Seizure Dogs - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #1 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 08:42 AM Thread Starter
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Seizure Dogs

Seizure Alert / Response Dogs
Quote from SDC:

Approximately fifteen percent of dogs are naturally able to predict seizures before they occur. ...
Other dogs, called seizure response dogs, are trained to perform tasks during or following a seizure to assist the owner. These tasks may include rolling the person to create an open airway, clearing vomitus from the mouth, getting help, operating a call button or k9 phone, blocking the person with postictal disorientation from stairs and intersections, helping the person to rise, helping with postictal balance issues, guiding the disoriented person to a preset location or person, et cetera. Because these response tasks are so useful, most seizure alert dogs are also trained in response work. ...

Read the whole article at this link
Seizure alert/response dogs | Service Dog Central

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
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post #2 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 10:30 AM
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Interesting. There was just one surrendered to a local shelter who had been alerting to the seizures in a child in the home naturally, with no training (she was a beautiful working-line GSD, from the looks of her). The family's landlord was threatening to evict them if they didn't get rid of her, due to breed restrictions, so they tearfully dropped her off at the "dog pound." Blew my mind. I suspected seizure alerting was a rare talent, but I didn't know only 15% can do it! (She's no longer there...this was a while ago.)
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post #3 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 11:09 AM Thread Starter
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I suspect that the number of dogs who can alert is higher but that owners do not realize what the dog is doing. Case in point -- years ago, a family member was telling me that she was going to have to get rid of the small dog that they had taken in as it was getting worse with her son. The dog began biting (just pinching) and now was up to leaving teeth marks in the skin. And to make it worse she was being worn ragged being up and down during the night with a sick child. Right off from what I was being told I knew what was going on. The dog was trying to alert to upcoming seizures and no one was listening to her so she was becoming more frantic in her alerts.

Well after my suggestions and help on shaping those alerts the dog began licking the hand vrs. nipping and biting. When she would first begin this, the child told mom and then knew to go lay down. The seizures came with spikes in temp. so mom gave medicine and cooled child down with a washcloth. If they were around and did this when dog first began then seizures were averted.

I have also heard that the percentage of dogs alerting are normally higher for younger children than for adults. In my opinion this would be true as dogs are naturally (like most animals) more watchful and protective of the young either theirs or others in their family grouping.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
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post #4 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 11:17 AM
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Do you think it's related to the "nose" on the dog? Or are they picking up on something else?

The reason I ask about the nose is that I remember this dog who was alerting had one of the best noses I'd ever seen in a shelter eval -- she was obsessing over one object, and when I distracted her with a new ball and hid her obsession-object up high when she wasn't looking, then she came back, scented her obsession-object in the air, walked a little pattern to narrow it down, looked up, spotted it and snagged it. It was very clear she was following the scent in the air to find it.
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post #5 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 11:30 AM Thread Starter
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It is a shame that the family did not know that they possibly could have kept their dog with some task training. With the training, they may have claimed their GSD as an in-home SD. There are limited breed restriction proceedings (if under HUD) for trained service dogs.

A landlord often can only have the family remove a trained SD due to breed if it will cause hardship to allow the dog to remain. First, the landlord must fall into one of the criteria placing them under HUD. One such hardship often claimed is an increase in costs with the covering insurance company or the company states they will drop policy based on dog remaining. In such a case the landlord must be able to prove this claim by submitting a notice from the insurance company to a representative of HUD if requested.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
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post #6 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 11:30 AM
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That is so cool. I have a cousin in her l;ate fifties who seizures have really forced her to be house bound.Amazing what these dogs can do for us.

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post #7 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-24-2015, 11:43 AM Thread Starter
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It is possible that the dog is scenting a change in which case it would involve the nose but these natural alerts come from a multitude of breeds and mixes and backgrounds. The one that I was relating was a Chi cross which never showed any drive of any type -- Nada. She was a true lay about who just wanted to be held or lay next to someone. Her exercise was jumping of the sofa or a bed to go to the door to welcome family and friends inside or to grab a bite from the food bowl. I've heard of dogs from pugs to chows to labs and shepherds to great danes. Some were trained medical alert dogs, some were mobility use dogs and some just lay around the house pets.

I personally am of the opinion that it is some type of scent change but I don't have the training, knowledge, certifications or work experience to give any but my own "makes sense to me" opinion based on the bit that I have read, heard others talk about and sifted thoughts around in my head.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #8 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 10:10 AM Thread Starter
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I've several requests in helping locate dogs that could be used for seizure alerts. Remember it is not known what the dogs are alerting to so we are not able to train to alert. Those dogs who are able to alert do so without training -- it is just something that they do.

What dogs are more likely to alert?

Part I
Some reputable opinions from various sources state that up to 15% of dogs can alert.

This percentage may be considerably higher under the following circumstances:
Dog and person has a strong bond. No, not all dogs and owners have a strong bond -- not all dogs and owners have any type of bond.
Dogs tend to bond stronger with the person who feeds and waters them.
Dogs tend to bond stronger with the person (people) who see to their comfort such as bathing, grooming, petting etc.
Dogs tend to bond stronger with the person who trains them.

So the more things that you do with your dog, the chances are higher that the bond between dog and person will be stronger.

The more time that you spend with your dog the higher the chances that your dog will know when all is well with you or when something is off.

Part II
Some reliable individuals and groups that place trained Seizure Response dogs report that approx. 50% will over time begin to also alert. This time can be soon after placement up to approx. 6 months. Why is the sub-section of the dog population more likely to begin "alerting"?

One reason may be that these dogs were from a group originally picked as the most likely to go through the raising and training and have what it takes to make a proper SD. They had a temperament and personality to work for their owner. They had a work ethic.

Another reason may be that the owner was able to pick up messages from their dog first to know the dog was trying to give a message and the owner knew their dog well enough to pick up on out of the ordinary cues. In a manner the dog was in its own way trying to train the owner. If after awhile the owner did not pick up on these cues the dog may try another manner to alert. After so many tries the dog may just give up and any alerting cues will just extinguish. If the owner is unaware of cues being given the dog will not be reinforced to continue.

There have been cases of a dog, whose owner is able to read the dogs cues and rewards the cue through praise or other manner, has also alerted to an upcoming seizure of someone else.

At this time an alerting dog can not be trained for the task since it is not known what the dog is alerting to -- a change in person's scent, strange body tells from the owner, neuro changes or actions or whatever it may be. This is why the consensus of reputable trainers is if someone is stating that they have seizure alert dogs for sale is to consider that a major red flag warning. Reputable groups will properly place trained Seizure Response Dogs and try to educate the owner on how to raise the chances on their dog to hopefully after awhile begin alerting also. There are no guarantees -- only hopes based on certain known strong points.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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post #9 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 10:21 AM Thread Starter
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Some owner trainers have tried to train a new alert dog by using the piggy-back method of having the older dog train the new. This has been reported to work in a low number of dogs and only for a short time.

So at this time it is best to begin with a dog that has been evaluated by someone knowledgeable in picking out strong SD prospects and then proceed to train the dog to do seizure RESPONSE tasks.

Also, the handler should keep a diary of all their seizures and try to remember all the uncommon actions of their dog in a window of time before the owner had the seizure. Add any information of the dog's strange behavior before the seizure to the diary. If there can be found a behavior of the dog that seems to be common in this window of time then the owner needs to encourage the alerting behavior and if needed to begin shaping the alert to a manner that is acceptable to the owner. Examples are: some dogs will nip at the owner -- these need to be changed to licks or nudges. Some dogs will bark at the owner -- this should be changed to another alerting style. Encouragements and changes in alerting style may best be down under the guidance of a trainer with experience working with SDs. Any alert changes don't want to be discouraged in the beginning nor discourage the dog not to do an alert at all.

TJ aka Theresa A. Jennings
Pyro vom Wildhaus aka Kaleb ~S.T.A.R.~
Family Companion, Non-Profit Mascot, In-Home Service Dog


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Last edited by ILGHAUS; 06-26-2015 at 10:27 AM.
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post #10 of 11 (permalink) Old 06-26-2015, 10:54 AM
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Thanks for this info. I get occasional requests from people looking for help from rescue finding a seizure alert dog. I generally can't help them (and wouldn't know where to begin identifying that aptitude during shelter evals). I'll pass this info on when I get these requests.
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