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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Scent Training

Bo's Nose Knows
Bo is alerting to Austin's lows and highs with consistency and accuracy. He is alerting not only during the day but also at night. He is alerting at home and in public. He is alerting to family members and directly to Austin. Despite his demonstrated success in these areas, we continue to do scent training with him every day. 
Scent Stick

Training sessions typically last 20 minutes and involve games of hide and seek with a scent stick, as well as a variety of scent training activities. One such activity involves presenting him with a low scent sample and asking him to show the alert chain for a low, which is a paw swipe followed by a bow. Another activity consists of presenting him with a muffin tin of tennis balls and asking him to touch the ball with the low scent hidden under it. When we play hide and seek with a scent stick, he is given the command to stay while we hide the stick in a room out of his view. We then release him from his stay and give him the 'find it' command. Once he finds the stick, we give him the command to 'bring it,' which prompts him to bring the stick to us and drop it. For each successful find and retrieve, he is rewarded with a high value food like chicken, cheese or hot dog. Bo loves playing this game and it serves to build and reinforce his drive to alert. We do this scent training when Austin is not at home, so as not to confuse Bo with the scent of Austin's live blood sugar. 

When Austin is home we do real time scent training with Bo. This training lasts seconds but often occurs multiple times a day. It involves Austin blowing on Bo when his blood sugar is 175 or higher or when his blood sugar is under 100. Austin blows on Bo and asks Bo to show him the alert chain for low or high depending on his blood sugar.  The command we use to cue the chain is 'show me low' and 'show me high.' Bo is rewarded for showing the appropriate alert signal. 

Our scent training sessions are part of our daily routine and always will be. They are fun and enjoyable for Bo (as well as us) and they serve to keep his nose keen to the scents we want him to recognize. Additionally, the sessions help further his desire to alert by reinforcing him with his favorite foods and lots of attention and love. 

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