25 October 2009

Separation of Diabetes Alert Dogs from Exploring Diabetes Type 2

The blogs are copies of prior blogs on the my other blog. Now the reader can read about the area they need without other distractions.

Thanks for your patience.

Types of Service Dogs

October 4, 2009

This is off the topic of diabetes, but necessary to be grounded in the subject of assistance/service dogs of which diabetes service dogs are an integral part.

Assistance Dogs International Inc. (ADI) uses a simplified definition, listing guide dogs for the sight impaired, hearing dogs for the hearing impaired and service dogs for other disabilities.  While guide dogs have a 70-year history and hearing dogs a shorter history, other service dogs are a recent development and have not gained the recognition in numbers to be in a class by themselves.

Please take time to browse their complete site.  It has much valuable information for determining whether you are being given the correct guidelines for training and the essentials for measuring the training your dog needs to be an excellent assistance/service dog.

Now, service dogs for other disabilities will take up the rest of the discussion.  There needs to be a list of these service dog types for medical or health related disabilities.  Standards may be developed for all these types or for each type of service dog.  Service dogs for disabilities are covered by Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Please note that Therapy Dogs, Search & Rescue Dogs, Forensic Dogs, Police K-9's, Military Working Dogs and other types of working dogs are NOT Service Dogs.  This may be what ADI is referring to for facility and therapy dogs for which currently do not have standards established.  

Liz Norris of Pawsabilities Unleased has a list of eight types and some of the tasks they can be trained to accomplish.  The US Service Dog Registry lists 13 types of service dogs in addition to guide and hearing.  Not mentioned in either list is service dogs trained for cancer, strokes, and migraines.  More types are being added regularly and many service dogs are trained for multiple disorders in their human partners.

The latest type of service dogs added is for soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  This project is part of a study funded entirely but the Department of Defense and put service dogs with 10 soldiers.  The other type recently added is a service dog for autonomic neuropathy.  Autonomic neuropathy is a disease that damages the autonomic nervous system, a branch of the central nervous that helps people adapt to changes in their environment, according to the American Heart Association. 

Today only 0.9% of persons with disabilities have service dog partners.  This means that there are approximately 15,000 service dogs across the U.S.  These dogs have a significant influence on their human partners' lives and are able to function more independently with the help of their canine partners.

Posted by Bob Fenton at 17:39 0 comments

Diabetes Alert Dogs - Part 2

September 29, 2009

Getting Prepared

Think you want a diabetes alert dog?  Are you prepared and do you know where to find one?  Chances are you are pretty much in the dark.  You are looking for information - any scrap of information that may lead you to where you can obtain more.

The information is out there in the internet, the difficulty is finding reliable information and knowing what you need.  Learning is the most important part.  This is the step you do not want to rush.

There are two terms that you should know.  Service dogs is a common term and diabetes alert dogs is one of several types of medical service dogs.  Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is the law that makes it possible to take the service dogs into places they would not otherwise be allowed.

The following is from "Clickin' Canines" website of Rita Martinez, used with her permission.


So you want a service dog!!!
Service dogs can be a wonderful asset for someone with a disability, but it is always good to go into anything with your eyes open from the beginning.  Many factors come into play with the use of a service dog.  These dogs can be a life saving partner, but they come with needs and can change every aspect of your life.  Below are some things to think about:

  1. Do you like dogs?  Enough to share your life with them 24/7?  These dogs are not simply a tool, they are individual intelligent creatures with their own set of needs.  They become a part of your everyday life.  Are you ready for this kind of sharing?
  2. Are there other animals in the home?  Do you have family support for a dog?  Keep in mind that bringing in a working partner while there are other animals in the house will change the dynamics.  Are the current animals likely to adapt easily?  Does the rest of the family want an addition to the household?
  3. Having a service dog is like growing an appendage.  You are no longer just you - you are a 'we'.  That means there are frequent times that it will be inconvenient.  You have to make sure the dog has a place to be comfortable with you yet safe from heat or cold or tight quarters etc.  Yes, that means even in public restrooms...
  4. Are you ready and able to care for your dog's physical requirements?  Dogs need proper exercise, grooming, bathing, feeding and off-duty outlets.  There also needs to be a provision for the financial responsibility of regular healthcare and preventative medicine.
  5. Are you ready and able to participate in continued training to keep the skills from degrading?  Training is never finished - Maintenance is forever.
  6. Are you aware that there are licenses, equipment, and miscellaneous costs associated with having a working dog?
  7. A service dog is on call 24/7 for you.  Are you ready to be equally dedicated to your dog?  They aren't machines with a off switch, they are living partners.
  8. Are you aware of the public issues you will come across?  You will forever be answering the same questions, educating the general public about service dogs, never be simply un-noticed, and will have to deal with the individual fears that people have of dogs!  You will have to consider where you can walk, sit or stand and be safely out of harms way.  You will have to seek appropriate places for your dog to relieve itself.  You will be responsible for all your dogs needs at all times.
  9. And lastly, are you comfortable with the liability of having your dog with you in all situations in the public?
These questions are not meant to discourage you from having a service dog.  But, it is wise to approach  something this important with real thought.  Having a dog as a working partner is a commitment that lasts many years.  It is a decision that needs to be well thought out.  End of quote.

I would like to expand on Rita's number 2 above.  If there is family support and there are other pets in the house, will the family members be willing to give up those animals for your service dog if it becomes necessary?  If there are cats in the household, how difficult will this be for the service dog?  While some pets do get along well together, is the family willing to part with those pets that do not get along with the service dog?

And I would include some specifics not mentioned -
  • Do you have the patience required to have a service dog?  They cannot be mistreated or neglected.
  • Under financial and miscellaneous fees, there will be vet bills and the need to have emergency vet care available.  Have you located or know where to locate this service?  To keep a service dog requires weekly expenses for dog food.
  • And, as the service dog ages, will you be ready to take on a replacement dog and retire the current service dog?  Most people writing about service dogs do not bring up this issue, but it needs to be thought about.  All dogs age and lose their usefulness in 10 to 14 years and need to be retired.
All are questions that need to be answered before the search begins.

If you have answered all of the above questions and are comfortable with the answers, what is next?  There are several ways to proceed.  You will have to decide what is best for you and your own circumstances.
  1. It is my belief that you need to locate a trainer before thinking about getting a dog.  Both the trainer and the dog will require much research, but having the trainer first gives you an advantage because the trainer will while assessing your needs, be able to make recommendations for a possible dog and have suggestions on finding a good fit for you.  You still will have to make the final decision.  The links provide a place to start in locating a trainer.  Rita Martinez lays out some excellent frequently asked questions (the first three are very important), how to choose a trainer, and choosing the trained dog.  Please read this carefully.
  2. For those persons who know they desire a certain breed of dog, check with the American Kennel Club for locations of breeders.  You will need to then follow the same steps under choosing a dog, but apply this to the breeder and you will need to check out their trainers as well.  Do not bypass any of the steps as this could cost you many dollars being misspent.  How do I get this point across - Do not make decisions based on emotions!!!  There are breeders out there that are counting on your emotions taking over once you see the dogs.  Never make a visit until you have completed your homework.  Yes, visiting the breeder's facilities is the next to last step, but be prepared to leave if you don't like your first impression.  Make them show you the entire facility before they show you the dogs.
  3. Then there are those of you who will want to go to the local SPCA or animal shelter.  Now I would strongly urge you to have a trainer first.  You will want to have discussed this with them and they will have prepared you for the questions to ask.  You will want to make sure that the recent history of potential dogs is known.  I may cost more to retrain out bad habits and past abuses that the animal may have suffered.
For both the trainer and the breeder, check the Office of the State Attorney General in the state where they are located for complaints or actions on file against them.  Once you have the references, do not put them in a drawer and think you have completed you due diligence.  Call or correspond and get the information!  It just may prevent future disappointment.

There are dog breeders, trainers, and others that are reputable.  The above is to help make your experience a pleasant and positive one - not one of regret.  Always remember, they should put your needs first and fully answer your questions.

Now comes the big decision - getting the dog!

Note:  I have used Rita Martinez as a resource person for much of this because her philosophy is close to my own and while we may differ sometimes, she offers many pointers that I might have missed otherwise.  Both of us want to make the experience of getting and having a service dog a pleasant and satisfying experience.  Rita has and is working with about 40 dogs for diabetes alert dogs.

Diabetes Alert Dogs (DAD's) - Part I

September 1, 2009

Why is a person writing for T2's writing about something that primarily affects people with type 1 diabetes?  Besides growing up with dogs and a father who trained dogs for duties around the farm, I have a keen interest in dogs.  I am also doing this to flush out and challenge the T1 bloggers who have ignored this topic, and maybe to encourage others to write about this topic that are not involved enough in helping others.

First, some background for this topic.  Seven,  and even four years ago, very little information existed about Diabetes Alert Dogs (DAD's).  Some have called them service dogs.  There were no standards for determining whether a dog was suitable and no published standards exist today.   There is no National Organization to aid people seeking these dogs, to set standards, or even a database of reputable dog kennels and breeders for DAD's.  Most of those in existence today have expanded from other service dog areas or are already dog breeders for other purposes.

Because some breeders know that people tend to let emotion control their buying habits, some are hoping to cash in on these buyers.  These people are in the business of misleading potential owners of DAD's.   I have not found any reliable concrete scientific evidence that there is a smell, odor, or body chemical that would cause a dog to react to a hyper or hypoglycemic episode.  There are some Pharma's that are doing studies as they want to develop a piece of equipment to do what the dogs are capable of doing.

Before you castigate me, try telling that to the young people that have a DAD.  There are some incredible instances of their dogs saving their lives.  In essence, it is our young T1's that are the pioneers making this happen - along with some dedicated parents.  Not only in the USA, but in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany.  This points to something that causes the dogs to be able to alert.

The demand is potentially great, because many T1's are hyper and hypoglycemic unaware, or will lose their ability to sense when they are having high or low blood glucose levels.  Most T2's know when they are having a glycemic event.   This is the place for the diabetes alert dogs.

There is a need for a National Organization to certify trainers and operations in the business of selling dogs to be DAD's.  The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is not qualified although it has given minimal recognition to DAD's and their potential place in the world of diabetes.   The American Kennel Club is in no position to step into this role.  It has enough problems in meeting it's own needs, not to take on this task.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (also ADA) is working hard to allow dogs to be present where they have not been allowed before.

Training of dogs is vital to their ability.  There are primarily two types of training available but only one that is suitable of service dogs.  More on this in another blog.  Service dogs and especially DAD's need to be easily controlled, even tempered, and responsive to the person for whom they are working.  While most dogs, whether they are mutts or purebreds, are capable of being trained, some breeds are better suited for training because of the traits they possess.

Before a person gets excited about obtaining a DAD, they must do their homework.  Why?  Because "it is a buyer beware" climate where there are many persons and businesses holding themselves out as "experts" in training or having trained dogs available, that are less than reputable.

Learn to put emotion on hold and investigate, and then investigate some more.  Check the internet using search engines, check with the Better Business Bureaus in the area of the trainer or breeder, the State's Attorney General, and always ask for references.  Use the search engines to check for complains also.  Enter the business name and add complaints.  Do not be surprised, they exist!  Some are legitimate complaints, and some may have complaints that are more mean spirited in nature - hence not necessarily valid and often anonymous.

If the references are not received promptly, take that as a warning.  When references are received, then ask some hard questions of them - don't put them in a drawer.  Ask how long they have known the people and the business?  When did they last do any business with them or last have contact with them?  Do they know anyone that has done business with them?  If you receive no answer or a "no" answer, then take that as a warning.

Reputable good trainers and businesses have a network of people that support them which is not solicited because they are well thought of by their clients who will willing discuss the strengths and weaknesses (if any).  These are what you are looking for.

For those wanting to look further, I list the following as a place to start.  For a forum investigate Phorum
Owner and Administrator is Rachel Thornton in Mississippi.  Check a site still under development owned by Rachel Thornton.  For trainers check out Rita Martinez from the San Francisco Bay Area, California, Dee Bogetti from Richmond, Virginia, and Liz Norris from Frankfort, Kentucky.

For future blogs, I am working on training techniques, IRS issues, DAD's in other countries, and ownership issues, and breeders.

I hope this introduction to DAD's has created an interest and that T1 bloggers will take up the challenge.