Our normal routine on Saturday mornings involves going to the local farmers’ market where Rainie is usually enthusiastically greeted my many of the vendors and some of the ‘regulars’. Since Rainie is a service dog, she is allowed here, as opposed to pet dogs which are forbidden. As I mentioned earlier, Rainie is a huge attention getter. And with that, comes a lot of questions about what she does and how she does it. Here are a few that were asked today:
(Before I begin, I want to emphasize that everything I write in this blog I write from personal experience with Rainie and from my life as a diabetic, while also referring to Early Alert Canines‘ beliefs and offerings as a diabetic alert dog training program. Thank you.)
What is a Diabetic Alert Dog? (Also asked as: What is an Early Alert Canine?)
An Early Alert Canine is a medical alert service dog that has been intensively trained to smell changes in blood sugar levels and alert its partner at the onset of a drop in order to avoid a potentially dangerous hypoglycemic episode or low blood sugar event. Other names for dogs that alert on blood sugar are: “diabetic alert dogs”, “low blood sugar alert dogs” and “hypoglycemic alert dogs”.
How Do They Do It?
The dogs are trained to identify the smell that is created when a person’s blood sugar drops rapidly. This odor is strongest on the breath, and is also produced by the skin. The quick changes in blood sugar usually happen when there is too much insulin in a diabetic’s body. The dogs are trained to ‘alert’ the diabetic, or caretaker or parent, when the dogs detect this odor. At Early Alert Canines (EAC) they are taught to alert by picking up a strap of webbing that hangs off their collar (this is called a ‘bringsel’) and touching the person. One of the goals is for the dog to wake up the person if they are asleep and the blood sugar is dropping rapidly.
Who Can Get A Diabetic Alert Dog?
EAC places dogs with insulin dependent diabetics who have been taking insulin for at least one year. We train two classification of diabetic alert dogs: service dogs with public access rights are given to adults and children 12 years of age or older. For younger children, and those wishing for only in-house alerting, we train skilled companions. In a household with a young diabetic child, the dog is trained to smell the changes in blood sugar of the child, and alert the parent/caretaker. These dogs are invaluable for nighttime and playtime monitoring.
How Long Does It Take To Train One?
Since EAC usually gets the dogs when they are at least a year old and after they have been behavior trained, it generally takes about six months to scent train the dog and have them ready for placement with their human partner.
…And then there’s always the question: Can I touch or pet her? If the time is right and there aren’t too many people around, I’ll usually say, “Thank you for asking. Yes, you may.” But if the time isn’t good or it’s too busy, or if I’m too busy, I’ll say, “Not right now. She’s working.” Rainie has a way of playing ‘hide and go seek’ with little kids. She seems to love it, and the kids laugh when she kisses them.