Posts Tagged ‘assistance dog’

Pet Puppy Socialization: The Service Dog Way Pt. 2

How do you get a fearless dog? By great socialization training, of course! Socialization is a not only a key component of a well-behaved service dog, it’s important for pet dogs, too! In fact, the number one reason dogs end up in shelters is under socialization.

Socializing Puppies: The Service Dog Way

To show how awesome well-socialized puppies can be, watch how two of our board and train pups, Cooper and Daisy, handle themselves around emergency personnel during a critical stage in their development.

Mary McNeight, with the help of fireman Andy from Engine 32, and a bag of treats, proceeded to get Daisy and Cooper used to his big uniform and funny hat. They didn’t seem phased at all in part thanks to the positive reinforcement training and socialization they received in Service Dog Academy pet puppy classes.

Next, we visited the Southwest Precinct of the Seattle Police Department, and gave officers Andy Bass and Buzzy the same opportunity to greet and treat the pups. Hopefully, as Cooper and Daisy grow up to be reliable diabetic alert service dogs they wont have to meet again, but just in case emergency personnel do show up in response to their owners’ medical issue, Cooper and Daisy will have had a positive association with these men in uniform.

Do you want your puppy to be as well-socialized as a service dog? Don’t have the time or energy to make sure your puppy gets the exercise he or she needs? Then, Puppy Day Camp is your answer!

Service Dog Academy will soon open its studio space for your puppy to get the ultimate socialization and training experience. Puppy Day Camp will run from 7:30am-11:30am Monday through Thursday. Drop off your pup in the morning, run some errands, go to work, or just sit back and relax while our professional dog trainers on staff work on basic obedience and supervise play sessions with a small group of pups. Come back a few hours later to a worn-out, happy, better socialized puppy! The cost is $269 for four days of camp. Email info@servicedogacademy.com for more information and keep checking the website for official start dates!

Service dogs as well as pet dogs should never display traits of fear, aggression, or reactivity, so to avoid this, it’s crucial for puppies between the ages for 7 weeks and 3 months to be socialized to many different situations and people. The Service Dog Academy also offers pet puppy classes that are designed for setting a foundation for socialization during this critical time, whether training your puppy good manners, or the American Diabetes Association recognized diabetic alert, migraine alert, seizures, or another type of service work. Service Dog Academy classes also cater to adult dog basic obedience, and advanced dog training classes at the dog training studio located in West Seattle.

With so many options to choose from for your pet puppy, you’ll have a fearless, happy dog, in no time!

Liame Recognized as ‘Hero’ by PAWS

Best Award Winning Dog Training Classes in Seattle

Liame and Mary McNeight with the other PAWS award winners.

Liame’s hard work over the years has paid off! On May 19th, professional positive reinforcement dog trainer Mary McNeight’s 4-year old yellow Lab walked the red carpet to receive a plaque for his outstanding service to the community at the annual PAWS of Bainbridge Island and North Kitsap Spotlight on Community Hero Pets ‘Hero Dog Awards!

Liame’s very existence fueled Mary’s passion for dog training, and inspired the creation of the Service Dog Academy. The all-positive reinforcement pet puppy, pet dog, and service dog training studio has helped more than 525 dogs be well-mannered, well-behaved and even lifesaving medical alert dogs. Thanks to Liame, more people with disabilities in the Pacific Northwest, and Seattle area are empowered to live more independent lives through the use of a service dog. Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, BGS spent countless hours working toward getting her Canine Studies Degree, and went to six hours of puppy classes per week with Liame in order to become a certified professional dog trainer, and the Northwest’s leading resource for diabetic alert dog training for type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

Through Mary’s positive reinforcement dog training methods, Liame is also a very persistent diabetic alert dog. His powerful nose has detected low blood sugar in people who didn’t even know they were hypoglycemic! His success in alerting has paved the way to make Service Dog Academy a reliable source for anyone who wants to train their own dogs for diabetic alert, seizure alert, migraine alert, and now because of Liame and Mary’s dedication to medical alert training, the world’s first narcolepsy alert program!

The theme of the the Spotlight on PAWS benefit and dinner auction at the lovely Wing Point Golf and Country Club on Bainbridge Island was “People Helping Pets and Pets Helping People.” We couldn’t agree more! Surrounded by a beautiful landscape, guests at the event had the opportunity to bid on a myriad of donated goodies from local businesses and artists, and meet the six amazing animals who, like Liame in the “service animal” category, demonstrated the strong bond of companionship between animals and their humans.

Among the winners of each category was Amber, a drug and arson detection dog who was responsible for the seizure of over 60 pieces of drug paraphernalia, and more than 1300 grams of marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin and cocaine combined. Kitty, a dog who averages more than 20 hours per week visiting hospitals, prisons, troubled high school students, and the elderly, providing therapy and comfort, Romeo a search and rescue Schnauzer who helped local police track down a missing Alzheimer’s patient, and even a cat named Cheeto who acts as a decoy cat to help train search and rescue dogs to find missing find cats for the Missing Pet Partnership!

We were surrounded by animal lovers, as the event was in support of the PAWS that without any government funding advocates, educates, and provides services for the health and well-being of pets and the companionship with their people. They offer adoptions, spay/neuter assistance, lost and found, financial assistance for veterinary care, and operate programs like Pets and Loving Pals, and the Buddy Brigade.

We know about trying to run an organization without government subsidies, so we were excited to be included with PAWS and the generous donors who support them. Service Dog Academy’s low-cost medical alert dog training program wouldn’t be possible without funding from our pert dog training. Pet puppy training, and adult dog basic obedience positive reinforcement training classes are a not just a great way to train your puppy or dog with service dog training techniques for the best-behaved dog in town, but it keeps Service Dog Academy’s groundbreaking service dog training program afloat! Liame may have been the “hero” on May 19th, but the real hero is each and every one of our students who come to train at Service Dog Academy!

If you would like to experience our award winning dog training classes please visit our classes page for more info.

More Praises from our Diabetic Alert Dog Graduates

It’s always great to hear feedback from our diabetic alert 101 graduates, and when they have a success story to tell, it gives us chills.

Whether you’re looking to positively train for diabetic alert, get an already trained dog through Service Dog Academy, or just train the basics in puppy class using all positive reinforcement, Jeff and Rich have some helpful advice.

Jeff and Rich took their dogs to Service Dog Academy to train with one of the best pet puppy, pet adult dog obedience training programs in Seattle, and then went on to Diabetic Alert Dog 101 to learn how to train these pups to be reliable diabetic alert dogs to manage their serious medical conditions. Jeff was sick of waking up to paramedics standing over him far too often, and was ready for a new approach. Rich was tired of being worried about being alone, and in a life-threatening situation – his body seems to give him absolutely zero warning before a rapid crash.

Jeff took Cooper, then 11-weeks-old through puppy kindergarten at our West Seattle training studio where we teach puppy dog training classes for pet dogs and future diabetic alert dogs! It wasn’t long before Cooper started to pick up on Jeff’s low blood sugar. Now, the father of seven kids can be confident another body can be around to make sure he stays alive.

Violet’s stable temperament during adult dog obedience class proved she would be a good candidate as Rich’s diabetic alert service dog. “Being alone isn’t a problem like it used to be…” Rich recalls, as Violet’s persistence has made sure he checks his blood sugar – even if he feels fine.

See for yourself how effective the positive reinforcement training methods at Service Dog Academy can be. Go to our basic classes page to enroll in basic puppy obedience or basic adult dog today!

If you don’t have a dog yet, but like what you see, we can help you find a dog, and if your interest is piqued by our already trained dog program, click here to see if an already trained dog is right for you, and get on that list before it fills up!

How to Find your Service Dog or Puppy – For Diabetes, Seizure & Medical Alert Work

We get it. Driving out here to West Seattle for an information seminar about how to find the right dog for service dog training and what to expect living with a service dog might be easier said than done. And for some people who want to use our dog training or diabetic alert dog training services, it might not be practical – especially if they live outside of the Seattle area – or Washington State for that matter. Finally, we’ve come up with a way for you to soak up this valuable information from the comfort of your own home.

For anyone about to embark on getting a service dog Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS director of training and behavior at Service Dog Academy has released part one of two essential ebooks that anyone interested in getting a service dog should read.

Adapting the original Before Your Service Dog class into a free, downloadable, shareable ebook with the help of myself – Service Dog Academy’s Operations Manager – Mary decided it was time to set her students up for success. Super Puppy: Service Dog – Life Partner, Life-Changer, Life-Saver How to Find the Right Dog for Service Work is available for free, and you can share it, too – as long as you give credit to the authors, of course!

Mary saw too many students in Service Dog Academy’s positive reinforcement training classes let down because their dogs proved unsuitable for service work. On the flipside, there had been so much positive feedback from students who came to this 1.5 hour information session that we just had to find a way to get it to more people!

In fact, students who had come to this class have an 85% increase in their training success at our diabetic alert 101 and service dog training classes vs. students who have entered our service dog training or alert classes without it! It was time to make such valuable information not just available to potential students, but accessible on their own time, and in the comfort of their own homes.

For anyone who is considering getting a service dog, but doesn’t know where to begin Super Puppy: Service Dog – Life Partner, Life-Changer, Life-Saver How to Find the Right Dog for Service Work is the number one step to take. If you ever wondered if it was a better idea to spend the time and money training your own service or medical alert dog or spend $15,000 – $25,000 for an already trained service dog; if you wondered how much time and effort it will take to train a successful service dog, then here is professional, Washington state-certified, positive reinforcement dog trainer, and the Pacific Northwest’s foremost leader in medical alert dog training Mary McNeight’s free professional advice!

Free puppy trainer training advice to teach you how to train your own service dog find best trainer Seattle

Our new free ebook covers where to find a dog suitable for service work, what kind of behavior, obedience or pet puppy dog training is required, and even what kind of dog to get.

  • Chapter 1: Train your Own Vs. Buying an Already Trained Dog
  • Chapter 2: Success Rides on the Dog, and YOU
  • Chapter 3: What am I Looking for in a Service Dog Candidate?
  • Chapter 4: The Importance of Temperament Testing
  • Chapter 5: Where To Find Your Service Dog Candidate

It’s not just for service dogs, too. While this is the culmination of McNeight’s eight years of experience training her own and training other dogs for service work in medical alert, service dog access and task training, the ebook covers the importance of temperament testing in puppies and adult dogs, and also the importance of socialization for puppies, too! Here at Service Dog Academy, we cannot stress enough the importance of socialization – it can mean the difference between a dog with a long, happy life with a loving family, or having behavior problems that may never be fully remedied.

No more excuses, and no more wondering how to get started. If your doctor recommends the use of a service dog, for mobility or to respond to a psychiatric issue, or you need a companion to alert you before a debilitating seizure or blood sugar crash because you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, or even hypoglycemia, then we want to set you up for success whether you decide to buy an already trained dog, or decide to train your own through our groundbreaking American Diabetes Association recognized diabetic alert dog and medical alert dog program.

You can download part one of the two free ebooks that will help you choose a diabetic or medical alert dog candidate here. Stay tuned for the second free ebook which will cover service dog lifestyle! Don’t forget, feel free to share it with anyone about to embark on getting a service dog or just interested parties. All we ask is that you give the authors some credit, and link back to us! We would also appreciate a blog post from your website commenting on the content you found useful in the ebook.

If you would like to set up an appointment to talk to us about your service dog candidate dog or the training process for these amazing alert dogs please click on our medical alert service dog training appointment webpage.

Pet Puppy Socialization – The Service Dog Way

dog training classes in seattle help behave manner puppy play make better best dog trainer white center free advice techniques positive reinforcement

Set up your pet puppy’s personality for the rest of his life using service dog training techniques! In this photo above, Cooper, a service dog in training, meets kids at the Target toy aisle.

A trip to the mall turned into a teachable moment when two excitable toddlers came up to Liame Mary McNeight’s service dog, while he was waiting patiently by her side at a checkout counter. The well-behaved, well-socialized Liame stayed lying down, tolerating more than two minutes of petting, tail pulling, squealing, kisses on his body and muzzle, and pats from tiny hands. Liame demonstrated how crucial early socialization is to be a well-mannered dog in any situation.

Ever wonder why service dogs are so well-behaved?

It’s because they are used to being around many different types of people, places, and things of all sizes, gaits, and sounds, and it is why Service Dog Academy encourages enrolling your puppy into basic puppy obedience classes when they are as young as seven weeks old. Getting your puppy to walk on different surfaces, learning proper puppy play techniques, and exposure to different types of people as early as 7 weeks old, is a guideline that is supported not only by the American Society of Veterinary and Animal Behavior, but also by top veterinary schools in the country, Minnesota and Purdue. All of these guidelines and goals are throughly explained and demonstrated in our Seattle Puppy Kindergarten classes!

The early stages of puppyhood, from as young as seven weeks to three-months, according to an article by the AVSAB is a critical window for socialization. Furthermore, the ASVAB states that it should be standard for all puppies to receive socialization training before fully vaccinated. Early socialization can also prevent future behavior problems, and create a dog that is more responsive to commands. This is a time when “sociability outweighs fear, this is the primary window of opportunity for puppies to adapt to new people, animals, and experiences… [and] Avoid fear, avoidance, and/or aggression.”

During our holiday break, Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, owner and head trainer at Service Dog Academy has been working with two diabetic alert board-and-train puppies who are taking our puppy class at the West Seattle dog training studio. Eleven-week-old Cooper, and Daisy, an 18-week-old Labradoodle in addition to diabetic alert training, have been working on puppy socialization.

Recently, we took a trip to a busy Target store in West Seattle with the puppies. They were quite the handful and attracted a lot of attention. Just what we want! Cooper and Daisy had the opportunity to walk through a busy parking lot with cars driving by, shopping carts whizzing past, walk on linoleum, greet children and people of all sizes. It is well known in the dog training world that puppies that are raised in homes with small children have an even greater opportunity for success at being well-socialized. With that in mind, we sat down in the toy aisle, and Cooper and Daisy met small children and even experienced strange and unknown creatures that light up and make noise.


Let us show you how to socialize your dog the Service Dog Academy way to help him be the dog of your dreams, the dog everyone in the neighborhood is jealous of!

Follow Cooper and Daisy’s progress on our facebook page where we will be giving out FREE tips on proper puppy management and training.

The Service Dog Academy pet dog training for puppies and adult dogs help fund our low-cost service dog training for people with disabilities as well as our groundbreaking, train-your-own diabetic alert dog program for people with type 1, type 2 diabetes, and hypoglycemia.

If you want your dog to have service dog manners, enroll in our Seattle basic puppy obedience and manners classes where we teach you and your pooch the skills to raise the best-behaved puppy in town using positive reinforcement and service dog training techniques!

Our non-violent, positive reinforcement puppy classes help you set your pet puppies personality just like that of a service dog. Our classes which are taught by State Certified trainers with thousands of hours of hands on experience and because of their world renowned training techniques are attended by people from Beacon Hill, Capitol Hill, Burien, Everett, Bothell, Ballard, Freemont, Queen Anne, Shoreline, Vashon Island, Bellevue, Tacoma and people as far away as Lopez Island!

Some of our biggest fans drive 4 hours each way to attend our one of a kind classes! In our West Seattle puppy training classes, our professional dog trainers and behaviorists will show you how to harness your puppies innate nature to bring out the dog you have ALWAYS wanted.

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.

Diabetic Alert Dog Fundamentals – Free Training Advice

Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, owner and head trainer of the Service Dog Academy shared some of her diabetic alert dog training fundamentals in a free webinar earlier this month with attendees from all over the country. With her background in training service dogs, and seeing the effects of diabetes through personal experience and with family members, McNeight set out to make training dogs for diabetic alert accessible for everyone.

Attendees from all over including Denver, San Antonio, Anaheim, Brooklyn, Michigan, Virginia, and New Jersey also got a sneak peak at Diabetic Alert Dog University – the next phase in McNeight’s quest for offering low-cost diabetic alert dog training to type one and type two diabetics, hypoglycemics, and pre-diabetics.

“I did find your webinar useful and your approach compatible [sic] with my own training beliefs. I am fascinated by the whole process!”

In this program, dogs are allowed to be dogs through the use of games, solving puzzles, and making service work incredibly rewarding. By using positive reinforcement methods, Service Dog Academy’s diabetic alert dog program keeps a dog’s spirit intact. The puzzles and games that are part of the training have been developed to create an improvisational dog.

Furthermore, by working with your own dog and doing the training with your dog, it will give you the ability to keep up with the training. Unfortunately, when an already trained dog is given to a person he may lose his ability to alert within a few months. With this program, in addition to the basics of alerting to blood sugar changes, getting drinks from the refrigerator, retrieving your meter and getting help, this program gives you the fundamentals to teach your dog more complicated tasks when you come up with them.

The main goal of the training is based on the discoveries of Ivan Pavlov, a psychologist who rang a bell when he fed his dogs, and discovered that his dogs equated the sound of a bell to being fed. Eventually, they started to salivate at the sound of a ringing bell. The main goal of diabetic alert dog training is to create a Pavlovian response in your dog to blood sugar scents.

1. Make sure dog has a strong foundation with the scent. At first, the low blood sugar scent might not be more important than a tennis ball, squeaky toys, children running by, etcetera. So, build a solid foundation with the scent using Pavlovian techniques. Pair food with the scent.

2. K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. Train one variable at a time, in micro-increments. Start training in a low distraction environment, and build from there.

3. Start generalizing. Once your dog performs the tasks with 95% accuracy switch it up. change the body posture, distance, location, level of distraction, and “training predictors” – i.e. clicker, clenched fist, or treat bag.

Note: Don’t add variables until your dog is 95% accurate with the others.

4. There is a difference between an alert and a signal. The alert says “hey! there’s something wrong!” and the signal tells you exactly what – in the case of lows, it would be a paw swipe, and for highs, spinning in a circle.

5. The signal training is the same when it comes to generalization as alert training.

6. Always remember: Don’t put the chain together until your dog can generalize all steps in the chain with 95% accuracy. Why? It’s like trying to complete an algebraic equation with out being able to divide, or only being able to divide even numbers, or not being able to count past 50.

Be aware that dogs have an 85% success rate in alerting and typically do so around the 6th or 7th week of training. So many variables can come into play when a dog begins training – health, temperament, owner’s commitment to training, owner’s abilities, or history of punitive training methods – that can thwart a dog’s success. Be forewarned – anyone who claims they have a 100% success rate either hasn’t had enough dogs through the program, or they are lying.

“I am so thankful that I was able to listen today! i’m sure you’ve saved me from trying to do too much too soon. I am very, very interested in learning more about the Diabetic Alert Dog University online!”

We are in the process of launching an entirely online positive reinforcement diabetic alert dog training program called Diabetic Alert Dog University.
The online program will allow persons from anywhere to download weekly 20 minute training sessions, and teach how to create an improvisational diabetic alert dog. Visit www.diabeticalertdoguniversity.com today, or call the Service Dog Academy at 206-355-9033 for more information on this groundbreaking new program from the Northwest’s best pet and service dog training school.

An Improvisational Dog Story

Things were getting fuzzy for Judith at the grocery store. Her 2-year old Golden Retriever, Citka, was jumping on her, mouthing her arm, trying to pull her off the electric cart (she is safer on the floor when things get this way), and a saleswoman nearby was very upset, thinking this was a badly-behaving service dog. But there wasn’t anything wrong with Citka, he was doing his job by doing everything in his power to tell Judith there was something wrong. Judith is hypoglycemic, her blood sugar was dropping rapidly, and amidst the commotion from the 80-pound dog and the saleswoman’s disapproval, Judith’s friend quickly gave her a glucose shot which started to correct her blood sugar. By the time the ambulance came, Citka was calm – laying down next to Judith’s electric cart like nothing had happened.

“It was like a key being turned off. [he was like] okay, i did my job.”

Citka is Judith’s diabetic alert dog, and using the Service Dog Academy‘s positive reinforcement training methods, he has become more than a “thinking dog,” but an improvisational dog – coming up with creative ways of alerting Judith to unexpected drops in blood sugar, and stopping at nothing until she does something about it. One of our first diabetic alert 101 class graduates, Judith has been a champion of our groundbreaking train-your-own diabetic alert dog program and is always eager to tell us about the latest crazy thing Citka has done. Not giving up is his job, and while sometimes it may seem disruptive or “knuckleheaded,” the improvisational dog is designed to save lives.

Citka is trained to alert Judith to several medical situations, by pawing at her, bumping her with his nose, licking her face, retrieving her meter, and getting help using methods recognized by the American Diabetes Association – but those are just a small portion of what he has done to save her life. At a recent visit to JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in Port Orchard, Washington, her blood sugar started to drop, and Citka bumped her leg while she was heading to the cutting counter. She ignored his alert – and continued to the cutting counter. Not taking no for an answer, Citka jumped up onto the counter. If her can’t get Judith’s attention he will get someone else’s, so he bumped the woman at the counter with his nose. This was serious – and Judith knew if she didn’t do anything to correct her blood sugar, Citka would persist. An employee who is familiar with the duo ran over and brought her a candy bar. The second Judith put the candy in her mouth, Citka jumped off the counter and sat by her side. “He’ll sit and watch me putting food in my mouth, and wont touch his treat until he sees food go in my mouth.” She adds, “[I ]didn’t teach him these things.”

In addition to alerting, Citka is trained to get juice out of the refrigerator, or candy from a candy bowl on her kitchen counter. However, during diabetic alert 101 at Service Dog Academy, he began nosing through her bag, only to emerge with a meter in his mouth, and started prancing around her – a clear signal to test her blood sugar, and although she was in normal range at the time, her blood sugar was beginning to drop.

Citka is also trained to get help when she asks him to, and has adapted that training to getting help when she ignores him. He will go to her husband, George, and pull on his shirtsleeve until he goes to her, in which case George will plead with her to test her blood sugar because “this dog is driving me nuts.”

One afternoon Judith decided to test how far Citka will go in getting help. He bumped her, letting her know she was going low, and she pushed him away. He left the room, and came back with her meter. She tested herself, and at 105, she waited. Citka pawed her, then put his mouth around her wrist and tried to pull her out of her chair. She pushed him away, and he left through the dog door. Just a short time later, Citka returned with George who was outside chopping and sawing wood with a chainsaw. Citka had to prance in front of him to get his attention. When he put down the chainsaw, Citka grabbed his shirt by the mouth and started tugging.

It is phenomenal how a reliable a well-trained, diabetic alert service dog will alert even in the middle of the night. In addition to Mary McNeight’s training, Citka learned “trial by fire,” Judith recalls. One evening she took her medication as usual, and tested her blood sugar before bed. The problem with the medication she had just taken was that it would cause her blood sugar to run false highs. Deep into sleep, with her former service dog, Maxine, and Citka sleeping nearby, her blood sugar crashed. The dogs woke up her husband, and pushed the alert button on the phone to notify the paramedics. Judith was in a 10-minute window and a blood glucose level of 26. Since then, it isn’t uncommon for Judith to wake up to Citka digging her out of her covers when her blood sugar begins to drop below 90.

Judith and Citka’s story is a great example of how The Service Dog Academy’s train your own diabetic alert dog program for hypoglycemia, type 1, and type 2 diabetes creates an “improvisational dog,” perceptive and ready to adapt to the situation. Citka has certainly demonstrated – much to Judith’s chagrin – that philosophy. “Mary has created a monster,” Judith says, referring to the antics and persistent alerting behavior from her service dog, but without Citka’s improvising and attention seeking antics, Judith says, “I would not be here today.”

In addition to Diabetic Alert Dog 101, the West Seattle dog training studio headed by professionally certified dog trainer, Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA also teaches adult dog and puppy obedience classes which help fund our low-cost service dog training program for people with disabilities. See what some of our other students from Service Dog Academy’s affordable train-your-own diabetic alert dog classes have to say about this unique program from the northwest’s best dog training school.

Traveling with a Service Dog: Airline Travel Part 2

With a service dog in tow, Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA has traveled to dog training conferences and seminars around the country because of her commitment to continuing her education as a professionally certified dog trainer at Service Dog Academy’s West Seattle dog training studio. This is the second in a series of videos sharing tips on making airline travel with a service dog as comfortable and stress-free as possible. While these videos focus on traveling with a service dog, a lot of this information can apply to pet dog travel, too!

1. Exercise, exercise, and more exercise. Flying can stress out a dog, but and exhausted dog is much calmer. Give your dog at least 45-minutes of heart-pumping exercise before leaving for the airport. This doesn’t mean a walk – this means jogging, running, playing fetch, swimming, ball chasing, or any other high energy activities your dog likes to do.

2. Empty Stomach. Withhold food and water at least four hours before your flight. This will prevent nausea and ensure your dog doesn’t need to go to the bathroom during the entire length of your flight or layover. Should your assistance dog need to go outside during a layover, the two of you will be going all the way back through security a second time.

3. Empty the Tank. If the dog is scared on the airplane, this will prevent him from having any accidents. You’ve withheld food and water, but to make sure your dog is totally empty, be sure your dog empties both bowels and bladder right before your flight. Learn how to train your dog to go on command using positive reinforcement, and be the envy of everyone in the cabin by having the best behaved, accident-free service dog.

4. Anxiety relief solution/Benadryl. Homeopathic remedies can help with relieving anxiety for your dog. There are several varieties on the market, including HomeoPet Solutions, developed to naturally relieve anxiety for your dog. Benadryl is a safe alternative to sedatives that will make your dog tired.

Test them on your dog a few weeks before your flight to make sure the homeopathic remedies and the Benadryl don’t have any adverse effects. In some cases, Benadryl can make a dog hyper. Take note that we do not advise, and most veterinarians will not prescribe a sedative for your dog for air travel because the pressure in the cabin and the altitude can have negative effects on a sedated dog.

5. Practice TTouch Therapy. This is a therapeutic massage that will help reduce anxiety levels. Massage the ears and chest before you board so your dog is relaxed and ready for take-off.

6. Do a Test Run. Especially if you are traveling far, buy a ticket to an airport closer to your location as a test run before your main flight to see that everything will go smoothly. For example, if you live in Seattle, a ticket to Portland might cost $75-$100, but worth it to know exactly what to expect with a typical flight. Test-flying to a closer airport enables you to take a train or alternative mode of transportation should your dog not be comfortable with flying.

The Service Dog Academy provides low cost, do-it-yourself training to all types of training needs. Funding from our basic obedience for puppies and adult dogs goes toward funding our low-cost service dog and diabetic alert dog training for people with disabilities. Have fun traveling with your service dog, and always be prepared.

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