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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Missed Alerts as Training Opportunities

I often read about amazing DAD alerts but I rarely read about missed alerts. In my experience missed alerts are part of the journey. I think it's important for people to hear about them and understand how we use them as training opportunities. 

This morning Bo missed an alert. He was lying on my bed as Austin slept nearby. He showed no signs of smelling a low. He sat at my side on the bed as I prepared Austin's meter for checking. The test strip sucked up the blood droplet and the meter read 87. This is a number within Bo's reward threshold. I looked at him for signs of smelling the low (i.e., air scenting, sniffing vigorously, staring intently at me) but he showed no signs. 

What did I do? I used it as a training opportunity. I cued him to 'go sniff' Austin and I told him 'he's low.' He then started alerting. I cued him 'off' the bed and prompted him to 'show me low.' He pawed me and bowed at my feet. I called him with me to get Austin a juice box and I cued him to 'take juice' and bring it to Austin in bed. 

Why he missed this alert could have been due to any number of reasons. (i.e., Austin's blood sugar may have been trending up. The technology we use to measure Austin's blood sugar is allowed at +/- 20 point margin of error. His full belly from breakfast may have left him content and unmotivated to work.) I don't know for sure the reason; what I do know for sure is we always check on a schedule regardless of his alerts. There have been times when he has caught a high or low that we would have missed and, like today, there are times when we catch a low or high that he misses. This is one of the many reasons we are called a team. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Video: Practicing Load Up in Wash Room

Every day I spend time training, exercising and playing with Bo. On the days I don't work, I spend more time doing each of these activities than on days I do work. I'm always trying to find new ways to engage him and keep him busy and interested. Today, we practiced the load up command by having him load up into the bathtub. Usually I'm giving the 'load up' command to prompt him to get into a vehicle or to get on Austin's bed. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

We've Got a Thinking Dog

This afternoon Bo did something he's never done. He paw swiped Austin's pack as a secondary alert. This alert came as I was preparing to check Austin's blood sugar. Bo had alerted high and I was waiting on Austin to check. Apparently I wasn't moving fast enough because as I sat waiting, Bo gave the pack two paw swipes and then looked at me. 

I wasn't able to capture the alert when it happened but I was able to prompt the behavior after the fact and get these pictures. This behavior surprised me because I've never trained him to alert in this manner. I believe it's a great example of what a 'thinking dog' looks like. 

Note: Bo has participated in Austin's blood sugar checks since he was a young puppy. We've always included him in the checking process. When we give him the 'let's check' command he follows us to get Austin's pack. He waits next to us as we prepare Austin's glucometer and stays with us until we validate his alert or if he didn't alert until we tell him 'all set.'