How to Train a Diabetic Alert Dog
How to Train a Diabetic Alert Dog? (Expert Guide)
Service dogs are easing mankind’s life by assisting disabled and diseased individuals. A diabetic alert dog is specially trained to detect an impending low blood glucose level. Through training, these dogs can improve their quality of life by taking early measures in case of hypoglycemia.
Diabetes is a big issue worldwide and the person suffering from this condition faces a lot of systemic and mental disturbances. There are times when the person is unable to detect the imminent low sugar in his or her blood.
A diabetic alert dog mastered the skill of detecting low blood glucose through the patient’s breath or by the body odors. The training of dogs to be diabetic alert dogs involves correct technique, patience, and dedication to achieve success.
How does a Diabetic Alert Dog Detect Hypoglycemia?
Dogs are blessed with an astonishing sense of smell through their highly sensitive nose. They can smell and perceive a variety of smells no matter the origin. A diabetic alert dog can seamlessly detect and promptly respond to low blood sugar by his sense of smell.
The physiology of smelling hypoglycemia lies in the efficient training of a dog. Service dogs that can detect low blood sugar play a huge role in a diabetic person’s life. These dogs inform the diabetic owners through a series of responses mainly through pre-trained signals and movements.
Can You Train Your Dog to Be a Diabetic Alert Dog?
Just like any other training, service diabetic alert dogs are trained at a young age to build their skill. The dog needs to be calm and have a very friendly demeanor to work in all types of situations.
At the same time, the temperament of a dog must be oriented towards a learning behavior. A service dog’s training is chosen based on his personality and ability to stay alert to distractions. A person can train the dog to respond to his low sugar level by fetching medical supplies or glucose medicines.
Most diabetic alert dogs are equipped with emergency diabetes kits attached to the harness. The dog benefits the diabetic owner or the patient by quick detection of hypoglycemia. The person then quickly administers or uses the appropriate medicine by reaching the medical kit.
The Basics of Diabetic Alert Dog Training
After ensuring your dog has gained ample obedience and command training, you can proceed to give him special service dog training. The process starts with training your dog to detect low blood glucose blood samples through their scent.
Not only blood glucose but different types of other samples such as armpit and feet sweat swabs can be used. Using multiple types of samples enables your dog to master the training of detecting the hypoglycemic status of a person’s body.
Additionally, the common and popular method used for dog training is the reward training technique. In this, the dog is allowed to perform a task and if he does it correctly, positive reinforcement is applied through treats and cuddles.
Diabetic Alert Service Dog Training Protocol
Prepare the Hypoglycemic Sample
The training begins by using a low blood glucose blood sample and packing it in a protected container or bowl. Make sure to protect it from your dog’s mouth so he doesn’t accidentally lick the blood.
You can do that by placing the blood sample or the sweat swabs in a bowl and covering it from the top. Use a mesh cloth or colander to cover the bowl and only allow the smell of the sample to pass through.
Introduce the Sample to the Dog
The next step is to carefully introduce the prepared sample to your dog for him to smell. The characteristic smell of the sample will act as a curiosity trigger for the dog. Keep the sample at an appropriate distance from the dog so he only smells it and doesn’t try to lick it.
Use Positive Reinforcement
As long as the dog smells the sample, take it away and use the reward method to train him. You can do that by giving your dog his tasty treat after each session of smelling the sample. Positive reinforcement using treats is a good way to interlink the sample scent detection with a reward.
If your dog experiences any hesitation in smelling the sample, give him some time and try again. To be your dog a service dog, his temperament is very important. You can proceed to the next training steps after he keeps repeating the scent detection and wanting treats.
Use Several Hidden Locations for the Sample
After your dog develops a positive association between the sample and treat, move the sample bowl to multiple locations. You can place the sample at any place that is in the vicinity of your dog’s vision.
As soon as your dog starts going after the sample and smelling it, reward him again. This will keep building the relationship between the smell with the treat. As we know dogs have an incredible sense of smell, your dog will be able to locate the hidden blood sample anywhere in the house.
Add Cues & Responding Signals
It may take a considerable amount of time to train your dog to detect the sample scent. The next step after detection is the response to alert the diabetic person promptly. Teaching such signals is very important so that your diabetic-alert dog can let you know about hypoglycemia.
You can start teaching your dog to show a special type of behavior on command. Later you need to remove the command so your dog can respond only after detecting low sugar scent. Through repetitive training, your dog will be able to correctly detect when your body is producing low blood sugar breaths or sweats.
After the detection and command training, add additional training by teaching your dog to bring the medication. You can also train your diabetic alert dog to call someone outside or quickly grab the glucose medication by sensing the location.