Diabetic Alerting - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 01-21-2010, 10:46 AM Thread Starter
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Location: Pace, FL (near Pensacola)
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Diabetic Alerting

OK, it was suggested I move my posts to this section for those who do have experience in scent training and everything to give any/all advice, suggestions. So, I'm going to paste below everything that's already been said.
Hey all, it's been forever since I was on here and a lot has happened. We moved to Florida this year (just outside Pensacola) and have been having a time dealing with my 8 year old and her diabetes. I have decided to look into diabetic alert dogs (and more specifically, using my experience - and help from some trainers and training conferences - to train my own). So.. knowing German Shepherds (and having Chasey already) of course, I'd like to stick with my breed.

Ever since our last foster left three weeks ago, my husband has been hinting around about me finding his puppy (he wants a black and silver), however, I think my daughter's situation takes priority first. She's been asking for a Black and Tan for a while, so that's what I'd like to find, but I'd rather rescue than purchase from a breeder, because I know there are so many that need help.

I've been trying to watch the shelters in about a two hour radius, unfortunately, the area that I'm in really STINKS at breed recognition. Seriously, they call things by the weirdest breeds which are obviously incorrect. So, I thought I'd mention on here so if someone sees a pup in need near me, maybe I could help him/her. Vetting wouldn't be a problem, because I have my old vet (this is where I lived before I spent 10 years in Michigan) and they've already met Chasey to get her on their files.

I figured somewhere around 2 - 4 months would be old enough to start behavior training (heel, leash, basic obedience, how to behave in public, etc - and of course, training my daughter as his/her trainer as well) to have him/her ready to attend the Diabetic Alert Conference in May to start learning the scent training (of course, I hope to get started on the scent training if possible before then). For obvious reasons, this dog will go through a lot of time and training, so I'd like to avoid a dog with obvious serious medical issues, so that hopefully this dog will be around with my daughter for years.

So, if anyone knows of a pup I should check into, can you please let me know - [email protected] . A slightly older dog could be considered, but would have to already have the basic obedience down (as she's 8 and wouldn't be able to handle a dog pulling her down the street, while trying to teach him heel) or any aggression issues or anything like that. (We have Chasey - female WGSD-spayed, as well as a cat and two doves).

On the bright side, the house that we're renting is huge, with mostly wood, some tile, flooring and over an acre fenced in yard, so great for playing outside, and plenty of room inside for the kids and pets as well.

If there's a better spot for this post, I apologize (and please feel free to move), but I didn't want to distract in the Rescue forum from the dogs in need there.

Thanks everyone.

While I know you are interested in a rescue I think you would stand a better chance of finding a puppy with the attributes that you need for your daughter from a breeder where you would know the genetics behind the dog. Again not that you could not find these in a rescue DOG but to find them in a rescue PUPPY might be a long, hard search. The pup at 8 weeks or so might show some of the qualities you are looking for but puppies (even from known heritage) are a crap shoot in any working endeavor. Maybe a 12 to 18 month old (or older) rescue would be a better chance where you can better test for the characteristics that you need for this very special job. _________________________

I did consider that. I even contacted a breeder/trainer that I know and trust to see if he had any recommendations of an appropiate dog, but haven't heard anything back. At the moment, I'm trying to watch every avenue.

In going with an 12 - 18 month old dog, I would need one that's already non-aggressive (loves everything) and can heel and behave in public already (no leash pulling, no deciding to "go check that out", etc). In the essence of the alerting, this dog has to bond with my 8 year old; meaning she has to do all the training, feeding, etc (with my supervision and assistance, of course), so I would need one that wouldn't bully her, jerk her off her feet, etc. (not the easiest thing to find in a 12 - 18 month old unless it's had very good training already) especially considering the fragile state she will be in should she go low (or very high) - Seizures are NOT fun to deal with, having an uncontrollable dog and other children around at the same time would be horrific.

If you know of such a dog, I'd love to hear about it, but bear in mind, I cant' go with a much older dog, due to the fact that this training is going to take probably close to two years to perfect, and I'd like to give her the best possible chance of having this dog with her for 10+ years.

Just as an FYI, I've also checked into getting an already trained Diabetic Alert Dog. Yes, it can be done. No, I can't afford it. I even found a place where it would cost me $575 out of pocket, but I would have to also raise (or come up with) an additional $7500 in donations before I could take my daughter to their one week training camp and bring the dog home. They are a 501c3, so it is tax deductible, but with the medical bills we've already racked up in the last two years, there's no way I could come up with that kind of cash any time soon.
Be careful, so very careful with some of these agencies that train diabetic alert dogs for children. Even the 501(c)(3) organizations can be rip offs. We have had at least several members that went through a big heartache with dogs that they paid for from an organization in MO.
I understand your concerns, having trained my service dog myself. She was a rescue and I adopted her when she was about a year old. It IS possible to find a 12-18 month old dog that will work in your situation, and honestly I think you would be much better off in that route than getting a young puppy. There are too many what ifs in a young puppy, especially a rescue one. Where an adult you have a solid idea of the temperament and service dog potential. Even with an alert dog you would want to get hip and elbow xrays, with a puppy there is no knowing what might hit you down the line but at a year old you could get xrays (though should again at 2 or 3 years when the dog is mature.)

What is your plan if the dog you choose doesn't make it as a service dog? If that happens, you will most likely be well into the training by the time you know. Would you keep the dog and try to start again with another?
Yes, if I had to flush a dog, it would just stay as a family pet and I'd start over.

The organization I've been looking into is Pawsibilities Unleashed. According to the DAD forum I've been participating in the most, that is where a good portion of the dogs came from last year. And although they prefer labs, the important thing would be that it could signal and potentially save her life.

IF we go that route, I still intend to go to the conferences and trainings, and eventually try to train another DAD for my husband (also a Type 1 diabetic) and potentially to help others in the future. I know the stress and worry of dealing with bloodsugars and seizures and passing out and hospitals, and how much help and hope these dogs (properly trained) could be to someone. Of course, when I start doing my own, I'd like to stick with GSDs as they're my "first love" when it comes to dogs.

My ultimate goal would be to combine this with rescue, when I've got the training part down. Rescue a dog, train it as an alert dog, and then find it a good diabetic home to go to. That should ensure those dogs a good place for the rest of their lives, as well as helping out someone in need.
Your goals sound great. I think you should post in the service dog section here, there are many other members with owner trained SDs that could help. That section doesn't get much action so just keep checking back because eventually people will have seen it and replied. We have members with scent trained alert dogs.

So, that's all ..... Unfortunately, I've been distracted again with my daughter's diabetes going up and down yesterday and again already this morning. I also received the application yesterday for Pawsibilities , but I'm still talking to people, praying and trying to figure out if that's the way to go, or to try to train my own, as it's gonna take quite a while to raise $8000 anyway.

So, comments, suggestions, opinions, and any/all help would be appreciated.

Mindi Fredrick
Echo Dogs White Shepherd Rescue

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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 01-26-2010, 07:57 AM
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Re: Diabetic Alerting

I'm surprised no one has responded! But like I said it can be slower in this section and take a while to be seen.

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