When travelling by air you can prepare your service dog ahead of time to reduce the stress for you both. Airline travel is not suitable for dogs that are anxious, do not like small spaces, crowds or are sound-sensitive.

Specific Basic Skills Dog needs:

  • allowing self to be patted down by security staff which may include use of the wand. (Alternatively, taking off all harnesses etc., that may contain metal and pass through the metal detector on her own)
  • pee and potty promptly on cue (ideally on a variety of surfaces and over a grate) (Can also carry potty pads or child diapers for emergencies. Easy clean-up and disposal.)
  • curl up in tight spaces for long periods of time (start shaping the dog to go into a box then a round space such as laundry basket)
  • ignore other people eating off trays in close proximity
  • recognize that a familiar mat means calm relaxed behaviour
  • be comfortable with the sound of pop cans being opened nearby
  • stay calm in the presence of loud roaring sounds and vibrations
  • ignore the 'ding dong' sounds of the stewards making announcements
  • teach dog to follow a chin rest or nose target so you can walk dog naked through metal detector rather than be patted down with gear on.
  • can wear mutt muffs for at least for take off and landing (sound is louder then)

 

Here are some tips:

  • Practice a variety of modes of transport that mimic different aspects of plane travel (elevator for air pockets, laying on bus floors for vibrations, train travel for tight spaces. etc.).
  • Practice in a local airport before ever getting on a plane
  • Do shorter practice runs if you plan on traveling for long trips especially with layovers.
  • Don't count on having enough time to potty your dog outdoors between plane changes (training the dog to pee on pee pads or in floor grates is handy at airports).
  • Take toys and treats for long trips so you can break up long stationary periods.
  • Teach simple tricks or games that can be done in a small space (nose target, 4 foot paw lifts, retrieve keys etc)
  • Carry a familiar mat with you so the dog has a place all his own.
  • Practice staying in small spaces for increasingly longer time periods (Place a couch or chair facing a wall to mimic the space under and in front of an airline chair).
  • Learn to read your dog to watch for signs of stress and knowledge of low key ways of relieving that stress (such as chewing a bone or toy on take off, playing a gentle tug game, using a massage, etc.)
  • Pack a clean up kit: disposable baby diaper, paper towels and wet towelettes to do clean ups.
  • Make sure you have all required documents
  • Read each airlines guidelines for service dogs on their website to make sure you notify them in the amount of time they request and that your dog qualifies as a service dog
  • Carry your medication on you, not in the dogs vest or pack
  • Prepare for other dogs and kids in your dog's personal space

    Here is a link to guidelines airlines in Canada must follow for service dogs. They have a descriptive section for how huch space each dog needs to be given by size of dog. 

    Think about if or not you want to restrict food before flying if your dog has a queasy stomach at all. 12-24 hours may be recommended depending on how long the flight is. Take some ginger with you if he has a queasy stomach or you hit some air pockets.


    Haley Mauldin shared her first experience flying with her SD. Here is what she wrote!

I thought I would share some of my experiences from flying for the first time with my SD. Other people’s posts about this had really helped me so I thought I would add!

Things I did to Prepare:
• Played youtube videos of planes taking off through the speakers in the car (good way to get them used to how loud the plane is especially during take-off and landing).
• Did a lot of tuck practice in small spaces.
• Practiced putting Morgan in a sit wait (I use a wait command and a stay command depending on the situation), walked away from him, then stopped, turned around, and called him to me immediately into a sit stay. We did this with a lot of distractions.
• Use the bathroom on command.

Our Experience:
• I flew Southwest, when I bought the ticket I said I was flying with a trained assistance animal, I had no trouble at the counter and didn’t get asked for anything (I was, however, using Morgan’s pull strap due to a recent dizzy spell so I think they assumed he was a SD not an ESA).
• Went on Morgan’s first shuttle thing through the airport, something we hadn’t really prepared for but he did fine.
• When we got to security we went through a different line a little ahead of everyone because they had a working bomb sniffing dog and didn’t want him to get distracted by Morgan.
• We went through the metal detector separately. Really glad we practiced in highly stimulating environments because there were two ESAs losing their minds over Morgan just on the other side of the metal detector.
• I went through and they swabbed my hands then had me call Morgan through but I couldn’t take his leash until they had the results from the swabbing so it was good that we had practiced him coming to me and immediately sitting.
• I didn’t take his vest off when we went through but wish we had because Morgan carries two sets of medications of mine in his vest and they had to pull them out of his vest and examine them, in the future I will just take his vest off and send it through the scanner.
• On the other side of security we ran into the two ESAs on flexi leashes that were barking and running up to Morgan and one started snapping at Morgan so I switched sides with Morgan and body blocked them from Morgan (he did great ignoring them).
• My flight ended up getting delayed an extra hour because of a storm over the airport. All in all Morgan ended up going nine and a half hours without a bathroom break. The morning we flew I only gave him his breakfast and let him drink water until about noon (we got to the airport at 4:00pm). I’m really glad I didn’t feed him after that. On the plane I gave him a little water and some of his kibble to tide him over.
• We loaded onto the plane after those in wheelchairs and were given bulkhead seating. Thinking back on it I’m really glad we took the bulkhead seating as it allowed Morgan to do paws up DPT while we were flying which I don’t think he would have been able to do in a regular seat. He, however, wasn’t too fond of not being able to tuck under but it ended up working!
• I brought his small dog bed that rolls up for him to lay on (I use it when we go to class so he knows exactly where to go).
• When it came time for takeoff Morgan checked in with me a few times and I gave him a little kibble to get his jaw moving to try to help with the pressure changes in his ears just to be safe.
• He checked in a few times with me at first but then relaxed. 
• When it came time to get drinks I got ice water and gave Morgan a couple of ice cubes (he loves them) which I felt he deserved and was a good way to give him water without having to worry about spilling.
• The one thing I wish I had done a little more exposure with was the opening of soda cans. I don’t drink much soda so Morgan wasn’t really familiar with the sound and they were opening all of the cans on the other side of the thin wall right in front of where he was laying. He was fine but a bit confused at first so something we are going to work on.
• Morgan did a few alerts and DPT during the flight and then really just slept the rest of the time. I brought his sweater but didn’t end up using it.
• All in all the flight ended up being almost six hours with around nine and a half hours between the plane and airport. 
• Got the usual comments about “what’s wrong with you?” “Who trains pitbulls to be service dogs?” “Are you blind?” “Who are you training him for?” But I have my canned responses so I just used those and moved on.

 
Thanks for sharing Haley!
If you are travelling with your service dog, there are some things you need to consider:


1. Availability of your dog's regular food in the location you are visiting. Check ahead to see if the same suppliers are located where you intend to travel. If not, who does supply your brand and where are they located in relation to where you are staying? If you feed raw, find out where pet stores, butcher shops and grocery stores that supply your type of meat are at your destination. Use your regular treats, as treats your dog has not eaten before may cause digestive upset.


2. Keep the food (and treats) in its original bag so you have an ingredients list to refer to if you find you have to do an emergency food switch due to no supply. Try to match the list as closely as possible.


3. Crossing Borders: if you are crossing international borders, be aware that different countries have different laws regarding what pet and human foods they will allow in. And find out what Canada will allow back in as well. Do your research before you travel. If going into the US from Canada, for example, kibble and treats that are not in their original bag will most likely be confiscated and thrown out. Anything with beef in it that is made in Canada (or any country other than Canada) will be confiscated. US brands that have been imported into Canada are usually exempt. (i.e. if they recognize it as a product originating in the US, they are more lenient.) In any case, it's a good idea to check into #1 above in case they take it from you.


4. Train your dog to eat a variety of foods at home so he can eat them if you run out while away from home. For example, if you run out of food at your destination and it will be longer than the dog missing one meal, it may safer as well as more convenient to cook up some ground beef or chicken breast with rice or oatmeal and feed that for a few meals to tide the dog over. Working dogs should not be skipping meals as they rely on the energy to keep working both mentally and physically. If the dog has eaten these foods before, he shouldn't suffer digestive upset. Staying in a hotel with a dog who has diarrhea is no fun and can cost you money for clean-up. And you may not be able to tell if he's picked up a bug or eaten something he shouldn't have.


5. If you feed raw, and are crossing an international border, consider switching back to kibble or canned for convenience. Fresh meat, fruits, and veggies in any form are not allowed to be taken across most borders. Some forms may be allowed but look into the details (dehydrated, canned, processed, etc). The quality and safeness of raw meat (additives such as salt, dyes, hormones, antibiotics, and parasites) in another country may come into question, depending on where you travel.


Keep these tips in mind and you will enjoy your trip, knowing your dog can eat safe, familiar food.

 

Here is a great post on enrichment ideas for young puppies. It can be a challenge at some times of the year and in various locations to get the puppies out and about, or for some people training their own Service Dog to get out, so here is a great idea to start introducing different textures, sounds and movement at a young age.

http://www.avidog.com/articles/oh-what-fun-avidogs-adventure-box/

Since I've had several question about raising Service Dog puppies recently, here's a list of things to make sure your breeder does, in addition to the Early Neurological Stimulation Program:

General socializing: the Rule of 7s:

By the time a puppy is seven weeks old, he/she should have:

1. Been on 7 different types of surfaces: carpet, concrete, wood, vinyl,
grass, dirt, gravel, wood chips, etc....

2. Played with 7 different types of objects: big balls, small balls, soft
fabric toys, fuzzy toys, squeaky toys, paper or cardboard items, metal items,
sticks, hose pieces, etc....

3. Been in 7 different locations: front yard, back yard, basement, kitchen,
car, garage, laundry room, bathroom, crate, etc.....

4. Met and played with 7 new people: include children and older adults...

5. Been exposed to 7 challenges: climb on a box, go through a tunnel, climb
steps, go down steps, climb over obstacles, play hide and seek, go in and out of
a doorway with a step up or down, run around a fence, etc....

6. Eaten from 7 different containers: metal, plastic, cardboard, paper, china,
pie plate, frying pan, etc....

7. Eaten in 7 different locations: crate, yard, basement, laundry room, living
room, bathroom, etc...

Source unknown

Not all labs are equal.

Temperament and health problems are linked to the genetics of the 'silver' labs.
https://notosilverlabs.wordpress.com/2014/08/27/the-dilute-gene-in-labrador-retrievers-health-problems/

Interestingly, the few I have met locally all have had either skin issues or been over reactive dogs. Are you willing to put that much time and energy into a dog with health and temperament issues that may not make the grade as a service dog?

Do you research before you make your selection. Genetics are important!

Thursday, 02 November 2017 18:32

Service Dog Paid as Care Giver

Written by

In many parts of the world, a service dog is considered a valuable caregiver and are actually paid. The fee covered food and toys for the dog and saves the health system up to 29,000 pounds a year for a human caregiver.

And costs incurred may also be a deduction for income tax purposes for the handler in some countries. Check into it in your country.

In Canada, typically it is only the costs to maintain service dogs provided by non-profit societies that can be deducted, but save your receipts and ask your tax man in case the laws have changed in the last year. 
In the US, you can deduct the costs for an owner-trained service or assistance dog (but not an emotional support dog or therapy dog).


 

Alzheimer's Alert dogs are dogs that are trained to help the caregiver but also provide emotional support and companionship to the person suffering from Alzheimer's. In some cases, they can also lead a disoriented person home.

Some common tasks they are trained to do:

*Stay near the person with Alzheimer's Disease and interact with them for companionship.

*Alert the caregiver (usually a family member) when the person is on the move. For example, if the person gets out of their chair or out of bed, the dog goes and gets the caregiver to prevent wandering. The dogs are trained in the same way hearing alert dogs are. One specific sound the chair makes as the person stands up becomes the cue for the dog to run for help. It would be considered a 'one way alert' (one way alert video). If the dog needs to take the caregiver to the person, it would be called a 'two way alert' (two way alert video). If this occurs at night, the dog will also need to wake the sleeping caregiver.

For our sound alert video examples: replace the alarm clock sound with the chair squeaking the floor or the person's feet hitting the floor. The dog runs and finds the caregiver, gives the trained alert, and brings the caregiver back to the person with Alzheimer's disease.

*Since people with Alzheimer's also lose their sense of smell and do things that might cause them harm (such as burning food, overloading washing machines etc), the dog's nose can be used to alert the caregiver to these smells. Pair the scent of food burning in the microwave, or the burning rubber of a washing machine with the alert behavior and add distance from the caregiver. Train a two way alert so the caregiver knows where to go. Some dogs do these alerts naturally and their technique (alert behavior) can be refined.

*Push or nudge the person with Alzheimer's away from doors. If alarms are on the doors, go get the Caregiver.

*Remind the caregiver to help person with Alzheimer's take their medication.

*They can be trained to guide the person home if they become disoriented. Walking is a key way to decrease the need to wander. The "Home" cue has the dog lead the person safely home, navigating obstacles etc.

The temperament of an Alzheimer's Support/Alert Dog is key, as they must be very social and have high play drive, yet calm enough to lay for hours by the side of the Alzheimer's person. They must also be resilient to the rapid changes of mood displayed by some people with Alzheimer's.

I was recently asked how a person would go about finding a trainer that will help them to train their own service or assistance dog. Here is my answer.

Before you even get your dog, consult a trainer. They can help you find and assess the best candidate (puppy or adult dog) so you have the best success. Involve them in the process from the start!  They may offer puppy classes or can refer you to someone locally who does. They can help problem solve unwanted behaviors as well as train the basics and more advanced including tasks. And they can help prepare your dog for public access. Using web cams and mobile devices, this person can be anywhere in the world and can go with you in public places too. In-person carefully structured classes are ideal, of course, for teaching your puppy and dog to focus on you in the presence of other puppies and dogs.
 
The first assumption is that the trainer needs to be an experienced service dog trainer. While this is helpful, this is not necessarily true. The most important part of a service dog is that the dog can pass the public access test. Here's another link: IAADP 

This means the dog must behave appropriately (calmly, no barking etc) in public, be able to perform common cues (sit, down, wait, leave it etc) and not be fearful or aggressive towards people, animals and the wide array of situations s/he will be faced with when assisting their handler in public. This is the hardest (and often the longest) part of the training so choose a trainer that is going to set you and your dog up to succeed and you will look forward to working with them in the long-term. If they would like to talk to me about the process, learn about laws etc, have them book a consult with me to ask all their questions. You can find another trainer online who specializes in training the tasks once your dog is well on his way to being able to do public access or check out the task classes we offer.
 
1. Start by looking for a trainer that fits your personal training philosophy for both you and your dog. You will be working with this person or company for the next 2 years or more, so choose one who you get along with. Take a set of 4 classes with them before you commit to big amounts up front. That gives you both time to see if you get along. Consider both in-person and online trainers. If you live rurally, going to weekly classes may not be possible. You may live where you can't find a trainer you like. Online classes might be the best for you and your dog so you can learn the skills before you go to class and use it to reteach the behaviors in the presence of higher level distractions (other people and dogs).

a) Ask around (friends with dogs, dog clubs, veterinarian etc). Check the internet for trainers near you.
There are several directories to help:

Regional Training Associations such as:

Vancouver Island Animal Training Assoc (VIATA) in BC

I
nternational Training Organizations
CPDT-KA
IMDT 

Choosing a trainer that uses positive reinforcement allows you to build a strong bond and create a confident and eager worker willing to take risks during learning. A trainer who understands how to correctly apply the 'quadrants and principles of operant conditioning' will help to ensure they understand how to break behaviors into small enough steps so your dog will be successful at each step. Dogs that get frustrated or who are punished (corrected) typically shut down and do not offer the creative and intelligent behavior choices a service dog will need to offer during his/her career. Look for an "About" page on their website. It should outline their training philosophy and techniques, maybe even mentors. If it doesn't mention their approach or methods, then ask.
 
Do be aware the term "positive" is applied in many ways, so just because a trainer calls themselves "positive" does not mean you will get one that uses primarily reinforcement-based training. "Balanced" trainers use a combination of both positive reinforcement and correction-based approaches (positive punishment). Dominance-based trainers tend to use force, physical manipulation and intimidation (such as invasion of the dog's personal space) to get behaviors, much emphasis is placed on verbal praise, and the use of food or toys is rare. The use of electronic (shock) collars and prongs has also been labelled positive. The are not wrong, in fact they are 'positive punishment' which is what we want to avoid when teaching people and dogs. Positive punishment is the addition of something the dog doesn't like in order to stop a behavior.
 
b) Since you are the other half of the service dog team, the trainer will need to be able to anticipate and accommodate your needs as well. How do they interact with you personally? Are you comfortable with them? What training have they done to learn how to train people? TAG teach (Teaching with Acoustic Guidance) is a good certification to have. Training as a teacher is handy. Training in ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) is a bonus as is a person with a Master's degree in Behavioral Psychology. Anyone that has worked with children or people with special needs or disabilities (and enjoyed it) may be a good choice as they understand how to adapt their training to your needs. What teaching experience have they had?  Choose someone that can provide structure, is organized, and can keep you on track since the process can take up to 18 months or more. 
 
2. Next, look at their dog training credentials. Is the trainer a current member of any recognized training associations? Are they members of any service dog related organizations like the International Association of Assistance Dogs Partners IAADP or International Association of Applied Behavior Consultants IAABC? Do your research on the internet and find out the methods endorsed by these organizations.

Have they taken training or been certified by a recognized organization? Are they a tester or instructor for any? Which ones? Do they participate in regular (at least annual) professional development? (That is, keeping current on new ways to teach both you and the dog?) It might be in-person workshops or seminars, could be on-line learning or even purchasing books and DVD's, reading magazines etc. Are they a leader in their field and teach others?
 
3. Do they have an area of specialty? This will be one or two areas they have a greater knowledge of due to either a special interest or more experience (might be puppies, fearful dogs, aggressive dogs, working with children, service dogs, etc). Trainers that list many "specialities" are likely using them as keywords on their site to be found by search engines. They need not have a specialty for a specific type of service dogs as the foundation for all of them are the same. You can work with another trainer who has expertise in your specific disability when training the specific tasks you need. That can start down the road once your dog is comfortable working in public. Most tasks are comparatively easy to teach. The hard part if helping the dog learn to gneralize them (perfrom them in many different locations).
 
4. When you have narrowed your list to 2 or 3 possible trainers, ask them some questions. Talk to them in person, on the phone, or via video chat. E-mailing is usually too time-consuming. Make an appointment to ensure they have time to talk to you. Explain that you are doing research to find a suitable trainer to help you train you and your service dog for the behaviors in the Public Access Test.
 
a) Ask them who handles the dog. If at any time does someone other than you (dog's partner) handle the dog? In what situations? Are you comfortable with that?

b) What type of training equipment do they use (collars, harness, food, objects, people etc.) 
Some collars use force and punishment (prong, choke, e-collar) while others are designed to avoid that (head collars, front clip harnesses) but still give you more control over the dog's behavior. The use of a non-restrictive body harnesses is preferred. Head halters need to be specifically conditioned on the dog and they train you to use them properly, avoiding jerking or lifting in their use. A flat collar is used for tags. R+ trainers will not use choke chains, prong collars, electronic (shock) collars or harnesses that tighten on the dog like some front clip harnesses. Also watch how they use the tools. A leash can be used aversively by popping or jerking, or can be used as an emergency back-up only. The latter is what you want to aim for.

c) Where do they train with you? At your home? Their facility? Public places later on? 
 
d) If a dog doesn't do what they want, how do they respond? For example, if they ask the dog to sit and he doesn't. Answers will vary from 'make him', 'push his butt down', to 'start with where the dog is at (assess for understanding, distractions, stress level etc) and train from there'. The second answer is preferred.)
 
e) Can they list 5 calming signals given by dogs in a stressful situation? If they don't know what signals a dog uses to communicate stress (look away, whale eye, yawning, lip licks, sniffing, avoidance etc), this is not a good sign as they probably also don't understand thresholds.
 
f) Can they tell you when the various fear periods are in a dog's development? These will affect performance during training, especially during adolescence. (fear periods are 8-11 weeks, 4 to 8 months, 6 to 14 months)
 
g) Do they do an assessment of the abilities of you and your dog? It might a verbal or a practical or both.
 
h) Do they offer semi-private or private lessons if needed?

i) How do they deal with aggression and fear? Listen for methods to reveal their knowledge level as much as a general approach. Methods such as forcing a dog to endure something it is afraid of (called flooding) or correcting the dog for growling or barking (called positive punishment) etc is now recognized as being damaging to both the dog and the relationship. Adding distance between the trigger until the dog stops reacting and using food or play to change how the dog feels are accepted ways to deal with fear or aggression.

j) What teaching methods do they use to help you learn how to teach your dog? Verbal explanations, visual info (posters etc), demonstrations with their own dog, demo with your dog, mirrors, video recording of training sessions, written logs and /or journals, step by step videos, reading assignments, handouts? Is it okay if you write things down?

k) As they explain what they do, listen very closely to the language they use. "The dog MUST Do...", "We use only praise", "You push the dog's bum down",  "The dog is being dominant" or "Your dog is part of your pack" rings alarm bells in a handler looking for a positive reinforcement approach. A trainer who recognizes that a dog (and their human) always has a choice in the behaviors they do during learning is one who may understand how a dog learns. One of those choices is to say "No." Words like "luring", "capturing" and "shaping" are good ways to get behavior.
 
l) What will they do if your dog develops fears or aggression? What setups they use to retrain this? Do they use controlled situations (lots of distance, or visual barriers, use fake dogs or dolls for children (called decoys) to start the dog well below fear threshold. Do they use muzzles if necessary?

m) Can they tell you what under threshold, counter conditioning, systematic desensitization, Behavioral Adjustment Training (BAT), Look at That (LAT) mean? 

n) Ask them names of authors and other dog trainers they emulate. Research them to see how positive they are. Some names (in no particular order): Paul Owens, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell, Denise Fenzi, Grisha Stewart, Kathy Sdao, Nando Brown, Coppinger's, Steve White, Jesus Rosales-Ruiz, Emma Parsons, Sue Ailsby, Pamela Dennison, Victoria Stillwell, Leslie McDevitt, Silvia Trkman, Emily Larlham, Eva Bertilsson, Melissa Alexander, Steve Dale.

o) How knowledgeable/open are they to using additional approaches such as Tellington Touch (TTouch), body wraps, massage, recorded sounds, flower essences, etc.

p) Ask what they believe the social structure of dogs is. The most current research indicates dogs have a very loose social structure based on avoidance of confrontation and maintaining social peace. They DO NOT live in a dominance hierarchy, nor in packs. The most recent understanding of dominance is that it occurs in specific situations between two dogs over a single resource. It is not a personality trait. Typically trainers who believe in social hierarchies will also use force and correction during training. Research also indicates the use of both positive reinforcement and correction/positive punishment together is very confusing to dogs and results in less learning.
 
5. Go back and review the info you have gathered about each trainer. Which might be a good fit for you? Find out by watching classes at different levels (beginner, intermediate and advanced) to see what both dogs and handlers can do). The trainer should allow you to watch for free to help you decide if you like their teaching approach to dogs and people. Ensure that the trainer you watch is the one you will be working with. Take notes so you can compare them later. Record things you like as well as concerns you have. The trainer should be able to address to your satisfaction any concerns that may affect your service team's experience. Note things like, do they talk with each person? Can s/he recognize that a student is having trouble and help them to be successful in that lesson? Are the lessons structured for a group or individuals? Did the trainer do a demonstration with a dog first? Did the trainer use visuals or props? Did she talk the class through each step?
 
6. While at the class, evaluate their training location for your needs. Look for wheelchair accessible washrooms, ramps, acoustics, temperature, lighting, windows etc.  What specific things will you need that aren't there? Is the trainer willing to make alterations? Will the facility work long-term for you and your dog?  Think about the colder seasons too.

7. How big are the classes? Smaller is better. Classes of 4-6 dogs are ideal to start. Larger can be chaotic, even if there is more than one instructor. If they have 12 or more dogs in a large space, even with a second trainer, it probably isn't the class for you as you won't get enough personal interaction with the trainers and it is harder to see and hear and understand in larger classes with the instructor standing far away especially with poor acoustics. If this is the only option, start with private classes so you and your dog already know the behaviors before taking group classes. That way, you can work on using the class to add distractions, rather than having them work against you while learning new behaviors.
 
8. Get references and ask previous clients questions about the training process, effectiveness of the trainer, ability to adapt training to the person or family's special needs etc.
 
9. Use all of what you found and how you feel about the trainer to decide if s/he is a good match for you and your dog.
 
10. Book several classes and see how they go. Re-evaluate after the sessions are over. What progress did you and your dog make? How did you feel about the sessions?  Can you work with this trainer in the long run?
 
11. Keep your research records as you may need one trainer to help with the basics, another to help with the specific service tasks and still another to help as specific challenges crop up. If you learn to trust them, this gives you a support system to draw from.
 

While scientists do not yet understand the exact trigger* (see below) that dogs recognize to know a seizure is coming, they do know that the foundation of response training is simple: reward a behavior the dog does (pawing, grabbing sleeve, getting agitated in any way, barking, licking, etc) while the owner is having a seizure. This is called a conditioned response. A dog trained this way is called a seizure response dog, one that responds to the seizure as it is happening.

seizure alert dog is able to predict that the seizure is coming. Some dogs appear to have this as an innate ability while others can develop it. This is not something that can be trained so far as we know today. What may happen over time is the seizure response dog learns to look for smaller and smaller clues (whatever they are) to predict the seizure will happen so they can get rewarded sooner (an example is a dog that is fed on a regular schedule that starts 'asking' for supper earlier and earlier.) Some dogs can predict seizures up to 45 minutes in advance.
(Source: European Journal of Epilepsy Seizure Brown, Steven W, Dr. & Val Strong 1999)

BC Epilepsy Society defines the difference between the two dogs:

"Alert Dogs – are dogs that sense their owner is about to have a seizure and by exhibiting strange behavior (e.g. running in circles) let the owner know this so they may prepare themselves. They will stay with their owner and perform seizure assist duties as well. They can be trained to go for help as well..."
 
"Assist Dogs aka Seizure Response Dogs – gives a sense of security to their owner while having a seizure and perform medical assist duties if necessary..."


from: http://www.bcepilepsy.com/files/PDF/Information_Sheets/Seizure_Response_Dogs.pdf

Of course, training a seizure response dog is more complicated than simple behavior conditioning. In order to be a valid service dog in any jusidiction, the dog also needs to have all the foundation behaviors, such as basic obedience behaviors, being calm in public, ignoring distractions like food, kids, other dogs, cats, and people, plus it is recommended to have at least 3 specially-trained behaviors such as responding to the seizure by providing comfort, getting help, pressing an emergency alarm, dragging harmful objects away from the person as they are having a seizure, carrying information about the handler's medical condition, rolling them over to prevent airway blockages, blocking the person from falling down stairs, helping to re-orient the person as they come out of their seizure, helping the person to stand after a seizure (called bracing), guiding their disoriented person to a predetermined location for help, or reminding their person to take their medication regularly. 

Not all dogs seem to be able to predict seizures. Some studies suggest only 10-15% of dogs can alert to seizures before they occur. Success may depend on the type of seizures the owner  is having. Psychological seizures are induced by stress and epileptic seizures cause a change in the chemistry in the brain. For some seizure suffers, having an alert dog can lead to less frequent seizures. Further research still needs to be done in all these areas.

Even if a service dog does not learn to alert to a seizures, their handler can still benefit from the dog as s/he can stay with the person and comfort them as they recover (by laying beside them), lick them as they re-orient, or go get help as the seizure is happening (or the other tasks listed above). Of course, seizure response dogs offer constant emotional support as well.

Is it possible to train your own seizure response dog? Yes, if you have frequent seizures (I.e. your seizures are not being well-controlled by medication, some studies suggest once a month or more) and you have help from a person who can reward the dog while you are having a seizure (or you have regular access to a person who has seizures frequently.)

Update: A small group of individuals interested in testing what might be the biological cue for the dog to alert have discovered that it is likely something in the scent given off by a person who is about to have a seizure.

Here is what one of the members wrote me:
"Seizure Alert Project Phase
1: An empirical study of the capture, preservation and measurable use of seizure scent for training purposes
Anyway…….I firmly believe that 1) there IS an odor,
2) it can be captured and stored
3) the dogs can be trained to distinguish it and alert to it.
Just like every other scent driven alert, the difficulty in testing is locating donors and obtaining odor for training. "

Contact Lynn Shrove for more information on what they found. 

Here's an interesting article that shows behavioral and physical traits in a dog may predict his or her success as a service dog. Something to pay attention to when selecting your next dog! Front paw preference (right or left), eye preference (left or right is the more dominant one) and hair swirls (clockwise vs counter-clockwise) could be key in pre-determining the success of your canine partner as a your service dog. According the to the results of her study off 115 guide dogs, it could be key. 

According to the article, the perfect candidate for Guide Dog school would be right-pawed, left-eyed with an anti-clockwise whorl. 

Assuming the experimenter is correct about the use of dogs on the right side of the handler, left-handled handlers may be better to choose a right-eyed dog and train them to work off their right (as in heel on the right), which in left hand-drive countries, would be safer anyway since the dog would be away from traffic. 

Link to the article

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