Monday, January 19, 2009

25A More on Training a Allergy Alert Dog-Passive Alert behaviors

When considering what alert behavior you want to train, here are some things to keep in mind:

*Alerts should be passive alerts. That is the dog finds the scent and indicates where it is without disturbing it. This is ideal for allergens as the handler does not want the dog to bring particles of the allergen back to them.

*Alerts should be a behavior you will clearly recognize as an indication the dog has found a sample of the allergen. If you choose a behavior that your dog commonly does, you may miss the alert. Choosing a down for a dog that lies down when waiting may not be a good choice. You could add on a specific behavior to the common behavior such as a paw cross if that behavior would be better for the environments you need the alert in. On the other hand, choosing a really showy behavior may draw unwanted attention to you and the dog.

*The behavior must be simple enough that you can figure out how to teach it to your dog. Having a long chain of behaviors (several behaviors in a row) as an alert can make it harder to train. Capturing a slightly unusual behavior your dog does can be an easy way to train and make it a more natural behavior for your dog.

*You must decide if you want the dog to alert the allergen at it source or come back to your side and then alert.

*For an allergic alert, the dog must not interact with the scent as you don't want her accidentally bringing it back on her paws or fur. If you dog tends towards using her paws, avoid paw-reated indications and the default behavior could easily return to pawing the scent. 

*How precise of a location alert do you need? Does the behavior allow the dog to indicate in a precise way or is a general presence/absence alert more what you need (as in allergens that travel in the air). Traces of allergens can be anywhere in the room from on the floor, on people, on door knobs and handrails, elevator buttons and even in the air (as in an airborne allergy).

*Choose a behavior that is not going to stress your dog's body if it will be repeated over and over (as it will be during training sessions). Your dog could easily do 80 to 100 repetitions (or more) in a day. 3 sessions of 30 repetitions= 90.

Here is a list of passive (allergy) alert behavior ideas: 

sit and paw lift
down and paw cross
nose nudge leg (or hand)

nose touch and hold on leg or hand (target spot must be accessible to dog at all times standing, sitting and laying down)
stand and scratch floor with paw (near but not on allergen)
stand and paw lift (point)
quiet talk (more of a conversational woo, woo-not barking)
beg (sit up pretty)
tipping head up (yes nod) or sideways (no)

chin on floor or chair holding still towards scent 
nose touch held in place without the physical contact
back leg lift/stretch

kicking with back legs (like after a defecation)
rear up and paw (ends up more of a dance where she places paws on my arm)
back away from allergen

bow and scooting back away from allergen
grab wrist/sleeve and lead you away
tug on a toy attached to your waist and lead you away
physically block you from allergen (stand stay crosswise in front of you that resists your forward movement)

Do you have other ideas? Share them by commenting below!


  1. Hi Donna,My name is Tina and I also have an owner SDIT..your helping to train ME before I get started on training my dog! It's helping me "retrain" myself.Could you please tell me how to start at the very beginning for the "bow" and how to teach that like you did the video on teaching to "touch"? I cant seem to find a blog or video on that actual subject..thank you SO much for all you do!

  2. Hi Tina, I captured the bow, but it can also be lured or shaped from a stand. Here is an example of capturing. Lucy does it every morning when she gets up so I was ready for her the night before by having treats and clicker where I could quickly reach it as I got out of bed.

  3. Hi Donna..Tina here again..thank you SO much for the I know how to "shape" the bow that my dog also does when playing, he kind of looks a little goofy when he does it though because at 11 months old he's an 80# Golden Retriever & his first birthday will be on the 25th of this month. Again thank you so much for your help!


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