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Service Dog Training - Volume 3

So we’ve got obedience down and we have talked about the regulations, but we still have a dog that isn’t completing any alerting actions. This step should be included when you begin obedience training, but will require some of the obedience pieces to work. For example, depending on your alert, you dog will likely need to be able to sit and bark to begin scent training.


Diabetic alert dogs function a lot like Epilepsy Alert Dogs. They smell a difference in their handlers and are able to alert them based on this change. Dogs have such a great ability to smell, they can even do this from your breath, but how do you train a scent dog? I used scent boxes. The process starts by acquainting your dog with the scent boxes by getting them to stick their nose in a box with a hole in the top and rewarding them for success. I used treats and verbal praise, just as I would for obedience training.


Once they have that down use the scent you want them to alert to, for example, a Q-Tip with the scent of high or low blood sugar on it. Place about three boxes in a line and the Q-Tip inside one of the scent boxes. Guide the dog to each box and ask him to complete the alert action at the box which is scented. Again, reward him for completing this task. Remember to choose an alert which is outside of the dog’s normal behavior, it can be a physical action such as a shake, or a verbal command such as speak.


After this line of actions is successful, increase the number of boxes one at a time. As you increase the boxes, lead the dog to the correct smell/box by having them sniff each box and rewarding him at the correct one after asking for the alert action.


After they have this figured out, don’t worry dogs are really smart and they have great scenes of smell, guide him along each of the boxes and have him smell each box. Don’t give any clues and don’t let him fake an alert. For example, once Jag had it figured that he was given a treat for alerting, he would alert at any box for a treat. I found going back a bit to a prior step, or a firm NO and redirection would help this. Follow the same rewarding techniques from the prior steps.


The final step before full on action is to use the scented Q-Tips on your person and follow the same methodology. Then use the same process based on when you have a low blood sugar. Ensuring the dog alerts when you have an actual low.


Jag and I are re-working his alert from a shake (a normal action for him) to what we call a bump in which he pushes his nose on me when alerting. He loves to train and seems to understand it is his job to keep me within his focus.


I have gotten much help from professionals, and we work on our skills everyday. It takes a lot of time and patience to train a medical alert dog, in addition to normal obedience training. The energy you have while training is very important, too, because energy is the language of dogs, so stay calm and don’t use any negative body language. Remember a medical alert service dog isn’t a guaranteed method but is can be very helpful, assist in a healthier diabetic lifestyle, and may save your life one day!


Source: Internet




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