unconscious response - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-16-2011, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
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unconscious response

I have a 2 yr old gsd that is my medical alert service dog. I did all of his training on my own and had him "certified" and tested by an outside source.

I have him to alert me to both my severe asthma (which previously had me in the hospital several times per month) and to my syncope. I currently have several faints per day.

He never misses an alert and is perfect in all aspects.

Lately, I've been trying to teach him an "unconscious response".
What I want him to do is to come by my side and lie down (to make it easier for others to get to my medical bag) and to lick/nudge me in the face until I am awake. (being stimulated often helps me wake up)

Here's our two problems:
1. He doesn't want to work for anyone else. He really couldn't care less about what someone else wants him to do - high value reward, or not. So, this likely has to be done without a helper.
2. He seems to know when I'm "faking" and if I really am out, I have no way of reinforcing the behavior if it happens - I can be out for anywhere between 5 seconds and 2 minutes.

Does anyone have any suggestions?
I figure this is a big experiment, so any ideas are appreciated!
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-19-2011, 12:46 AM
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-19-2011, 01:00 AM
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 01:36 AM
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I don't know if this would work for your situation but could you just teach him to lay down and lick your face any time you fall, and continue until you give him a cue to stop? If so you would not need to be actually unconscious to train it, you could just teach him the cue for him to start licking is for you to be down flat, and to keep licking until you a give a vocal and/or hand signal for him to stop. That way he would keep licking until you come around because you can't give the cue to stop if you're unconscious.

The only other thing I thought of is kinda complicated so I don't know if it would work... It would be to use something like a Manners Minder and have someone else control it while you are unconscious and they can train the behavior, because if he is used to using it he might not be able to tell it wasn't you who controlled it. If you haven't heard of it, the Manners Minder is a device which dispenses treats by remote control. That way the treat is not being given by another person so the dog won't realize he is getting a reward from someone other than you (if you get him used to you being the one who controls it.)
The problem with that is it would be hard to have it in the right place when you faint unless you fake it purposefully near where the Manners Minder was or have a person with you and have them put the Manners Minder down near you (in which case he might associate it with them rather than you, unless you trained him ahead of time to be used to someone else placing it or something, as I said more complicated.) I mean you could set it down somewhere in your house but that would make it hard to train because he would have to go to it to get the reward.
It would also be hard because being unconscious you would not be able to use a voice or hand signal as a cue for the behavior, so whoever you had controlling the Manners Minder would probably have to use shaping to train the behavior...

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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 08-21-2011, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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I like the idea and I'm definitely going to give it a try. It's hard to be consistent in teaching something like this since it could be "faking, faking, then real" and if I'm all of a sudden out, there is no way to reinforce it and he may just wind up walking away.

I have actually thought about putting peanut butter on my face when I get in a spell (where I constantly just faint over and over until I can lay down somewhere). It would be a consistent reward, although not practical since I can easily land on my face and end up with a PB covered floor!

The Manners Minder sounds interesting, but again, I would hate to start having spells with it somewhere else in the house. It may be worth looking into for other things though.
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