15 December 2011

Dogs for Diabetes

I was surprised to see this article in Diabetes Health as I have tried in the past to get information from Dogs for Diabetes, and have been totally ignored. I have had short communications with a couple of clients of Dogs for Diabetes (D4D) and both seemed very pleased with their service dog from D4D.

Generally if something seems too good to be true, it is. I am not sure about this trainer and the conditions outlined in this article. There may be good reasons to limit the area in which you will serve clients, but when excellent trainers can train from coast to coast, I have some concerns.

I have assisted a mobility dog trainer here in Iowa and he has dogs all over the Midwest. The dogs are well trained for serving the person and the person is trained to keep training up-to-date and refresh the dog on a regular basis. He is available for communications with clients and is always willing to take a dog back if a client becomes unable to use the dog. He has two periods during the year for anyone wanting to come back with his or her dog for refresher training.

Whether I am misunderstanding the meaning of what Mark is saying, or I have been taught differently, I cannot say. I think Mark misspoke in the following statement in response to Nadia's question. “Training a dog to provide an alert to a potentially life-threatening condition is a serious matter. It requires a clear understanding of the medical condition, as well as of dog behavior and training skills. Dogs have been known to assist their close human companions spontaneously, but the anecdotal information does not prove that it is due to scent recognition, or empathy the dog may feel from the onset of serious symptoms. Scent training has the potential to provide an alert prior to the onset of the condition, while in these cases the dog's recognition of symptoms is a reaction after the condition is present.

The bold is my emphasis and the part I dispute. Yes, in a few instances, Mark is correct, but the dogs that I have witnessed that have been self-trained, generally alert to the onset of the condition, and not after the condition is present. I think it has to do with the service dog owner and the dedication to training. If the owner is not dedicated to the training, I can see Mark's situation being a fact. However, I will not make a blanket statement like Mark, as there are too many variables.

I am glad the rules they have established work for them. I have been told that the age of 12 should be the lower limit and most trainers try for 16 years of age, but will work with lower ages depending on the person and the dog. Some dogs trainers use are smaller dogs that do not weigh as much. Those in the mobility area are often much heavier and most trainers will not work with person younger than 16. The trainer I am familiar with has only made two exceptions in almost 20 years. One was 14 and the other was 12. Both already had the dogs of choice and had a good working relationship with the dog.

The guideline for having diabetes for one year sounds reasonable. I know that many organizations prefer that the person have type 1 diabetes and have hypoglycemia unawareness to be considered, but not in all cases. I am not aware of people with type 2 diabetes being eligible for diabetes service dogs from most organizations.

This has to be the exception to most diabetes service dog placement agencies. This seems unsustainable. Nadia: What are the fees associated with getting a service dog? Susan: A D4D service dog is valued at approximately $35,000 to $45,000 by the time it's placed with its diabetic team partner. The total cost to the person with diabetes for a dog currently is $150, which covers an application processing fee and training supply costs.” I also wonder if there are other costs not mentioned.

Susan is correct in her following statement and it is a shame that a few of these businesses are not exposed for the frauds they are. Susan: There's a growing number of organizations, as well as trainers, claiming to provide service dogs to assist people with diabetes. Some are successful, while many others are not. Training methodology, client services, including client training, follow-up and continuing care, and costs-up to $50,000 a dog-create a confusing variation in outcomes. At times there have been disturbing misrepresentations in the industry, resulting in broken promises to consumers. D4D's goal as an industry leader is to leverage its expertise to set and maintain standards and educate the public.”

I wish them success. I just hope that they would have included more information on their web site. It is there, but the information is minimal at best.