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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Reward Range Thresholds

When it comes to Bo's nosework, I expect alerts within his low and high reward range thresholds. For a high it's 170 to 220 and for a low it's 70 to 89.* An alert that allows us to treat Austin's blood sugar before it gets dangerously high or low, is one that meets my standard of a successful alert.

Dangerous highs may result in ketones and may put Austin at risk for long term complications associated with high blood sugar. Dangerous lows may put Austin at risk for short term conditions such as seizures, coma, or in the worse possible case, death. In general, if Bo alerts on a blood sugar above 220 or below 70 I consider the alerts helpful but not successful. 

There are two scenarios when I make an exception to this standard. They are: 
  1. When Bo alerts on a low below 70 or a high above 220 upon Austin arriving home after being separated from Bo. For example, when Austin sleeps at a friend's house and Bo stays home. Bo has alerted outside his reward thresholds  (higher than 220 or lower than 70) upon Austin arriving home. I consider this a successful alert because Bo was not with Austin to smell his blood sugar when it was in the 170-220 range.
  2. When Bo is re-alerting on a low that's dropping or a high that's rising. He may give his first alert within his reward thresholds but continue to alert well beyond the 220 or below the 70 until Austin's blood sugar is in non-reward range (above 90 and below 169.) I consider this acceptable because these alerts serve to let us know there is either an issue with treating the low and it's still dropping below 70 or still rising above 220. 
Bo is not perfect. He is a living, breathing animal and his ability to work can be influenced by many factors including but not limited to: 
  • How full or empty his stomach is;
  • How energetic or fatigued he is physically or mentally;
  • The number and strength of distractions that are present in his work environment.
Alerts outside of his reward thresholds don't happen frequently but they do occur and when they do, they provide me the opportunity to evaluate the influences at play and modify his scent training to address them.

I'm interested in hearing from you. What are your experiences with regards to out of reward range threshold alerts? What are your expectations around your DAD's alerts? What exceptions, if any, do you have to your expectations? What other thoughts do you have on the topic of alert reward ranges and thresholds?

* Reward thresholds vary among DAD teams.

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