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Discussion Starter #1
There is a thread about alert dogs in progress at this time.

I thought it might be nice to hear from people on their thoughts about what is entailed in the training and performance of these Medical-alert dogs.

To get a discussion started I've put down several topics that may be included. Feel free to add others.

If dogs are facility trained what type of written guarantee would you expect for them to give with their dogs?
*Should the contract state they will take the dog back and replace it if the dog fails to alert?
*How long should the dog have to bond with the handler before it begins to alert: From day one, a week, a month, six months?
* What type of health guarantees would you expect listed? Main ones for the breed only? Or would you expect that all Assistance Dogs have Heart, Eyes, Thyroid, Hips, & Elbow Certs even if these are not typical problems with the breed.
* What is included concerning the possiblity that someday you may find yourself in front of a Judge proving to the Court's satisfaction that your dog is in fact a legal SD? (This does happen especially if there is a confrontation with a business.) Is the facility willing to send a representative to appear on your behalf in front of the Judge or at least a signed affidavit attesting to the level of training of the dog?

That leads to the topic of training. Just how much training does the dog come with? What type of training certifications -- organization? CGC? Therapy? Temperament such as ATTS? Training logs? Training videos?

When someone says a dog is obedience trained it can include a wide range of expectations. So when a blanket statement is made to the prospective handler that the dog is obedience trained just what should this mean? Does it mean the basics such as sit, stand, down, stay, strong recalls, heel all under distractions? Or is the training up to the equivalent of Novice Obedience level? CD level?

What qualifications do you think the trainers should have? Basic obedience training experience, Novice level, Advanced level? Should the trainers have any specific type of certs or is years of experience acceptable to you as a handler?

Should a training facility's program itself be recognized by and the facility be a member of a National (or Worldwide) Assistance/Service Dog Organization?
 

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Discussion Starter #2
Medical-alert dogs use uncanny ability to sniff out trouble in owners
By Shirley Wang
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Link to newspaper article

Some quotes:
Bob Maher's diabetes was shutting his body down. He no longer got the shakes or the sweats to warn him that his blood sugar was plummeting. Instead, he would just pass out.
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Since meeting, Chewie has alerted Maher seven times. Originally skeptical of Chewie's alerts because they would sometimes come right after he had eaten - when low blood sugar should not be a problem - Maher checked his level and realized Chewie was right. Every time.
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Now in its 16th year, Canine Partners is only one of about 15 organizations that train medical-alert dogs, according to Assistance Dogs International, the coalition that sets the training standards.
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The service dogs are carefully selected and go through a two-year training process, yielding at most 28 trained dogs each year. Canine Partners also requires extensive follow-up and recertification training on the part of the recipient.

Each dog costs about $20,000 to train, although the nonprofit agency asks for a $900 donation from recipients. Its waiting list for dogs is currently eight to 18 months.



**********************************************

Link:
Assistance Dogs International, Inc.
 

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Quote:
What is included concerning the possibility that someday you may find yourself in front of a Judge proving to the Court's satisfaction that your dog is in fact a legal SD?
Thanks TJ for this posting. An interesting question with an alert dog. In your opinion, should alert dogs also be trained on tasks? Is this necessary? How does the PWD 'prove' his dog is an SD otherwise? One can't simply bring up a seizure or insulin shock to cause the dog to alert to provide sufficient evidence that the dog is in fact a legal assistance dog. I've always wondered about this.

Because of the nature of my medical condition, my alert dog provides other services to me to prevent my medical crisis from occurring in the first place. (Gosh, I LOVE that dog!) But I've wondered about other types of alert dogs. I'm rather ignorant on this...
 

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I don't know whether it would be necessary for an alert dog to be trained to do other tasks, but it would probably be useful to have other tasks that can be carried out / demonstrated on command if there ever was a need.

For example, a diabetes alert dog's main purpose is to alert their owner, but the dog could also be trained to do tasks such as bringing a purse with medication, for example.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
First I would like to state that I'm in the beginning stages of learning about this special field of service dogs so while I know more than the "average" person I am far from an expert and open to all positive input.
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There is still a great deal of back and forth in the SD community and with medical research. It is still a grey area of what constitutes trained tasks for a dog that alerts to be considered a SD.

Generally the alert is natural and can not be demonstrated but very few dogs only alert and do nothing else. Most alert dogs are trained in how to do the actual alerting as barking or biting at the handler is not acceptable as many of them are prone to do in the beginning. To go from the pet who happens to alert to the SD level it might be more appropriate to train these dogs to be a seizure alert/response dog or what is sometimes called a seizure assist or seizure response dog. I personally think of a seizure response dog as a dog that is naturally responding to it owner having a seizure such as laying down next to their person, licking their face, or barking for help. I've been hearing more of the catagory being called a seizure assist dog as that dog that is trained tasks to perform durning and after their owner's seizure.

Another point to consider is that not all trained seizure assist dogs alert to a seizure -- they are trained what to do to help their handler once the seizure hampers their person's ability to cope on their own. Some are trained to go for meds & a drink, some to go find help, some retrieve phones, or even go push a call button. Some are trained to lay across their owner to help keep them from trying to get up until it is safe to do so, to keep their handler from wandering into a street while still under the aftereffects that they may have, or a list of other tasks.

This is still a relatively new and unproven area and so has many unknowns. It will take time and case law on the subject to help clarify what is needed to prove a SD in this field.
 

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One task a medical Alert dog could be trained to do that can be performed on cue is seek help or find a specific person for help.

For example Sheena is my PSD and one of the things she does is alert to my panic attacks. Well during a panic attack her seeking my husband, family member or friend can be very important. A common time for me to panic is when I am seperated from the person I am with in a place that is very crowded. So I will start to panic and Sheena will Alert. Once she lets me know what is going on I can either ask her to find a certian person or find an exit. Either of these things can be done on request easily. Both of which I could not do on my own while I am having a panic attack.

In fact when I started going to a community program called Stay and Play I preformed this task on request in front of the parents and children and the people who run the program. It is for babies, toddlers and so on and their parents. It is two hours twice a week of organized play. When my family member and I first started going with my son everyone was very curious and wanted to see what Sheena does. The easiest task to show them was to have Sheena find the family member I was with in the crowed room of parents and children. They were amazed and it opened up teh discussion of Service Dogs. In fact one of teh moms there has two autistic sons and asked me for some info about the Dogs for Autisitc children. So it really helped to get out some education I think just by showing one simple task that she does to help me.

Sheena is well loved there at Stay and Play and knows the days we go. She gets so excited because the youngest children get to give her cookies and hugs and kisses. And when they are upset they always run to her for hugs.
Nicole
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Quote: In your opinion, should alert dogs also be trained on tasks? Is this necessary?
I just noticed that I really did not answer this direct question to me in a direct manner.



Quote from the Codes of Federal Regulation, The U.S. Department of Justice: (Bold was added by me.)
Service animal means any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals with impaired hearing to intruders or sounds, providing minimal protection or rescue work, pulling awheelchair[sic], or fetching dropped items. -- 28 C.F.R. 36.104 Definitions


So something must be trained and just what and how much is what is being under fire and heated debates in some groups of Service Dog people.

So I'm going to present this question for thought -- Do you think there is such a thing as a <u>pure</u> "Alert Service Dog" ie. a dog that only alerts with no other trained tasks? Is the way or style they alert in enough of a trained task to be considered complying with the ADA?

Now through all of this remember that you have to look at it through the term trained and not a natural action of the dog.
 
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