12 Responses

  1. Judi
    Judi August 7, 2013 at 6:56 am | | Reply

    How exactly does the dog “alert” you to a low?

  2. Tarra
    Tarra August 7, 2013 at 7:32 am | | Reply

    My dog Duchess alerts me low by licking my hand, then paws calf or leg and then proceeds to pawing chest. She will elevate the alerts to how fast things are moving. At work she alerts with a bringsel which a fabrics with Velcro which she pulls off my belt and will hold it in her mouth. My coworkers like a clear alert for them so the bringsel works very well. Each diabetic alert service dog teams I know all seem to customize their alerts to their personal needs. Our alerts have changed over the past three years.

  3. Anne
    Anne August 7, 2013 at 7:50 am | | Reply

    I want to put in a plug for self training a Diabetes Alert Dog and would caution people about going with an agency for one. Many agencies charge exorbitant prices and there have been many lawsuits around untrained/inadequately trained dogs.

    I worked with a trainer from the time before the puppies were born. She taught me the scent work, we had 8 weeks (2 hrs/week) of lessons from the time I took Roman home, and we have upkeep lessons. Roman and his littermates had a head start by being “scent imprinted” from birth with the low scent. His parents were carefully chosen, as they displayed even temperament and good health. All the puppies were also temperament tested.

    I took Roman home at 8 weeks and it was an intense period of training him myself, every day. He is now 14 months old and alerting to highs and lows! He is not perfect, but he amazes me when he beats my Dexcom and when I don’t even know I am low!

    KC Owens is a reputable breeder and scent imprinter of these dogs. She is also a trainer and can give you more info on this journey. is her website. She is also Type 1 herself, and has a passion for empowering others to train their own dogs.

    I was scared and reluctant to do this myself, but I have had an amazing support system via the internet so it CAN be done!

    Oh, and I selected my alerts for Roman. He paws for a low and bows for a high. He also will bring a bringsel, like Tarra’s dog does. He is also trained to ring a wireless doorbell.

  4. denise
    denise August 7, 2013 at 8:03 am | | Reply

    I get that nobody likes to support something without research, but I don’t get why it’s so hard for some ppl to believe that D alert dogs work–dogs sniff out drugs, bombs, firearms, allergens, bedbugs, gas leaks, and even seizures. Just b/c we can’t identify the exact smell it’s responding to doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. They can smell so much better than we can even understand so why would this be such a shocker? I mean, dogs heard sheep and sniff out truffles and even bring back dead ducks resisting the urge to eat them! They even use dogs for ppl with PTSD. I think this is a great use of a smart dog!

  5. justjenny
    justjenny August 7, 2013 at 10:21 am | | Reply

    I have been reading two great blogs about training diabetes alert dogs. I have learned a lot about how it all works and If I didn’t already believe in this type of service dog these two would make a believer out of me! They are and

  6. kathy
    kathy August 8, 2013 at 10:10 am | | Reply

    Thanks for posting this. And did you know that its International Assistance Dogs Week?!

    I would like to see a copy of the poster you talk about by Dr. Hardin. Is there some way to get a better more readable copy?

    1. Bill Quick
      Bill Quick August 9, 2013 at 8:14 am | | Reply

      Kathy: here’s the link and the abstract for the poster:
      Session: General Poster Session 2
      Abstract Number: 406-P
      Title: Can Diabetes Alert Dogs Truly Detect Hypoglycemia?
      Abstract: Our group previously documented the positive impact of a diabetes alert dog (DAD) on a diabetes patient’s quality of life. To our knowledge, no randomized controlled studies were published regarding the ability of DADs to detect hypoglycemia. Our current work aimed to test DADs in 2 controlled trials.
      Four service dogs from the Indiana Canine Assistance Network previously trained in both basic and advanced obedience and mobility assistance were placed in a hypoglycemia alert training program. The training introduced the dogs to perspiration and breath samples from patients with type 1 diabetes, followed by positive reinforcement for successful recognition (alert) of hypoglycemic (low) samples. For the purposes of the current 2 studies, samples were placed in separate cups on a randomization device (Lazy Suzan wheel). One cup contained the low sample, 3 contained normoglycemic samples from the same patient, and 3 contained gauze without samples. In both studies, 4 separate wheels, containing samples from 4 separate patients were used and dogs (study 1 n=2, study 2 n=4) replicated the search 2 times/wheel. The placement of the samples was based on a pre-specified randomization scheme.
      Sensitivity (proportion of correct alerts) and specificity (proportion of sniffs without alert on normoglycemic samples) were calculated after pooling data across all trials in both studies (2 dogs participated in both studies). Overall, the best dog performed at 71% (percent) sensitivity / 90% specificity. The dog with the poorest performance was 22% sensitivity / 75% specificity. This variability in dog performance reflects differences in training level and other individual animal characteristics.
      Our results demonstrate that DADs are able to identify chemical compounds specific to hypoglycemia and therefore be trained to alert to its presence. We are continuing studies to elucidate best practices for training DADs and ultimately to identify the chemical signature that the dogs are detecting.

  7. Myra
    Myra August 9, 2013 at 3:55 am | | Reply

    Not all diabetes alert dogs in training actually work out. My dog (whom I had for 6 months) was a heavy sleeper and refused to alert at night. She also was phobic about car rides. After spending thousands of dollars with a credentialed dog behaviorist (vet with PhD in animal behavior), it was recommended I return her. The agency would not allow me another dog – they said that MY “failure” indicated that I was not a good candidate for another dog. I am now self-training a rescued dog. I hope I am successful.

  8. Bill Quick
    Bill Quick August 9, 2013 at 8:18 am | | Reply

    I’d like readers to read my skeptical comments on this issue, at Diabetes Alert Dogs Don’t Detect Hypoglycemic Scent.

  9. Judith Jones Ambrosini
    Judith Jones Ambrosini August 13, 2013 at 6:51 am | | Reply

    I just returned from the AADE meeting in Philadelphia. While there I stayed at the home of fellow T1 friend. At 6 am one morning I woke up feeling a little low and checked my bg. It was 55. I went up to the kitchen where the family dog, Bentley, a golden retriever, stood at the basement door waiting for me. I have to admit I am a little aftraid of dogs since childhood. Bentley followed me to the fridge where I poured some juice to treat the low. When I sat at the kitchen table to recover he rested his rather large head on my lap and never left my side for the 10 minutes I sat there. I checked my bg agin and it was 80. When I went back downstairs to catch a little more shut eye Bentley followed me and sat on the floor next to my bed. When I awoke an hour later he was gone

    Later that morning I told my T1 friend what had happend. He said that several times Bentley woke him up during the night with a loud bark and nudge. When my friend got up to check, inevitably his bg was low.

    Now mind you this is a family dog, not trained to detect changes in blood glucose. It is by instinct only. I salute Bentley and all the other good dogs who aregood friends of PWD’s.

    That’s my sincere but very unscientific two cent comment.
    Judith Jones Ambrosini

    1. SR
      SR September 21, 2013 at 5:47 am | | Reply

      So you woke up, (on your own), went downstairs, the dog followed you to the fridge and therefore he gets credit for senses your low bg.
      Fairly low standard by any measure.

  10. Leann Harris
    Leann Harris August 19, 2013 at 10:48 am | | Reply

    I am very glad to see this topic being covered and that the word is spreading about hypoglycemic alert dogs. I have two alert dogs (one is going into retirement) and have encountered much misunderstanding over the years. I self trained, as when I was diagnosed I was already training Hearing Dogs and had resources to help me make the switch.
    I’m also glad to see others interested in working with a qualified trainer to help self train. While it is VERY demanding and VERY detail oriented, it’s also highly rewarding. Many people just don’t have the time, money and energy so I hope this awareness encourages other organizations to do more work with DADs.
    Judith, your experience is not uncommon, and I’m glad you could see clearly what the dog does for us. I’m very excited to meet others with alert dogs!

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