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World Diabetes Day

Diabetes Symptoms Can Go Unnoticed

Diabetes can often go undiagnosed because the symptoms seem harmless. According to the Center for Disease Control, around 20 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, and roughy 7 million more are undiagnosed. World Diabetes Day on November 14th as part of Diabetes Awareness month is set aside to recognize the symptoms and talk about this disease that adversely affects so many lives.

Symptoms for Type 1 can be hard to spot, which is why so many people go undiagnosed, but the complications can be much worse, even deadly. Complications to untreated type 1 or type 2 diabetes include glaucoma, skin infections, hypertension, heart disease, nerve damage, and stroke.

Diabetic Alert Dogs, a Tool for Success

In the meantime, there are several tools a person can use to manage their diabetes, but one interesting way is through the use of a service dog. A dog’s nose contains more than 225 million scent receptors, able to pick up on the slightest variation in smells – biochemical changes in your body is one of them. Trainers all over the United States have been trying to harness this ability to help diabetics stay on top of blood sugar fluctuations. This can be totally lifesaving to children with diabetes and the elderly who may not be able to pick up on the physical changes brought on by a blood sugar crash, and brittle diabetics whose sugar can be normal one minute and suddenly crash within seconds. These amazing dogs take highly specialized training and years to become fully trained, and the price tag for a diabetic’s best friend can be upwards of $20,000. Maggie, a chocolate Lab from Service Dog Academy right here in Seattle is one such lifesaver, and may be the solution to someone without the time or energy to train their own.

Train Your Own Diabetic Alert Dog

Training your own dog is an alternative to those without such deep pockets. Service Dog Academy pioneered the concept in 2008, and students at the West Seattle dog training studio have been doing the work themselves and get quite a bargain for something so priceless. They can train for Type 1, Type 2, Hypoglycemia, or pre-diabetes which can be a bigger lifesaver at managing something before it gets worse.

Our students seek out their own dog, either from a breeder or in some rare cases, adopt from a shelter. Then, they go to classes, learn from Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, BGS and go home and practice the training every single day. It’s a lot of hard work, but the payoff can be even bigger than having a ready-made service dog. Jeff, a client since last year, trained Cooper, an adorable 11-month old yellow Lab, says he and his family do the training together, and it has brought them all closer because of it.

In honor of Diabetes Awareness Day, take a look at the symptoms below and visit the American Diabetes Association to learn about the complications from untreated diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes

  • Frequent urination
  • Unusual thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Unusual weight loss
  • Extreme fatigue and Irritability
  • Type 2 Diabetes

  • Any of the type 1 symptoms
  • Frequent infections
  • Blurred vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Tingling/numbness in the hands/feet
  • Recurring skin, gum, or bladder infections
  • Classes for Pet Dogs, Too!

    If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we highly encourage you do visit your doctor and get tested. For more information on Service Dog Academy’s diabetic alert dog training program, or Maggie, who is an already trained diabetic alert dog soon to be available for purchase email info@servicedogacademy.com. We also use our strict positive reinforcement training methods to train pet dogs, too! If you like what you see, but don’t need service dog training, we offer an array of obedience classes to suit your needs. Who wouldn’t want a pet dog with service dog manners? Check out the class schedule today!

    Diabetic Alert Dog Television Debut

    With four trained diabetic alert dogsin the studio audience at the live taping of New Day Northwest, Seattle’s local morning talk show featuring musicians, artists, chefs, and other notable newsmakers, it was a relief none of the dogs alerted during Margaret Larson’s interviews! Instead, it happened before the cameras started rolling.

    In the studio audience to support Mary McNeight’s appearance promoting the Pacific Northwest’s only train-your-own diabetic alert dog program at the Service Dog Academy, Judith began to experience a blood sugar crash. Judith is one of the 25.8 million people in the United States afflicted with diabetes, and has trained her dog, Citka, to help manage the unexpected drops in her blood sugar – and save her life. What she began to feel, is what the American Diabetes Association refers to as symptoms of diabetes- dizziness, confusion, extreme fatigue, and are symptoms that could lead to much worse if not treated in time. Judith was about to take her seat, when Citka alerted to Judith’s low blood sugar by bumping her with his nose and swiping her with his paw. As she was sitting down and the show’s producer was getting her a snack to balance the blood sugar, Mary’s service dog Liame began to alert to the sudden scent of low blood sugar in the air. Then, 8-year old Jonathan, currently enrolled in Diabetic Alert 101, started getting nose bumps and paw swipes from his 8-month old diabetic alert dog, Lola. It was a swift recovery for Judith, thanks to Citka’s alerts – and the support from Citka’s classmates!

    After the camera’s started rolling, every dog was well-behaved. Marduk, a one-year old Great Dane who is training for narcolepsy alert, and 8-month-olds Indy and Lola, sat quietly in the audience during the hour-long taping – pizza-making segments and commercial breaks included! Each dog has gone through our pet dog training and puppy obedience classes before entering the diabetic alert dog program, and their behavior during the show, around so many different people, bright lights, and boom mikes is proof that Service Dog Academy students are some of the best behaved puppies and adult dogs in town!

    After the show, Margaret Larson, host of New Day Northwest later said via twitter, “@ServiceDogAcdmy thanks! That was very inspiring!”

    Everyone had a great time at the show, as well! @margaretnewday and producers at King 5, thanks for featuring us on your show! Watch Mary McNeight’s segment here.

    Anxiety or Hypoglycemia? Know the Signs

    Shaking, sweating, feeling dizzy, nervous, and confused, not being able to sleep or concentrate, according to the National Institute of Health, are symptoms of clinical anxiety; Nearly 40% of students at The Service Dog Academy who come in to train their pet dog for service work come in for psychiatric or anxiety related symptoms, says Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA owner and head trainer at the West Seattle dog training school. It wasn’t until a fateful day during one of the first train your own diabetic alert dog classes that Mary made a connection between hypoglycemia and anxiety, and realizing for many of her students who have anxiety, something else must be happening.

    Mary dedicated hours to teaching her own service dog, Liame, to recognize the distinct scent of low blood sugar and since has become a reliable diabetes detecting dog at the only train your own diabetic alert dog program in Washington State. Seven months into Liame’s training, Mary was teaching one of her first rounds of diabetic alert classes, when Liame started barking and pawing at the partition that separated him from the rest of the studio. Mary had everyone check their blood sugar, but surprisingly, in a room of type one and type two diabetics, no one was low. In the meantime, Mary was feeling tired, unable to concentrate, and attributed this to spikes in her own anxiety and depression. By day three of Liame’s unusual behavior, she finally used a meter to check herself, revealing low blood sugar. Anxiety and hypoglycemia’s shared symptoms led Mary to ignore the signs – hence putting her in danger every day. In the end, Liame used his powerful nose and persistence to alert Mary to hypoglycemia.

    Although it was the first time Liame has alerted an unsuspecting person to low blood sugar, it certainly hasn’t been the last. Last February, it happened again to a student training her dog for anxiety during a private apointment, and since then, there have been several other similar cases.

    Liame is now more than a year and a half into diabetic alert training, and regardless of who its coming from, Liame recognizes the signal and will alert by barking, panting, and generally acting very excited. When Mary asks him what’s wrong, he will swipe her with his paw, thus signaling that he smells low blood sugar. Now, with Liame making a name for himself as a reliable diabetes detector, some of these students have been able to manage their conditions more effectively because they are now aware of the cause.

    Anxiety disorders affect about 18% of americans over the age of 18 each year, and the varieties and symptoms of anxiety are vast and can look different from person to person, so it is crucial to see your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, and make sure to be tested for hypoglycemia as well to prevent further complications.

    Congratulations Diabetic Alert Dog 101 Graduates

    Spencer is the second diabetic alert trained bully breed to graduate our program

    Big congratulations are in order for our 5th graduating class of diabetic alert dogs! This Sunday November 6, 2011, trainee dogs and their owners will come into the Service Dog Academy studio for their 8th and final class, and leave as certified diabetic alert dogs. We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate World Diabetes Day on November 14th, than to send off a new group of diabetic alert dogs!

    See the article on the West Seattle Blog where our two West Seattle graduates are featured!

    diabetic alert dog training

    Diabetic Alert Dog 101 Graduates from West Seattle. Image copyright 2011 West Seattle Blog

    These amazing diabetes detecting dogs have learned to alert to low blood sugar in the home, retrieve sugary drinks to correct blood sugar imbalances, retrieve their owner’s meter, insulin, and get help during a low.

    Student Email Testimonial From 6 Month Old Student: “Jonathan suddenly told me that Lola was bumping him. He immediately tested himself and found out that his blood sugar level was 53!!!! I just wanted you to be the first one to know and to deeply thank you for all your effort when working with us. We are all looking forward to continue working with you on training Lola.”

    The next step is Diabetic Alert Dog 201, where they will train their canine companions in more complicated tasks of diabetic alert!

    Service Dog Academy has had several confirmed lifesaves from our former students, and we look forward to hearing more inspirational stories going forward. Since the program’s inception in 2008, we have had had nothing but positive feedback from past graduates. Below, watch what Diabetic Alert 101 and 201 alumni have to say about our program!

    If you would like your puppy or adult dog to help save your life, enroll your puppy into our Train Your Own Diabetic Alert Dog: Diabetic Alert Dog 101 class today. Spots are very limited.

    You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

    Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, has never been to the Service Dog Academy. Mary McNeight, owner and head trainer at the Service Dog Academy was about to start obedience in disguise, a.k.a. party tricks using positive reinforcement dog training methods when Guido, a 12-year old Jack Russell Terrier came through the door with his owner, Monica. His sweet, and sometimes saucy personality instantly captured our hearts during the training sessions at the West Seattle studio.

    What we know of Guido starts when he was around two-years old when he was found wandering along the US/Canada border, and was brought to an animal shelter in Bellingham, Washington. Monica had been interested in adopting a Jack Russell, and when she got a tip from a friend about Guido, she high-tailed it north to meet him. It was love at first sight, even though he was in bad shape – his nose was raw from rubbing against his cage. “He was the sweetest dog I had met,” Monica said, and luckily that day was the first day he was available for adoption.

    The instant bond between Monica and Guido was strengthened when shortly after the adoption, Guido was attacked by an off-leash Pit Bull. Hanging on for dear life, Guido spent several days at the emergency vet. “I think he learned I would always be there for him and would alway stake care of him,” Monica recalls.

    Monica put effort into basic training from day one, and Guido was quick learner and seemed to enjoy training. Now, 12-years old, and still looking as handsome as ever, the trickster made us laugh and charmed everyone in party tricks at the Service Dog Academy. Some tricks were harder than others, but in 4-weeks he learned to jump over a leg, weave through legs, jump through a hoop, act ashamed, beg, open a refrigerator, spin, hide, say his prayers, hide his face in pillow, and give kisses. Our latest tricks class graduate proved to be a show-off who loves attention. Some of his favorite tricks, Monica says, is shake and crawl, but adds, “I think he loves doing all tricks.”

    Diabetic Alert Program Featured On Komo News and At American Diabetes Association Camp


    Our hero Ian Sterling from Komo News Radio

    A trip to The Museum of Flight to check out the B-17 Bomber, Aluminum Overcast, turned fruitful for Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS and for KOMO Newsradio. The local news was at the museum, covering the unveiling of the bomber for its limited engagement at the museum. After talking with Mary, Ian Sterling, reporter for Komo Newsradio, became interested in The Service Dog Academy’s Diabetic Alert program and the groundbreaking training programs she offers at her dog training school. Sterling recently caught up with Mary and Liame at the West Seattle Dog Training Studio and Mary had the opportunity to share with the Seattle area her groundbreaking program in diabetic alert, utilizing a dog’s powerful scent receptors to help monitor blood sugar, and her innovative training with a dog to alert and assist with narcolepsy. You can view the transcribed interview on Komo’s West Seattle Community Pet Website or listen to the interview here:

    ServiceDogs-IS-Wrap1

    Additionally The Service Dog Academy also had a chance to share more intimately with the diabetic community at the American Diabetes Association’s family weekend at Camp Berachah in Auburn on June 4th. Mary’s presentation “Turning Fido from Family Pet to Diabetes Detecting Device,” was well-received by both the kids and parents at the retreat, where she demonstrated the game “101 things to do with a box” and explained the way a dog can alert to biochemical changes in the body – and specifically for the purpose of the audience – your blood sugar going high or low. The presentation was so well received and produced so many questions that we forgot what time it was and almost made our guests late for their next camp event!

    It was a lovely day to be outside manning The Service Dog Academy’s table at the diabetic children’s camp vendor fair later that day, just hours after the presentation. One of Mary’s recent graduates of the diabetic alert dog program, Citka, his owner, Judith, and I hung out, answered questions, and shared stories with the families that came to our table. Although the fair was only slated to run from 3:00-4:30, we stayed nearly an hour after the other vendors had packed up talking with people, answering questions, and showing off everything Citka has learned in the 8 week program. After he had alerted one girl for being low, she checked her meter and the pooch had done it again, he was right! We then had kids and parents coming to us to test their blood sugar with Citka’s amazing nose. The camp and vendor fair at the beautiful Camp Berachah was a ton of fun, and we are extremely honored to have been invited to be a part of it and further share the diabetic alert dog program and service dog training with both type one and type two diabetics from all over the Pacific Northwest!

    If you would like help our groundbreaking train your own service dog program to continue, please consider donating to our program

















































































    or by training your pet dog here at the Service Dog Academy. Our Seattle dog training classes are small and provide you with the same techniques we use to help train our remarkably well behaved service dogs.

    Featured Presenter at Seattle Diabetes Expo

    It was standing room only at Mary McNeight’s stage at the American Diabetes Expo. Mary and her lovely assistant Liame demonstrated to the diabetic community the amazing power of a dog’s nose to alert to changes in blood sugar, and her groundbreaking Diabetic Alert dog training classes in a presentation titled “Turning Fido from Family Pet to Diabetes Detector” at the expo on April 30th sponsored by the American Diabetes Association in the beautiful Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. Because of her groundbreaking work with diabetic alert dogs at The Service Dog Academy, Mary McNeight CPDT-KA, CCS was invited to present among a variety of acclaimed and talented diabetes experts.

    As nerve-wracking as it was to speak in front of a full house at the breakout session stage, Mary pulled off an energetic and inspiring speech about the importance of positive reinforcement, her training philosophy, and the immaculate precision of a diabetic alert dog’s scenting abilities!

    The free event drew a large turnout, and the staff and volunteers at The Service Dog Academy had a great time meeting with all kinds of people who have or knows someone who has type I, type II diabetes, or hypoglycemia. All day at the booth, we had crowds up to four people deep with questions about our program. The public interest was exhilarating, and we got to hear inspiring stories people shared. One owner shared her story of how her dachshund begun to react to changes in her blood sugar without formal training, another told us of her Golden Retriever who only after 2 classes with Mary alerted his owner to a low of 26 (and in a 10 minute window of a coma) while she was asleep!

    Having recently obtained official CPDT-KA certification, Mary was honored to be among the talented and acclaimed guest speakers at the event and the varieties of presentations that included cooking demonstrations, medical issue awareness, and even an appearance by “Biggest Loser” winner Matt Hoover. Overall, the 2011 American diabetes Association Expo was a fun and enlightening experience! and we look forward to more events like this in the future! In the meantime, Mary will continue to teach pet and service dog classes at her West Seattle training studio, and gearing up for another round of Diabetic Alert classes that will begin on May 21st!

    We Have Been Nationally Recognized!

    The Association for Pet Dog Trainers, a nationally recognized group with over 5,000 members worldwide has awarded The Service Dog Academy in the National Train your Dog Month campaign with The Most Creative Community Event! We certainly made a scene in downtown Seattle’s Westlake Park when, to the tune of “Walking The Dog” by Rufus Thomas, 14 handlers and their positively trained dogs simultaneously demonstrated basic skills taught in most dog training classes. The first ever positively trained flash mob (that we know of) managed to win over the APDT and make the news!

    As a community event, and as a way to spread the word on the power of positive training, we feel it was a huge success! Check out the full press on the event here. Winning this award is an exciting addition to something we are already very proud of and hope to continue more events like these in the future!

    In more great news, The Service Dog Academy was recently visited by Examiner reporter Prescott Breeden. He talked with Mary McNeight about the expanding world of service dogs, and diabetic alert training – which is now being offered at the studio! We are so excited to be featured in the Seattle Examiner, and to share our upcoming ventures and training opportunities with the community. Check out the recently published article here.

    Diabetic Alert Dog Training Class Starting April 7th

    The Service Dog Academy to Hold Puget Sounds First Diabetic Alert Dog Training Class

    A Diabetic Alert Dog Training Student Posing in front of our award from the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Contest for Train Your Dog Month

    West Seattle, March 7, 2011—The Service Dog Academy, located in West Seattle, will be teaching the Puget Sounds groundbreaking train your own Diabetic Alert Dog training class starting April 7th at 7:30PM. The revolutionary class will teach students to train their dogs to alert to low blood sugars, retrieve sugary drinks to correct blood sugar imbalances and to get human help when needed. This class is intended for both pet dogs and dogs training for service work.

    Service Dog Academy’s owner, Mary McNeight, understands the devastating effect diabetes can have on ones entire life. Her grandmother suffered from diabetes when she was a small child and her father is living with the consequences of poor management of the condition due to memory problems. She knew that, thanks to genetics, she would eventually develop the condition. She decided that she didn’t want to suffer the same fate as her family members so she set off to educate herself on how to train her own diabetic alert dog, dogs typically used for people with type 1 diabetes only.

    “Up until recently Type 2 diabetics have been unable to get a diabetic alert dog. With Type 2 diabetes at epidemic proportions and the cost of a trained diabetic alert dog running upwards of $20,000” said Mary, “I didn’t think it fair that only the super rich Type 1 diabetics were able to afford help in managing their condition.”

    Using their incredibly powerful noses, a properly trained diabetic alert dog can alert to changes in blood sugar 10 minutes before a meter can detect it. This means diabetics no longer suffer the devastating consequences of prolonged highs or coma inducing lows. Blood sugar control becomes tighter and results in dramatically improved health.

    The Service Dog Academy’s groundbreaking class is only $650 and is for dogs 4 months and older. Dogs only need basic obedience commands to enroll in the class. Students can register for the class online at http://www.servicedogacademy.com

    “Thanks to this program” Mary said, “now anyone with a well behaved dog can benefit from the use of a diabetic alert dog to better control their diabetes.”

    Mary McNeight, BGS, CCS is available for interviews to discuss the training of diabetic alert dogs, service dogs and her highly innovative dog training school located in West Seattle.

    Mary would also be willing to discuss how her dog Liame, a yellow lab, originally trained for diabetic alert due to Mary’s interest in it, inadvertently after several months of no training started alerting Mary to low blood sugar issues she has been having over the last month. Mary has not been diagnosed as a diabetic but found out that one of the medications she had been taking ended up having an unexpected side effect lowering her blood sugar.

    Service Dog Academy was founded to train pet dogs as well as service dogs. They offer a variety of classes at their West Seattle location and are also available for private appointments. The proceeds from the pet training classes help subsidize their low cost service dog training program. Although the company is not a non profit, they operate as such by funneling their profits into those that cannot afford their services. Their certified trainer is committed to helping you and your pet build an exceptional relationship. For more information or to sign up for classes, please visit www.servicedogacademy.com.

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    Contact
    Mary McNeight, BGS, CCS
    Service Dog Academy, LLC
    206-355-9033
    mary@servicedogacademy.com

    Final Positive Reinforcement Dog Training Flashmob Video

    The first ever Positive Dog Training FLASH MOB!

    Flash Mob: A group of people who appear from out of nowhere, to perform predetermined actions, designed to amuse and confuse surrounding people. The group performs these actions for a short amount of time before quickly dispersing. Flash mobs are often organized through email and/or newsgroup postings. (Source: www.UrbanDictionary.com.)

    On Sunday January 16, 2001 just after 3:00 pm 14 dog/handler teams came together in the heart of downtown Seattle to form the first ever positive dog training flash mob! We’d seen Michael Jackson tributes and Glee reenactments, but never a dance celebrating the bond between dogs and their people, a bond that is strengthened and nurtured by positive reinforcement-based dog training.

    Mary and Amanda met to choreograph the routine to “Walking the Dog” performed by Rufus Thomas. The idea was not to create an elaborate canine freestyle routine, but rather to demonstrate basic skills taught in most dog training classes. The final routine included nose targeting, shake, sit, down, stay, come, spin left and right and a trick of the handler’s choosing.

    We spread the word via Facebook and several e-mail lists including Puget Sound Positive Trainers (PSPT). PSPT maintains a referral web site at www.seattledogtraining.com and also keeps in close contact via the Yahoo! group seattlepositive. Our flash mob mission was to spread the word re: positive dog training and Train Your Dog Month in general vs. promoting any one business or person.

    Participants were instructed to practice on their own after watching an instructional video (see link below), then attend a practice session the night before.

    On the day of the flash mob, dogs and handlers milled about in front of Westlake Center, a popular shopping area in downtown Seattle. Upon hearing the opening notes to “Walking the Dog,” we fell in line and performed our routine. Over 150 unsuspecting spectators looked on with some taking photos and recording videos with their cameras and cell phones.

    Participants ranged from professional dog trainers to pet dog owners to agility and rally obedience competitors.

    “My Boxer, Tucker, and I participated in your canine flash mob and had the greatest time. It was something we had never done before, but it was so much fun we can’t wait to do it again! It was a blast to show off happy, trained dogs and get a chance to talk to the appreciative spectators,” said Janey Wilcox of Auburn, WA.

    Louisa Beal, DVM of Fircrest, WA also participated with her Belgian Tervuren, Paxil. “The Seattle flash mob event was a fun activity that generated a lot of interest from the crowd. But the best part for me was to be able to meet some of the positive trainers in my area. It is so important to cooperate and share with others in our profession. And the icing on the cake was that it was a blast!”

    This event not only showcased basic training but also socialization; the urban environment was filled with sights and sounds and each of the dogs took it in stride. The flash mob demonstrated the true value of socialization and training and gave spectators an idea of what dogs and people can achieve when they work together in a cooperative and gentle way.

    As soon as it was finished, participants wanted to know when we would do it again, and many people who were not able to participate this time wanted to be informed of future events. We have plans to coordinate a new routine to perform at Seattle Humane Society’s (www.seattlehumane.org) Walk for the Animals fundraiser in September. And Grisha Stewart, owner of Ahimsa Dog Training (www.doggiezen.com) in Seattle, has already scheduled a bi-monthly practice. “I’m inspired by the flash mob. I think it’d be fun to do this as an ongoing thing. I’m going to start a drill team at Ahimsa that’s open to any positive folks.”

    We believe the first ever positive dog training flash mob is most definitely the Most Creative Community Event organized to promote National Train Your Dog Month and the importance of training and socialization! It was a big success in the community and we plan to build on this first attempt to continue to spread the word about the power of positive training.

    Donate To Support The Program That Saves Lives Hundreds Of Times Per Day

    Mary McNeight and Service Dog Academy have been pillars of justice, advocacy and education in the medical alert dog community. If you would like to support this mission, you may do so using the paypal link below.