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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Video: Scent Training in the Car at Night

One of the many places we do scent training with Bo is in the car. Tonight, I worked him with a scent sample while a family member was driving. The goal is to teach Bo that a low scent in the car equals an alert, just as a low scent in the house equals an alert. Tonight, we practiced in a moving car when it was dark outside. Other times, we practice in a parked car and in the day light. I had to prompt him for his alert signal, which in the car is a paw on the seat back.  Once he gives his initial alert, I reward him and then present the scent to him again and reward him for placing his paw on the seat. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

What to Pack

An overnight with Bo requires some packing. Our checklist includes:
Freedom Harness
Gentle Leader
Long Lead
Service vest
Night vest
Water vest
Water ball
Water bringsel
Treat bag
Alert high value foods - cheese and meat
High value toy for rewarding alerts

Peanut butter
Water bowl
Water bottle
Poop bags

Friday, July 18, 2014

Public Access Training

The other night, after exercising Bo, we took him to Fresh Market for public access training. It was late in the evening and there weren't many people shopping, which made it perfect for his first time in the space. He worked through the flowers and produce with ease, so we headed to the butcher shop. His nose was sniffing in the direction of the prepared meats but he responded well to my commands to 'leave' --each time turning his head away from the food and toward me. He kept his nose out of the food case and off the bread and muffins tables, however he did get distracted by everything on the floor. It didn't matter if it was a piece of food or a piece of paper, if it was on the floor he wanted to sniff it. We encountered a grape and it was almost as if he knew it was bad for him. I told him 'leave' and he stopped walking and looked at me. I gave him a nice food reward for his listening.

He walked at my side with one exception when I was turning right and he wanted to turn left. When I looked in the dairy case, he stopped and stood waiting for me to continue walking. He went into a down stay when I dropped his leash to take a pictures of him in the aisles. He appeared to be comfortable working in the space not showing any signs of stress. It was a short yet successful session.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Preparing for the AKC Community Canine Test

We are preparing to take the AKC Community Canine test. This test is the advanced level of the Canine Good Citizen Program. Like the CGC test, it includes 10 test items and food rewards are not permitted.

Our prep class began today at No Monkey Business Dog Training and will go for the next five weeks. Bo will have the experience of practicing the skills with the distractions of other dogs and I will have the opportunity to learn how to practice the skills with him at home and in public. Passing the Community Canine test is the next step on our path to taking the Public Access Certification Test.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Working for Austin

Bo alerted to Austin yesterday while the two were walking on the street in front of our house. This is a big milestone on our journey for a few different reasons. First, it represents Bo's willingness to stop something he enjoys -- taking a walk outside -- to do his job. Second, it represents Bo's ability to generalize his scent training -- just as a low scent indoors equals an alert so does one outside. Third, it represents Austin's ability to recognize and respond appropriately to an alert from Bo.

According to Austin, the alert happened a short time into their walk. Bo had been heeling at Austin's side as the two walked up and down the street. Then all of a sudden, Bo stopped. Austin called Bo and when he did, Bo took one step forward and then pawed and bowed -- his alert chain for a low. Austin recognized the alert and turned back to the house.

I was surprised to hear the two of them back to the house so soon. Austin came bounding in the house with Bo and announced, "Mom, you're never going to believe it, Bo just alerted to me!" We checked and Austin's blood sugar was 74. We treated Bo wildly for alerting to his boy. We rewarded him with Dick Van Pattens' dog food roll, a new high value food reward we just started using last week, plus a game with his favorite toy and tons of love and praise. 

I took these pictures and video today when Austin and Bo were practicing loose leash walking on our street this morning.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Happened

Note: I'm not sure when I wrote this post. I had written it and never published it. I came across it when I was in the admin view of my blog posts today. It's part of the journey, so I'm publishing it now.)

Last Sunday, for the first time since I set out on this journey, I thought about giving-up. That's right. I thought about throwing in the old proverbial towel and quitting. The thought was fleeting (thankfully) leaving my mind as quickly as it had entered but it happened nonetheless -- making its dirty little mark on our journey.

It's super easy to post about the successes. The fabulous alerts that come in the middle of the night or on the soccer field. The beautiful heel work during a training session at Target. The extended down stays during place work. The impressive self control during leave it exercises. All those things are so easy to write about because they represent achievement, hard work and success. As a result, we hear about them a lot. They are in our FB newsfeed and the blogs and groups we follow. They are inspirational and encouraging but they can also be discouraging. They are discouraging because they can set unrealistic expectations of perfection.

Of course, I could never give-up on these two. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When Austin is Away Bo Will Play

Play scent games, with low scent samples, that is. We don't do scent training with samples when Austin is at home because we don't want to confuse Bo with the scent of Austin's live blood sugar. Our samples range between 85 and 70 and Austin's target is 120. You factor in Austin running above target and you can see how a live blood sugar, coupled with a scent sample of 85 could be confusing. So, all our training with scent samples is done while Austin is not present. When Austin is at home or in public with us, we use live blood sugar to train Bo.

For the past few days Austin has been overnight with family members and I've been doing extra scent training sessions. Our sessions include games where I hide a low scent sample and give Bo a command to find the low. Once he finds the sample, he is rewarded with a high value food and a game with me involving his favorite toys. Between sessions, I will also take him outside to play and sniff as a reward and give him time to rest. Tonight we had two sessions indoors involving  games of finding a low hidden in a container and two sessions outdoors involving recognizing a low scent on my body. He hit on the low the first time all but once -- when a lemon peel in one of the containers was enough to distract his focus. When this happened, I told him 'let's try again' and I took him out of the space, moved the containers and then brought him back.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Video: Scent Training with Snap-in Drains and Caps

Snap-in drains and caps for scent work. 
I'm changing the threshold low blood sugar number that Bo gets rewarded for from 100 to 85. I've decided to do this in hopes his 'ahead of the meter' alerts are below 100. Right now, he will alert ahead of the meter at say 118 and then within 10-15 mins (sometimes less) he re-alerts and Austin's blood sugar is 100 or below. See our alert log for examples. I expect it will take some time to re-train him to alert on the lower number and for this reason plan to increase the number of daily scent training sessions I do. My goal is to do four 10 minute sessions a day. One of the biggest challenges is going to be collecting an ample supply of scent samples between 80 and 85. Today, I picked up these snap-in drains and caps to use for scent work. In the video below, you see him sniffing around the room and when he comes to the container with the low scent sample (second in from left), he turns to me (off camera) and bows. I can only imagine what he would be capable of if he were being trained full-time by a professional -- rather than part-time by me.Thankfully, he is forgiving of my mistakes. If only I could learn to be as forgiving with myself.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Watching a False Alert

Bo just alerted (4:49 pm) and Austin was 118 with .45 IOB. This alert is considered a false alert because it's not in Bo's low reward range of 100 or lower. When this happens, I put Bo on his cot and tell him we are going to 'watch.' If Bo doesn't re-alert within 10 minutes, I check Austin's blood sugar again. When Bo gave this false alert, he re-alerted after five minutes. Austin was 99 and he had IOB from an earlier correction. This picture is what Bo looked like from the time I put him on his cot until he broke his place to re-alert to me. (He had an intense stare on me no matter where I moved in the room.)

It's not uncommon for DADs to be ahead of the meter in their alerts. I only consider an alert ahead of the meter and not false, when the out-of-reward range alert is withing 15 minutes of an in-range alert. If it isn't, I consider the out-of-reward range alert a false one.

Adolescents Versus Temperament

The other night I took Bo to Target with a family member to train while the family member picked-up a few items. We were in the store for 10 to 15 minutes and Bo walked at my pace, ignored distractions of people and carts and stayed focused through the busy check-out line. He went for pieces of popcorn on the ground and sniffed a bag of Tide pods on an end cap but besides these infractions, he did nice public access work.

We were leaving the store and had just entered the automatic doors when I declared 'success' to my family member. Just as I completed my sentence, and stepped outside, Bo spotted a gum wrapper blowing across the ground. He lost all self-control and went racing after it -- pulling me behind him. The episode bummed me out.  Naturally, I want him to be stellar -- rock solid in public.

I couldn't help but wonder if his reaction was typical adolescent dog behavior or a result of his temperament. I suppose time will eventually tell. Until then, I will continue daily training, group training and one-on-one consults with the goal of giving Bo all the skills and practice he needs to be a success.