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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Videos: Finding a Hidden Low Scent

In these videos Bo is using his nose to find a hidden low scent. It's hidden in a scent stick and he knows to bring it to me once he finds it. I do this training only when Austin is not home. I will hide the scent stick in different places. I also play this game without the scent stick and hide the sample in various types of containers. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

I Love Bo

My mom training Bo.
Guest post from Austin: 
I am so amazed by my mom's hard work and dedication to this dog. She knows that she won't be able to keep him but to put this much time, effort, and money into a dog and son means a lot to me. I love my mom and thank her for the work she has done. My whole family loves this dog and he is doing great work for an even better purpose. So thank you to my mom, dad and Bo for being amazing people/animal.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

It's Called a Team for a Reason

Morning walk in the woods.
Bo caught two middle of the night lows this week. Both times he woke Austin from sleep by alerting with repeated paw swipes and both times Austin called out to me saying Bo was alerting. These alerts are wonderful and exciting and worth celebrating but we would be foolish to think we can always count on them. This is the exact reason why we will always check Austin on a schedule day and night.

The reality is Bo misses alerts. In fact he missed an alert earlier this morning. We let Bo outside at 7:30 am, he got his breakfast Kong shortly after and then hopped in bed with us to go back to sleep. Around 8:15 am I got up and started getting ready to take Bo for our morning walk. Bo was following me as I was collecting my coat, keys and treats to take on the walk. Before I left, I went to check Austin's blood sugar. Bo followed me into Austin's room and showed no signs that he smelled an out of range blood sugar. Given Bo's behavior I expected the meter to read 130 but to my surprise Austin was 72. I used the missed alert as an opportunity to do live scent training with Bo. 

The missed alert could be explained away in many different ways but I expect it had less to do with the meter, test strip or blood sugar trend and more to do with a young dog, with a full belly who was excited to go for his morning walk. This missed alert is not ideal but it's okay. It's okay because I don't expect perfection. I seek progress and Bo is definitely showing progress. It's also okay because I recognize together with Bo we are a team. We work together to keep Austin safe. There have been times when Bo has caught a low or high we wouldn't have caught and there have also been times (like this morning) we have caught a low or high that Bo has missed. I believe there will be less missed alerts as Bo ages and matures but I don't expect there will be none.

Note: As I was finishing the last sentence of the paragraph above, Bo came to me and alerted. I checked Austin and he was 99 -- in Bo's reward range. Love our Bo!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Alerts After School

Austin had been home for about 30 minutes after school when Bo alerted to me. He alerted with a paw swipe followed by a bow -- the alert chain for a low. I told Austin Bo had alerted and asked him to check. He checked and he was 85. Austin had a juice box while I rewarded Bo for his alert. After the juice he ate a 15 grams apple snack which we didn't cover with insulin. Nearly two hours after this low alert, Bo alerted again while I was vacuuming. This time he only pawed my leg -- the alert signal for a high. I went to check Austin and he was 174. Austin got insulin and Bo got some cheese for his good work.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Leave Command In Practice

Spilled cereal.
A family member spilled a box of cereal on the kitchen floor this evening and instead of rushing toward the jackpot, Bo's first reaction was to back away from it and look at me. Bo's response was a demonstration of the 'leave' command although no words were spoken by the family member or me. Bo's response was automatic and a result of consistent training on what to do when food falls or spills on the floor. 

It's a skill we practice regularly. In training, we use kibble, dog treats and dog safe foods. We drop the food item on the floor and immediately give Bo the 'leave' command. We then pick-up the food on the floor while Bo watches patiently nearby. When the food is all picked-up, most times we reward Bo with food but sometimes we only give him verbal praise. 
Bo looking at the spill.

When the spill happened tonight, Bo backed away from it and looked to me. I had him wait while the family member got a dust pan to clean the mess. Bo got rewarded with his favorite dog treats for his demonstration of self control. In this picture, Bo is looking at the spill on the floor from a distance. A reliable leave is helpful in protecting a dog from injesting food or medications that are harmful to him. For example, raisins, grapes, chocolate or pills. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Training is Part of Our Daily Routine

Level III Class
Training is part of our daily routine. Much of the training we do with Bo is scheduled. Our scheduled training consists of group classes, one-on-one trainer directed instruction, and at home or in public skill building sessions. What I call just-in-time training represents the other component of Bo's training.

In-the-moment training occurs as the opportunity to practice an existing skill or learn a new one presents itself. It might be working on recall while on an off-leash walk and encountering a flock of birds (see embedded video) or practicing 'leave' while navigating a popcorn littered sports stadium. Sometimes just-in-time training occurs at the most inopportune times -- like late at night or early in the morning. A missed alert in the middle of the night is an opportunity for live scent training -- a process that includes not only scent exposure and food rewards but also physical and verbal praise and sometimes reward play.

Place Training
In-the-moment training is sometimes as simple as redirecting Bo to return 'under' the table at dinner or redirecting him to his place when a friend is visiting. Neither of these tasks are difficult but they do require our time and attention. It would be easy to forego scent training in the middle of the night or obedience training during a meal or visit with a friend but training a DAD isn't easy, nor does it allow for laziness. So, we stay committed to giving 100% to Bo's training and in doing so we strive for patience in the process, potential in the progress and praise in the product.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Remote Alert

This weekend while Austin was outside playing basketball with a friend in our driveway, Bo alerted to me inside the house. The windows and doors were all closed when Bo gave this remote alert. He was on his cot in the dining room and I was in the kitchen. I heard him whining and when I went to check on him he had broken his place. He was tethered so he couldn't come to me but his whining got my attention. When I approached him he immediately began alerting with paw swipes followed by bows -- his alert chain for a low.

Bo had alerted about an hour earlier on a low. Austin was 83 at the time and I gave him a 25 g carb ice cream snack and didn't cover it with insulin. So, when Bo alerted low for a second time, I thought he may be confusing his alert chains. (He isn't 100% accurate in his use of the high and low alert chains yet.) 

I removed the tether and took Bo outside to check Austin. Austin insisted he felt fine and he didn't need to check. For a fleeting moment I second guessed Bo but then I told Austin we had to check because Bo had alerted. It's a good thing we did because Austin was 68. 

Bo got a big low party for this alert and after the party he went back to his cot and went to sleep.