped up, sniffed vigorously and paw swiped me. He then went to Austin and started sniffing him and paw swiped him also. I asked Bo if we should check Austin and Bo ran into the kitchen where we keep Austin's pack. I checked Austin and he was 119. Given we guessed on ice-cream carbs a little earlier in the evening, I knew there was a possibility he was going down fast. We rechecked and sure enough he was on his way down. Austin's bedtime target blood sugar is 160 but when we rechecked he was
 111. We treated Austin's low and checked again after 30 minutes and he was 110, so we gave him another carb snack. Good low Bo!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Resource Guarding Prevention

Dogs like to lie down with a bone, chew toy or food puzzle without being disturbed and not worrying that someone is going to take away whatever it is they have. A dog who is worried about this may growl, snap or move away from the person who is getting close to him. This is called resource guarding. Helen has taught us about resource guarding and shown us how to 'vaccinate' Bo against this behavior.

Prevention includes practicing dropping high value treats near Bo when he is eating from a Kong. The idea is for Bo to associate the high value food with my approach towards him. When Bo goes for the high value treat, I pick-up the Kong and wait for him to finish the treat before handing the Kong back to him.

I try to do this exercise with Bo at least once a day.  Today, while socializing Bo with two other dogs, I had the opportunity to give what we've been practicing a try.  He found a peanut butter filled dog bone on the lawn where the dogs were playing. Bo took the bone and ran away from the other two dogs in an attempt to keep it for himself. Once the two dogs had stopped playing and chasing, Bo lied down with the bone. I approached him and dropped chicken jerky and sure enough he let the bone drop and let me pick it up. In this case, I didn't give the bone back to him but he was okay with it. He continued playing with the other dogs.

Here is a video of me practicing this very important skill with Bo at home with a Kong.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Bedtime Alert

Last night when I was tucking Austin into bed, Bo hopped on Austin's bed as usual but instead of settling down to rest, he stood sniffing vigorously. I thought he may have been excited from the playtime we had just prior, so I tried to settle him and he started pawing me. It had been less than two hours since Austin's last bolus, so I didn't immediately think low. But when Bo continued pawing me, I asked Austin if he felt low. He said he kind of felt low, so I asked Bo if we should check Austin.

(Side Note: We always include Bo in Austin's blood sugar checks. We use the verbal cue 'let's check' and then based on what Austin's blood sugar is we will tell Bo that Austin is good; Austin is high; or Austin is low. Because we have not yet started training on highs, we only reward Bo with a low party when Austin is low.)

When I asked Bo if we should check Austin, he got all EXCITED! There was no question, he wanted us to  check his boy. He ran to the kitchen, where we keep Austin's diabetes pack, and he waited for me to get the pack and then followed me back into Austin's room to check. I checked Austin and he was 77. We celebrated Bo's alert with a low party. Austin breathed/ blew on Bo while treating him with pieces of hot dog. We 'treated' (no pun intended folks) Austin with a juice box.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Milestone in Our Journey

On Friday, Helen and I met with Austin's school principal, guidance counselor and nurse to discuss the logistics of Bo attending school with Austin next year. I couldn't have asked for a better meeting. Everyone at the table was engaged in the conversation —  sharing pertinent and useful information, as well as asking relevant questions and offering thoughtful ideas.

We agreed on a plan that involves introducing Bo to the school environment starting in late spring 2013 and continuing through the summer. We will train during off school hours in the spring, so that Bo can become familiar with the sights, sounds and smells of the school building without the activity associated with classes being in session. We will continue working with him through the summer to expose him to the types of distractions he will experience when school is in full swing. For example, the sounds of lockers closing, bells ringing, desk and chairs sliding across the floor etc... In the fall, our plan is to begin training at school while it's in session. The goal we set for Bo attending school with Austin is spring 2014. At that time Bo will be about a year and a half old and Austin 12 years-old.

When meeting with school representatives, I shared my intentions of setting up Bo and Austin for success, explaining I would only pursue Bo attending school with Austin if I felt, and Helen agreed, that Bo was ready for the job and Austin was able to handle Bo on his own.

From the moment I first seriously considered training a D.A.D. for Austin, I resolved to commit 110% to the endeavor while knowing success was dependent on many factors outside of my control. Factors like if our pup was responsive to D.A.D. and public access training, if he would turn out to be temperamentally stable, and if he and Austin would form the bond needed to make them a successful team.

At this phase in our journey, all indicators are favorable for achieving our desired outcome with Bo. However, the reality is only time will tell if Bo will be cut out and willing to do the very special job we are preparing him for. For me the time, energy and money I've invested is well worth it, regardless of the outcome, because trying and not succeeding (though bitter sweet) is still far better than never having tried and being left to always wonder what might have been.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Odds and Ends

Training 'Come' on a Long Leash
Austin learned how to use a long leash to practice the 'come' command with Bo during level one class on Thursday. The idea is for Bo to come when called and allow his collar to be held. I practiced the command with Bo Friday, Saturday and Sunday and he is doing really well. We will increase distractions as we continue practicing this command with Bo.

Side-by-Side Walking
In our private session with Helen on Friday, Austin learned how to use the clicker to teach Bo to walk by his side without a leash. Austin worked on this exercise in the open space of Helen's studio. He walked and jogged around the space and every time Bo came to his left side and hit his mark, Austin clicked and gave Bo a treat. The idea behind this exercise is to teach Bo to stay at Austin's left side and to walk in step with Austin.

What Is In There?
Bo is true to his retriever breed and he really enjoys picking up things. Many things he picks up and carries around are appropriate -- things like his Kongs, toys and blankets. Other objects we don't want him to put in his mouth. (i.e., socks, Austin's homework, slippers etc.) Helen taught us a a fun exercise to do with Bo to desensitize him from having us open his mouth to remove inappropriate objects. She taught us to open his mouth and ask, "What is in there?" while putting a high value treat in his mouth. I am having fun with this exercise and Bo is getting more comfortable with me gently opening his mouth to look inside.

Bo's Cheerleader
Ever since we brought Bo home, I have been his cheerleader. Praising him and getting all excited for his every accomplishment and developmental milestone. Now that he has  entered adolescents he is showing his sassy side, like a typical teenager, and I've been unsure of how we should respond to this punky behavior. 

With Helen's guidance, we have begun using three different techniques to help us get through this stage of his development. They include redirecting his poor behavior, ignoring his poor behavior and responding to his poor behavior with a firm and stern, yet controlled, "Knock it off." When Bo barks at his shadow in a window; we ignore him and leave the space.  When Bo barks at a passing dog, we redirect him to sit, go down and then wait for a treat. When Bo grabs hold of Austin's pant leg as if it's a tug toy, we use a firm, "Knock it off!" We experienced all three of these scenarios over the weekend and I've been happily surprised with how effective the techniques have been at ending each of the behaviors.

Austin's has had a weekend of on target and high blood sugars, which have not provided Bo the opportunity to smell and alert on  real time lows. The 'in range' blood sugar numbers are helpful in that Austin can use low scent samples on his body for training. We continue to be pleased with Bo's interest in and responsiveness to the scent training we are doing.