When most people think of a detector dog we think of explosive or narcotic detector dogs. The police and military have some of the best trained detector dogs. The reason they are good is that they have good dogs, great training, certify annually and consequences if they don’t perform. The handlers have a boss they have to answer to and if their dogs are not performing as they are removed from service and the training issue is addressed.
Dog’s noses smell 1,000 to 1 million times better than humans depending on who you ask. Everyone agrees dogs have a very good sense of smell and that is why they are used to detect odors that humans cannot smell. There are many types of detector dogs; fruit, human, bed bug, diabetes and more. Besides explosive detection dogs, a poorly trained diabetes alert dog could kill you. If a fruit detector dog misses some fruit going through customs no one is going to die. A poorly trained Diabetes Alert Dog could have grave consequences.
Google Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) and see what comes up, fraud and buyer beware. It takes about 18 months to train a DAD. Cost for such a dog is around $20,000. When you are talking this type of money for a trained dog, greedy people with no conscience get involved. You have to do your homework or you could end up with a very expensive pet.
What should you look for when purchasing a DAD? The first step is finding a good quality dog. You should not be the one looking for the dog because you don’t know what you are doing. I have had a lot of people that have a specific breed dog for a specific type of training (Protection, tracking, detection, therapy) and the dog either has no drive to work or lacks confidence. A therapy dog should not be nervous and a DAD should be calm with good manners. A DAD with a reactive issue with children is a problem. A DAD with no nose is also a problem. The dog should come from a reputable breeder that comes with guaranteed hips, elbows, back and a full physical including blood work. These dogs are expected to work for 10 years.
The training should be top of the line. The dog should be able to alert to low sugar and pass a double blind test. A double blind test means the handler and tester do not know if odor is present or not. The dog should alert with no cueing. How does a laymen know about cueing, you don’t? This is why the buyer must be careful. So the dog can detect a change in blood sugar and give you a good alert to communicate to the handler that their sugar is low, what else.
Since this dog will be tied to your hip the rest of his/her life the dog needs great obedience and environmental socialization. What I mean is the dog heels on your right and left side, can lay next to you for hours, is not distracted by dogs, children, balls food, escalators, yelling, noise, thunder, and so on. Your DAD needs to be comfortable wherever you go. This takes a lot of training. I was in police canine services for 20 years and was doing a demonstration for our Citizen Police Academy. The citizen police academy is a 6 week program that introduces a variety of police tasks that the police department performs on a daily basis. The K-9 Unit always did a presentation. There was a lady in the group who was handicapped and had a Golden Retriever for her service dog. When we entered the room for our presentation her dog lost it, barking lunging and would not have been able to help the women if needed because the dog was out of control. Our 4 police dogs ignored this barking dog, performed all the tasks (obedience, evidence, narcotic, and protection) like there was no one else in the room. Your service dog should behave like a police service dog.
When searching for a DAD try to find a trainer in your area because if you have issues, you want them close so they can help you solve the problem. If you live in Michigan and your get your dog from Florida, that is a very long drive for help. The person who provides you with a DAD should offer support and training for the life of the dog.
DAD’s can be a lifesaver and make your life a lot easier if you have diabetes. Having a companion next to your side is also a very cool side note. If you know someone who suffers with diabetes and would like to learn more go to www.diabetesalertdogalliance.org for more information.