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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Level III Class

On Sunday, I will start a Level III group class with Bo. The six week class will include off leash work, scent work, agility, games and tricks. At the end of the class, there will be the opportunity to test Bo for his Canine Good Citizenship (CGC) award. The first session will include scent work, shaping games, targeting skills (turning lights on and off), as well as shadow skills, heeling exercises and some focus skills. I'm excited!

Video: Training Chill Command with Verbal Cue

Three weeks ago I started training Bo to rest his head on my foot while he was in a down stay. This video demonstrates how he is now offering the behavior upon verbal command. Next, I will focus on increasing the amount of time he keeps his head rested on my foot. The goal with this training is to train Bo to rest his head on my foot and keep his head on my foot for an extended amount of time.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Video: Bo's Happy Dance

Bo's crate is always available for him to use when we are home. He puts himself in it to eat. (We give him his frozen Kong and he takes it to his crate.) He also puts himself in it at night sometimes. We want Bo to have access to us for alerting any time Austin is home. (We have not trained him to alert from his crate.)  We only put him in his crate when we are leaving the house. His time in his crate is minimal for this reason and because he spends his days (while we are at work and school) at our neighbors' house.

Yesterday, I did something I don't usually do. I put him in his crate when I got home from being out with him. We had been gone for three hours and in that time he had an off-leash walk, a group training class and he worked for Austin. I knew he was tired and I wanted him to rest before Austin returned home from playing basketball. By the time Bo woke-up, Austin was home. I heard him wake-up and I took my camera with me, hoping I would capture what I call his 'happy dance.'  I captured his tail wagging happy dance but I also captured a low alert.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Friday I awoke at 5:53 am to check Austin's blood sugar. When I got to his room Bo was in a down at the foot of Austin's bed. He looked at me but didn't alert. I got out Austin's meter and began preparing it for use. As I did, Bo stretched out near Austin and rested his head at Austin's pillow. Still no alert. I dug Austin's hand out from under the covers and checked him.

The meter read 122; this is Austin's target number. Bo was doing his job and not alerting. You may wonder why I checked Austin even though Bo did not indicate a high or low and I didn't have any other information suggesting Austin's blood sugar was out of target range. It's because we check Austin on a set schedule regardless if Bo alerts.

Bo is young; he is still learning his job. Bo is a living being; he gets tired, and he gets distracted. He is not perfect. He helps us manage Austin's Type 1 by alerting us to lows and highs before Austin feels them and often times before our technology indicates a need for treatment. He is a great help to us but it's our job and our responsibility to make sure Austin is safe and that involves checking on a schedule -- even if Bo's nose isn't telling us to.

Friday, February 7, 2014

How We Differentiate Alert Types

This is how we differentiate between an alert, non-alert, false alert and missed alert and how we handle each one.

Alert: An alert for a high or low that falls within Bo's alert reward range. For a low, it's a blood sugar of 100 or lower and for a high it's one of 173 or higher.

Bo is heavily rewarded for alerts. He gets high value food rewards, as well as physical and verbal attention. Sometimes he will also get a game of tug or fetch depending on the time of day and where we are at the time of the alert.

Non-alert: No alert during a check and Austin's blood sugar is within his target range or above 100 and below 173.

When we check Austin and his blood sugar is in his target range, Bo does not get any reward . It's just business as usual.

False alert: An alert and Austin's blood sugar is not in Bo's low or high reward range.

When we get what we think is a false alert we rule out an issue with the test strip by testing with a different meter and different test strips. If the second meter doesn't validate the alert, we will consider insulin on board intended to treat a high versus IOB to cover carbs eaten and we will retest in 15 minutes. If we determine Austin's blood sugar is not in Bo's reward range we consider it a false alert and we do not give Bo any attention for the alert. We ignore the alert behavior he is giving.

Missed alert: No alert from Bo but Austin's blood sugar is within Bo's target low or high reward range. We use missed alerts as training opportunities. We will have Austin blow on Bo and give him a high value food reward for showing him the appropriate alert based on Austin's blood sugar.

Bo is young and he is learning his job. It's our responsibility to help him understand his job and teach him when he is supposed to alert. He has given each one of these alerts over the course of our journey.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

High Alert to Family Member

Bo alerted to a family member at the dining room table. Austin checked and he was 182. We reward Bo for high alerts of 175 and higher. Bo got chicken and gravy baby food, plus some pieces of chicken. Austin had insulin on board that was working on the carbs he had eaten for dinner, so his meter didn't give a correction.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Video: Training the 'Chill' Command

I learned about the 'Chill' command through DAD handlers/Type 1 parents I've come to know through Facebook. After reading a recent post by one of the handlers/parents I got inspired. This video demonstrates how I'm training Bo to rest his head on my foot. This video represents my first attempt at training. I still need to do more work before adding the verbal cue and I'll have to work on extending the duration of the behavior. You can find the original post that inspired me on FB at #diabeticalertdogs (It's a post on 2/3/14). 

Alert While Visiting at Friends' House

We went to our friends' house for the Super Bowl and brought Bo. He was on his mat in the living room and Austin was in the basement playing ping pong. Bo began whining on his mat. We released him and he alerted to the family member who released him before finding me at the dining room table and alerting to me with a paw swipe followed by a bow. We called Austin upstair to check; he was 83. The distractions in the room included six adults, one other dog, the smell of warm food and the tv. Good low Bo!