19 August 2010

Diabetes Alert Dogs – Part 3

There are no trainers presently certified as diabetes alert dog trainers. This is good in a sense that they have adapted from training other service dogs and thus have a history that can be checked to learn if they are good and knowledgeable trainers.

Most dog trainers today are knowledgeable in animal behavior and learning theory plus sufficient experience. Excellent trainers do exist as independent trainers, trainers working for breeders, and as trainers for some tax-exempt organizations. Some trainers are certified as professional dog trainers (CPDT). In fact, over 1400 people have been certified as CPDT since September 2001.

In selecting a trainer, make sure you know what types of dogs the trainer works with best for training. Some trainers work best with certain types of dogs and not others. After the trainer does an evaluation of your situation, is the type of dog they are suggesting, one that you are comfortable having as a 24/7 companion. The closer you and the trainer are in the selection of a dog, the more successful your experience will be.

Some trainers work best with the larger breeds and some the small breeds. Therefore, this should be a factor in the selection of a trainer. Conversely, just because you like a particular dog or breed of dog, does not mean that this type of dog will be the best fit for you. Learn to be flexible.

I will now cover training standards and hope that I do not confuse you. The standard in the dog training profession is the Canine Good Citizen program started in 1989 by the American Kennel Club. The Canine Good Citizen Program is a two-part program that stresses responsible pet ownership for owners and basic good manners for dogs in the public arena.

Several organizations have established standards and do have enforcement procedures in place to curb violations. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is one organization. The other organization is the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). These two organizations do have certification procedures and continuing education units (CEU's) as a requirement for staying current with changes in dog training. They also have procedures for dealing with trainers that do not stay current.  Another organization worth checking out is Assistance Dogs International.

After following part-time with a mobility dog trainer for the last four months, I have a better understanding of how these organizations work and their requirements. So in the process of selecting your trainer, do your due diligence in checking them out.

One of the weakest parts of the Americans for Disabilities Act (ADA) is their abstaining from setting up enforceable standards for public access of service dogs and an agency to enforce these standards. Too many “fake credentials” are getting untrained pets into public places where trained service dogs are allowed, thus sometimes creating problems for legitimate service dogs.

One standard that needs to be in place and enforced for any type of service dog is the prevention for use of prong and shock collars and force. Many trainers use them and some boldly advertise that they have and use them claiming that certain dogs will not train without their use. This is an accepted training technique unfortunately. When a service animal is certified as trained, this method should no longer be necessary.

In my opinion, if the animal is not trainable without force, then it needs to be rejected as a candidate for a service dog of any kind and considered for another occupation such as being a guard dog. While it is my opinion only, large dollar fines need to be imposed on trainers using force when a dog is to be partnered with a young person. I would even consider banning these trainers from service dog training. This may not be enforceable, but should be considered. Again, this is my opinion.

The Delta Society totally surprised me in the discussion of service dogs being appropriate for young children. They mention some age ranges that trainers are using and I agree that age limits need to be set. I also respect those that look farther on an individual basis. While it is difficult to be so arbitrary, child maturity factors are necessary. Service dogs should never be a “tool” for the parents to abdicate their responsibilities as some parents are doing.

One of the positive discoveries I have found in training are what a few trainers are almost insistent on and for good reason. The good trainers realize that for a service dog, training must continue after they are out of the picture and for the rest of the life of the service animal. These trainers are training the person and occasionally persons involved with the animal. They want the person partnered with the animal to feel success in training and in the ability of the animal to do its tasks.

More trainers today are training for hand signals (signing) that the dog will understand and follow without verbal communication. While this has been used for the hearing impaired, trainers are starting to use this for other medical disabilities. This has some definite advantages for communicating with the service dog without surrounding persons even knowing that anything is taking place, especially in the public setting.

While I am not in favor of the use of puppies for training to task other than behavior and house breaking, I am finding that I am in the minority view on this. I do question the usefulness of a service dog less than 10 months old. I know that for diabetes, it may be possible to train for some tasks before 12 months, but I will continue to question how effective the dog will be. Again, after following a mobility service dog trainer, I better understand why some training is necessary once the dogs are weaned. This is not concentrated training, but slowly working on habits that will become part of the dog as it matures.

Before training can begin, some determination needs to be made as to how successful the service animal will be in providing the healthcare needed. The primary concern should be the capacity of the individual receiving the service dog and their ability to learn and handle the needs of the animal and training of the animal. Some have said that the abilities of the trainer and the dog are all important. The trainer and the dog can be of no value if the person receiving the dog is incapable of the ongoing training and taking care of the needs of the dog. The service dog is a living animal and not a machine that can be shut off and turned on as some people are want to do.

Most trainers will want to know the following information:

1. Who will be the recipient of the service dog and the type of service dog that is needed.
2. The age of the recipient.
3. Whether other pets will distract the training and effectiveness of the service dog. Most trainers are very careful about this requirement. A household of trained animals can be accepted, but unruly animals cannot be accepted.
4. Whether the owner or family will be able to take care of the needs of the service dog in all situations.

There are other questions of course, but the above are the important questions to determine whether the potential recipient is a good candidate. So be prepared and I urge all to do their research and due diligence in selecting a trainer. Take time to read the sites I have posted with the colored text.

No comments:

Post a Comment