Friday, January 2, 2009

3A. Selecting & Training a Service Dog puppy candidate

"I discovered your amazing training methods while searching for " trained diabetes alert dogs."  I am new to all of this.  Our 4.5 year old daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in November, 2010.   I have no idea where to begin.  Do you know of any reputable breeders and or trainers who will partially train diabetes alert dogs? I understand that much training will need to happen at home regardless, but just wondering what is available close to home."  Stephanie
What I would do is choose a breed (or mix) that suits your family and lifestyle. Look for sound health and temperament of the parents (health screens for any conditions that are typical of the breed), find a breeder that ensures the mother is not stressed during pregnancy, does Early Neurological Stimulation etc.

The diabetic alert is the easy part to train (takes not many sessions for most dogs to get the hang of it. Generalizing it to other locations is the longer part.) The hardest part is getting the dog's behavior to a level suitable for public access (if you inted to certify) starting with Canine Good neighbor and continuing with a Public Access test. All service dogs needs to be bombproof in many environments, with people, other dogs etc.

I am not familiar with the certification requirements for your province as each one is different. Try contacting the Solicitor General's office as that is the body in BC.

Your best bet is to find a breeder who keeps the dogs to at least 9 weeks and starts socialization with kids, adults, lots of environmental enhancement such as moving the rearing box to different rooms, introduces different toys periodically, does early neurological stimulation that helps to create a more resiliant adult etc, then continue the pup's socialization. The goal is to set all positive experiences in the first 16 weeks of the pup's life. Meet at least 100 different people, visit different indoor and outdoor locations, different surfaces, sounds, sights, modes of transport, meet other dogs that are properly socialized and friendly (even if the final vaacinations have not yet been done), plus expose the dog to any environments you anticipate s/he will be exposed to during her lifetime. etc After the 16 weeks, it is important to maintain all this but not as intensive.

You can start the basic training (sit, down, leave it, targeting etc) as young as when you bring the pup home. Some clicker trainers start the pups at 4 weeks as soon as they can hear.

Here is a FREE e-book that helps you to select a service dog from various sources.

We help people viawebcam. You need a webcam with built in mic and highspeed internet. We follow Sue Ailsby's Training Levels as seen on post 15 of our blog.

Donna Hill
VIAD volunteer