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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Training at School

We met Helen at Austin's school last Friday for a training session. The school was empty with the exception of two members of the custodial staff and some contractors who were on site doing construction outdoors. We started the session with Austin handling Bo in the main entrance corridor. Austin practiced putting Bo in a down stay while Helen and I caught up on Bo's progress, since our last meeting. When Bo first saw Helen, he broke his down stay and began barking. Helen did not greet Bo and only spoke to Austin from a distance. Austin worked to get Bo re-focused and settled in a down stay. Once he was settled, Helen had Austin walk Bo through the furniture filled corridors. Helen and I followed behind Austin and Bo. At one point, we came to two large industrial fans that were not only blowing but also loud. Austin walked between them and Bo followed at his side, without any hesitation.

Teaching 'Behind Me'

Austin took us to the sixth grade corridor, where we found a classroom set-up with desks and chairs. Helen showed Austin how he could use his body and the furniture to keep Bo behind him, rather than at his side. Helen explained to us the need for Bo to be able to walk 'single file', if you will, behind Austin when he is in a crowded hallway or classroom. Helen also had Austin sit at a desk and practice keeping Bo in a down stay. While Bo followed Austin's command, he quickly became bored and broke his down stay. Austin was able to put him back into it but needed to use his foot to hold Bo's leash down close to the ground. Bo was sassy and barked when he was down again. Helen told us we need to acclimate Bo to being bored. (i.e. just being down by Austin's side and doing nothing) For our homework, we will be going to school with a book or ipad for Austin to use, while sitting at a desk and having Bo down at his side.

Bo Attending School

While our goal is to have Bo attend school with Austin in the spring of Austin's 6th grade school year, it will all depend on how well they are working as a team. Bo will need to be alerting in the school environment and he will also need to be responsive to Austin's handling of him. Austin will need to be able to handle Bo and be willing to make sacrifices that come along with the privilege of having a service dog in school with him to assist with his diabetes  management. All the work we are doing now and will continue to do throughout the summer and fall, is work toward our goal.

We will be going to school two to three times a week to train throughout the summer. During the sessions we will also do scent training with Bo in the classroom, corridors and other locations throughout the school. With each session we will be striving for progress, rather than perfection.


  1. Best of luck to the team! My daughter takes her DAD to school with her and she will also be going into the 6th grade in the fall. She took her DAD to school last year too. It was a lot of work but, so worth it!

    1. How old is your daughter's D.A.D? How long have the two been together? One aspect of bringing Bo to school that I've wondered about is his exercise time during the school day. Our trainer has talked with us about taking Austin's recess to exercise Bo with a game of fetch or other game outdoors. I would love to hear how your daughter handles giving her pup exercise and a little play time during the school day. If you'd like to PM me on FB, please do. My FB account is Jennifer Breton Dearborn. Thanks for commenting! Jenn