Posts Tagged ‘obedience training’

Fireworks Anxiety In Dogs – Free Puppy Dog Training Advice

PLASE NOTE: We train pet dogs too. By enrolling in one of our pet dog training classes in Seattle you help support the low cost medical alert dog training program. Click here to enroll in our award winning pet dog classes today!

Liame and Jasper in their Thundershirts on the 4th of July in 2010

Since I used to have a VERY sound sensitive dog service dog, I knew what a pain the 4th of July can be for both human and dog alike. The lack of sleep, the pacing dogs and the ultimate fear that they might jump through the window in an attempt to get out of the house are all my daily companions in the days preceding, during and after the fourth. Remember dogs have feelings just like humans do and its not fun to exist in a state of anxiety in which you fear for your life for hours upon end.

What most people dont realize is that with a little bit of planning you can make sure your dog doesn’t suffer from severe anxiety during the sometimes illegal festivities enjoyed by your neighbors.

PREPARATION FOR THE DAYS LEADING UP TO FIREWORKS SEASON:

  • GO TO THE VET NOW – Be prepared with medication ahead of time, a puppy doggie emergency room visit can run over $200. Call your vet TODAY, tell them you have a sound sensitive dog and ask them for recommendations on medications to help ease your dogs anxiety. Its better to be prepared than sorry that you didn’t get to the vet in time. Remember to ask for several days worth of medication. We have neighbors who regularly set off fireworks on the 3rd, 4th and the 5th!
  • Purchase a homeopathic anxiety reducing solution if you cannot get to the vet or in addition to what the vet prescribes. A product like Rescue Remedy is great for a number of anxiety producing stimuli, not just fireworks.
  • Make sure your dogs tags and microchip information is up to date. If your dog does escape (more dogs are lost during the 4th than any other holiday) at least he will be able to come home safely if found by a stranger.
  • Prevent this problem from ever occurring in the first place. When you get your next dog, immediately enroll him or her into a positive reinforcement puppy class like the ones at the Service Dog Academy in Seattle. We will help you get your dog used to firecrackers in a safe environment.

CONTROLLING THE ENVIRONMENT ON CELEBRATION DAYS:


Its not just the noise that the fireworks make but also the smell and light given off by them that can have an effect on your dog.

  • Put your dog in a “safe” room with as few windows and doors as possible. Dogs have been known to try to escape by jumping through plate glass windows!
  • Keep the windows and curtains drawn during the festivities. You want your dog to be as stimulus free as possible.
  • Make your own noise to drown out the sound of the fireworks. I usually make it a movie holiday and watch the entire Back to the Future series and the Indiana Jones series (Indiana was named after his dog!) as loud as I can tolerate it. We also set up numerous fans in the safe room so that they produce a fairly decent amount of background noise.

 

Liame and Jasper playing in the dog park on 4th of July getting as exhausted as possible.

TO MANAGE / EASE FEAR IN YOUR DOG OR PUPPY

  • Never EVER punish a fearful dog. You will only make the fear even worse.
  • Make sure your dog is as TIRED as possible. I usually don’t recommend my clients go to the dog park but I make an exception on the 4th. A tired dog is a calmer dog.
  • Use some type of pressure wrap. Although wraps such as the Thundershirt claim to completely eliminate anxiety we here at the Service Dog Academy have only seen them help in reducing the overall level of anxiety. We have several Thundershirts available for sale but you can make your own anxiety reducing wrap by using an ace bandage. See this webpage for more information on how to make your own anxiety reducing pressure wrap.
  • Only feed your dog half of his morning meal so that by the time evening rolls around he is hungry and wants the food more than they care about the fireworks.
  • Associate fireworks noise with food. Dogs have 250 million scent receptors and their noses are 200 times more sensitive than a humans! The use of food with an anxious dog helps replace the feeling of fear with a positive action, eating food. If every time your dog hears a firework, the best treats in the world rained from the sky, your dog might not feel so scared.
  • The act of chewing helps a dog to relieve anxiety in dogs. Try to keep your dog entertained all night long with Kongsicles or work to eat puzzles and plenty of high value bones to chew on. You can view our free youtube video on how to make a Kongsicle on our recent blog posting.
  • Try practicing a little T-Touch massage therapy on your dog. Sometimes just stroking from the base of the ear to the tip of the ear slowly can help relieve anxiety.
  • Add a little Parmesan cheese and/or egg whites to your dogs kibble or Kongsicle. They have 8 times the tryptophan that turkey has in it. Tryptophan is the precursor to the production of serotonin (the happy chemical) in the brain. We cant give you exact amounts of parmesan or egg whites on this post since dogs vary in size, but just a sprinkle of these two foods over your dogs kibble should suffice.

I hope these tips help you make the 4th more enjoyable for both you and your fur kids. I look forward to seeing you in our upcoming classes or around town sometime!

Click here to enroll in our award winning pet dog class today and support our mission to provide affordable medical alert dog training to people with disabilities. We were voted best dog & puppy trainer / training by our students!

Happy Tails To You!
Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS

Featured Presenter For 2012 Diabetes Expo


While Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, CCS, BGS is behind the camera, Liame makes friends with booth visitor, and operations manager, Carrie Rubens, and Assistant Trainer, Tracy Walsh hold down the fort.

Some of the best-trained puppies in town represented the Service Dog Academy at the annual American Diabetes Association Expo at the Washington State Convention Center on April 21st. Cooper, a 6-month old labrador who started alerting at 4-months-old wowed everyone with his manners and sniffing abilities! Cecelia and her gentle giant, Marduk, the world’s first narcolepsy alert Great Dane stole the show, and Judith and Citka long-time students at Service Dog Academy were an impressive showing of how the initial training done through our program has lasted throughout the years.

It’s rare to see four young dogs together in a space no bigger than a bathroom have the ability to remain completely focused on their handlers, and calmly accepting of all the human attendees who couldn’t wait to greet and pet them. At times, there was loud music and dancing going on just a few feet away, and from time to time strange-looking creatures would walk by – this is, for example, a person in a giant kidney costume!


Liame ignores the giant kidney behind him

 
Those great socialization opportunities and resistance to distraction is just the kind of training that our puppy training classes at our West Seattle dog-training studio teach. Not only were these pups taught proper manners and socialization, each continued their puppy school education through our medical alert training program to become full-fledged service dogs.

It was a long, full, day and with all those improvisational service dogs in the house something was bound to happen! Members of the diabetic community were able to witness first-hand some of these impressive dogs in action.  Liame alerted his owner with a paw swipe that her sugar was dropping, Citka alerted two members of the public via a nose bump that they were running high, and Cooper only 6 months old at the time, with his good puppy manners managed to resist temptation to play with the other dogs.

Cecelia and Marduk had an incredible story of their own to share about trip to the convention center that morning. While on the bus, Marduk alerted Cecelia with a nose bump that a cataplectic episode, a form of narcolepsy, was imminent. She had just enough time to have him lay across her lap so that when she did doze off, she was safely seated and protected by him.  It’s understandable why Judith, Citka’s owner, would say, “I never go anywhere without him”.  These dogs truly are life-savers.

There wasn’t just action at our booth, Mary McNeight, CPDT-KA, BGS director of training and behavior at Service Dog Academy, gave a well-received lecture at one of the Expo’s breakout stages to the public about the myths surrounding diabetic alert dogs. The presentation ran well over it’s 45-minute allotment from all the questions and comments from the audience afterward.

Here are some of the highlights from the presentation titled Diabetic Alert Dogs: Myth Vs. Reality:

Myth:Im a type 2 diabetic and consequently don’t go low.  I don’t need to train for low blood sugar.

Reality: Most of the type 2 individuals who come into classes find out when they start to train for low blood sugar first, they actually go low 1-5 times per day but didn’t know about it until the dog started to alert them.

Myth:Im a type 2 diabetic and consequently don’t go low.  I don’t need to train for low blood sugar.

Reality: Most of the type 2 individuals who come into classes find out when they start to train for low blood sugar first, they actually go low 1-5 times per day but didn’t know about it until the dog started to alert them.

Myth:Im a type 2 diabetic and consequently don’t go low.  I don’t need to train for low blood sugar.

Reality: Most of the type 2 individuals who come into classes find out when they start to train for low blood sugar first, they actually go low 1-5 times per day but didn’t know about it until the dog started to alert them.

Myth: A diabetic alert dog will either require you to test lest often or not test at all

Reality: Our students find that their dogs actually pick up on more lows and highs than any device they have owned, which actually means MORE testing. For example if dog alerts to a high, you will have to test to see how much insulin to give yourself

Myth: Diabetic alert dogs can only be trained for type 1 diabetics.

Reality: Dogs can be trained to alert for type 1, 2, 1.5, and hypoglycemia.

Myth: Diabetic alert dogs under six months of age are not reliable alerters.

Reality: They can sometimes be incredibly reliable as long as they are properly trained.

6-month-old Cooper happily poses with Jeff and daughter. Cooper started alerting at 4-months-old and has give Jeff his independence back.

This was Service Dog Academy’s second appearance at the ADA Expo, and we look forward to many more. Last year at the 2011 ADA Expo we had a great time introducing our groundbreaking program to the diabetic community, and we can say the same for this with a something a little extra. Not only could we share how we use positive reinforcement training techniques to train our dogs to detect blood sugar imbalances in their type 1, type 2, and hypoglycemic owners, but since last year we have been able to help the lives of many more people, and train truly lifesaving dogs.

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.

Puppy Class Techniques To The Rescue – Even Dog Trainers Are Human


Want your dog to be able to deal with injuries without biting, squirming, barking or running away? See what our Seattle Puppy Classes Can Teach You!

Ever try to treat a medical issue on a very wiggly and unhappy dog?  Not fun for anyone involved.  Here are some tips to help make it an easier and less painful process.

Counterconditioning your Puppy

When our dogs are in pain or discomfort, our love and concern for inflatable snowman their well-being makes us act quickly to try to help alleviate their suffering.

Recently Mary noticed that Liame’s neck was red, itch and his hair was falling out. We sprung into action and broke out the scissors, clippers, and skin-soothing lotion.  But Liame wasn’t particularly happy about having his sore skin touched and was wiggling around like a 3 month old puppy.  Yes, thats right students, even your State Certified Professional Dog Trainer makes mistakes sometimes inflatable bouncer.

What’s the best way to calm an upset dog and redirect his energies?  The answers are Desensitization and Counterconditioning, big scientific words that means we try to re-teach an animal to have a pleasant feeling and reaction toward something that he once feared or disliked.

40% of your dogs brain is devoted strictly to his nose so allowing a dog to smell something can result in an amazingly pleasant feeling. In our Seattle puppy classes, we use food to achieve this pleasant feeling.  Just like you and me dogs can only have ONE thought at a time.  If they’re happily engaged in something pleasant (food), then there’s no room for those unpleasant thoughts (scissors are scary).

 

Lesson Learned From Puppy Classes

So our idea for Liame was for Mary to tend to the skin and fur while I treated with small pieces of food.  It worked; Liame forgot all about what was happening, but was so excited about the food that he wouldn’t sit still. The job got done but we realized a better way would have been something we usually suggest to our puppy training class students:

  • Take a Kong, filled it with something yummy
  • Have helper person hold in in front of your dogs head kind of like a baby bottle.
  • Let dog lick while another person does something mildly unpleasant to the dog.

The result of this type of set up is that you get a calm puppy who is oblivious to what is going on around him (be that bathing, clipping nails, brushing their coat, or in our case, using clippers to shave hair off your dogs neck.)

 

Desensitization Dog Training Techniques Learned in Puppy Class

 

Our Seattle Positive Reinforcement Puppy Classes Can Make Your Puppy Calm

This experience could have been so much worse if Mary hadn’t spent a lot of time throughout Liame’s life desensitizing him to having every part of his body touched and handled.  Desensitizing simply means to make less sensitive.  Part of our puppy training class involves teaching dog owners the importance of having their dog handled, a little bit every day, as part of their daily routine, and of course by using food (counterconditioning) to make it a pleasant experience.  At our Seattle dog training studio, we teach our students the following method:

  • Put a treat in front of the nose
  • Touch/handle the body part
  • Let your dog eat the treat
  • Let go of body part

By doing this, you’re teaching your dog that it’s not a big deal when you loom over them, or open up their mouth, or pull their tail.  They’ll begin to think, “I get food when people stick their fingers in my ear?  I LOVE when people stick their finger in my ear!”  That way, when an emergency arises, it will be much easier to tend to your dog because they will already be so used to having their body handled.  It will just be normal to them.

So, while Liame would have preferred to NOT have his fur cut and lotion applied, he was obviously not SCARED because he’d been desensitized from puppyhood and was trained often to accept and enjoy being touched and handled.

If you would like to have your puppy enjoy going to the vet, love having their teeth brushed, sit calmly in your lap and love being petted, check out our Award Winning, 5 Star Google Rated Seattle Puppy Classes.

Cooper’s Puppy Manners Impress Seattle Diabetes Crowd

Cooper’s Puppy Manners, Obedience and Diabetic Alerting Impress Seattle Diabetes Crowdinflatable abominable snowman

by Tracy Walsh

A beautiful Seattle day brought us through gridlock traffic to Seattle’s Phinney Neighborhood Center on the afternoon of March 24th.  We were there to represent the Service Dog Academy at the 22nd Annual ADA Family Retreat.

The Annual Family Retreat is just one unique way that the American Diabetes Association realizes their mission – to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.  The ADA Family Retreat is the leading diabetes education and awareness program for families with children ages 13 and younger who have diabetes throughout Western Washington and beyond.

What Potential Diabetic Alert Dog Training Students Learned

As a vendor with a prime location along the food line, we were able to talk with and help educate many families on the lifesaving benefits of having a specially trained Diabetic Alert Dog.  One such dog is Cooper, a 6 month old Yellow Lab, who was trained at our Seattle dog training studio.  The importance of education and awareness was evident as many we spoke with were not even aware that this type of service dog existed.  There is a lot of information that we shared about these amazing dogs, including:

  • Our dogs are trained with positive reinforcement to use their highly sensitive scent capabilities to identify the changed in blood chemistry that occur during rapid changes in blood sugar levels
  • Dogs are trained to give an alert to the person before they are even aware that these changes are taking place
  • Dogs as young as 6 months of age can be trained to alert their diabetic owners of their highs and lows
  • They can detect a low 20 minutes before a meter can.
  • That a diabetic alert dog doesnt have to cost $20,000. Service Dog Academy can help you train your own with as little as a $1000 investment.
  • Almost any breed of dog can be trained to become alert dogs.  The one consistent exception are dogs that are brachycephalic (flat-nosed), such as pugs and bulldogs.

Cooper has broken the mold of a diabetic alert dog.  Thanks to the rigorous training of our Seattle Diabetic Alert Dog program, he has been alerting his owner, Jeff, since 3 months of age.   Surprisingly, he has even been able to alert Jeff of a low 30 minutes before it registered on the meter.   Before Cooper even learned how to give an official alert, he even went so far as to “retrieve” Jeff’s wife when his attempts at waking Jeff failed and his blood sugar was dangerously low.  It’s scary to contemplate the dangerous situations Jeff was saved from by the awareness of his wonderful dog.

Cooper’s Puppy Training Classes Helped Create The Diabetic Alert Dog He Is Today

At the retreat, Cooper was a prime example of the importance of creating a calm and stable dog that can tolerate crowds of strangers.   This was achieved by the training methods we use at our Seattle puppy classes at the Service Dog Academy dog training studio in West Seattle.  Using positive reinforcement dog training techniques and teaching proper puppy socialization to dogs through puppy play and intensive human interaction is vital in creating a dog that will need to perform the work necessary for a service dog.

Cooper proved that our positive reinforcement puppy training techniques really work.  At any given time, Cooper was surrounded by a crowd of 4-5 kids, with twice as many hands, petting and touching him, vying for his attention, crowding around him, and Cooper just lapped it all up.  According to Jeff, he really loves to play, but also knows how to calm down when needed.  Jeff noted that people at the camp were amazed that such a young puppy was so well behaved.

Dogs like Cooper exemplify what it means to be a well-adjusted and stable service dog.  Whether your goal is to have your dog eventually perform service work, or if you just want a well-balanced, happy dog, our Seattle dog training educational studio classes can help!

If you would like to train your dog for service work or specifically for diabetic alert dog work, please browse our website and take a look at our FAQ.

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.

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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.

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