Service dog for Seizure disorder - 3 year old son - German Shepherd Dog Forums

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Old 09-15-2014, 02:28 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Service dog for Seizure disorder - 3 year old son

Hello all! This is my first post and I'm just trying to gather information for helping my son.

A little back ground. My son has Dravet Syndrome which is a hard to control form of epilepsy. He is three years old and with medication we are down to mainly absent seizures, but if not taken care of can progress to grand mal seizures. The absent seizures are hard to notice unless you are right there with him all the time. It has been suggested to my wife and I to take a look at a service dog by his physician. We currently do not have a dog and would love to have one. We live in the country with plenty of room to run. We have done some research and found that the German Shepherd is by far the most suggested for seizure recognition.

Our questions are many, but we are trying to the best for our son.
Is a service dog really going to help our son?
Is he old enough for a service dog?
Is there a certain breed of Shepherd that is best for him?
Is a pup the best way to start or an older dog best for him?
Is there anyone in or near Central Indiana that would be open to meeting with us and discussing our options.

We have more questions, but we will take what we can from any and all.

We would like to thank you all for your help!
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Old 09-15-2014, 04:07 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Old 09-15-2014, 04:11 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Hey there! I have a little bit of experience with service dogs.. not a ton, but I am very interested in this sort of thing.

1. I'm sure a service dog would help your son out a lot if he is prone to seizures.

2. Yes, however you will be the handler in charge of keeping dog and child safe. It isn't ok to allow your son to actually handle the dog in public, etc.

3. I would make sure you find a well bred GSD and talk to the breeder about expectations, what happens if the puppy doesn't work out, etc.

4. Older dogs are going to have a lot higher chance of working as a service dog and not washing out. If you raise a puppy, you have no idea how it's temperament or health will turn out and the chances are not stacked in your favor for service work. Most trainers/organizations recommend older dogs with stable temperaments for this reason.

5. I travel to the Indy area somewhat regularly and have a few contacts there, are you nearby?

I'm wondering if you are expecting/needing a dog to alert to seizures or respond to them? They are quite different and seizure alert dogs are born, not made, in most cases.
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:34 PM   #4 (permalink)
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DJEtzel, thanks for your input. I think you hit what we are trying to understand for our sons needs. A seizure alert dog is what I think we are trying to figure out. Forgive our ignorance, we were thinking they were one in the same. One person that we talked to through our Dravet families warned us that claimed seizure dogs are a hoax. They claimed that the dog has to show signs that it can recognize the persons seizure activity before any training could take place. That is kind of the path we have been taking, but before we took another step I wanted to make sure we are doing the right thing and that is why I have asked for some expert help.

We are about an hour west of Indianapolis just off I74, but we can make it to Indy.

Thank You for your help!

Last edited by mersh75; 09-15-2014 at 05:39 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old 09-15-2014, 05:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I can see why GSDs are recommended, they are hyper sensitive to their owners situations. I would be inclined to go after an adult/adolescent dog that shows lots of interest in your child. A puppy is a very big unknown, might not even bond with the child(unlikely, but possible) and you'd have burned time and resources on what them amounts to a pet rather than a service animal.

Please keep us informed on what you dig up/end up doing. Service dogs of this nature really intrigue me and tug at my heart strings.

*edit*

Little story here. A bit on just how perceptive these dogs can be.

I recently shifted positions at work, went from a very VERY stressful job to a more physical but less "impossible" position. A 12 hour shift that is wall to wall putting out brush fires to a more linear "get it done and don't kill/break anyone or anything" made me a much happier and sane person. My dogs picked up on it immediately, much happier to see me when I dragged butt home. I am wiped physically and mentally but not beat down mentally and my dogs could see that I was a happier person and wanted to have more interaction with me.
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Old 09-15-2014, 06:36 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Old 09-15-2014, 06:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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an adult rescued dog that is already in a service dog program would be your best bet, imo
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Old 09-15-2014, 08:14 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I don't think they are a hoax, but figuring out which dogs are capable has to be difficult, curious to know how they go about it. One of ours will alert for sure, but only for another dog about to have a seizure, nothing we trained, she just knows.
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Old 09-15-2014, 08:24 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel View Post
I don't think they are a hoax, but figuring out which dogs are capable has to be difficult, curious to know how they go about it. One of ours will alert for sure, but only for another dog about to have a seizure, nothing we trained, she just knows.
I could be wrong, but I don't think any reputable organization places dogs with the selling point being that they will alert to a seizure before it happens. There's no way to know that a dog will do it for every type of person, etc. Most organizations train seizure response dogs- the dogs are there to appropriately handle seizure activity. Meds, phone, help if necessary
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Old 09-15-2014, 08:55 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I cannot address the seizure alert, but I can tell you about a service dog that alerts. Fiona is my service dog for fibromyalgia and spondylolisthesis. I was accepted by an organization to get a service dog, but needed to raise $24k in donations to "pay" for the dog. Through a divine appointment, I met a dog trainer who trains service dogs. He said that he needed to pick the puppy, because it had to have the right temperament. About 6 months later, he had a puppy he thought had the right temperament.

It was a crap shoot, but it has worked out awesomely. I am also diabetic, but he could not train to alert to that. However, Fiona started to notice a change in my smell. She would repeatedly sniff my behind. We did not figure out until a few weeks later, that "ok, she does it when my #s are high"

So do I think a dog can alert to seizure, yes. Fiona seems to know when I am about to have a dizzy spell. She will cross behind me, so the leash is tight across the back of my legs. She was not trained for that either. You just need to find the right dog. Start with finding a trainer in your area that can come work with you in your home.
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