Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The difference between "started" and "prepared" diabetic alert dogs...

I refuse to say "finished" dogs. The new term (per almighty me) is "prepared"... We (I) also have been known to throw around the description "mature" for these dogs with 2yrs of age in mind, when I've come to find that most handler's don't think (their labs pipe down) until 4yrs of age!

Now with that cleared up: There are a few options on how to go about getting your dog..."IMHE" (In My Humble Experience and observations of the "norm" in this industry...)

1. Puppy scent imprint (or not) and raise them yourself, or with the help of a trainer or service dog organization (note: I did not mention DAD organization specifically- keep your options open!)

  • Obedience training is key this first year. Whoever does it most is who the dog is going to possibly bond and connect with, so parents keep this in mind as you raise pups for your children. Labs and certain breeds are known to "convert" easily from bonding with one person to another...so make sure you are getting good counsel and keep in mind if and when your dog is ready for scent work, that your diabetic NEEDS to be HEAVILY involved...
  • Scent imprinting is adding to the "stacking your deck" theory. Not every dog needs it, nor does it make your experience "fire-proof", yet certain breeds and puppy-temperament testing may include this technique that has not been discredited and is highly controversial.
  • What is puppy-temperament testing? It's how to "pick" a confident, good pup from a litter. Good working lines and papers DO NOT always equal a successful litter of working pups. Again, it's a "stack the cards in your favor" strategy...
2. Leave that first year of work to a DAD org, or a service dog training facility and then receive a "started dog" around any stage of puppy. This would be like missing the infant stage and getting a baby. The sleepless nights and diapers every 2hrs is over, but there is still A LOT of work to be done.
Courtesy of Highland Springs Pet Services (.com)
  • Scent work needs to start at this point, and obedience work must be followed up and carried out. This is not an easy stage in the dog's life to take them on if you do not have full disclosure of what it will mean. Be prepared. Have your follow-up resources in place. TOP 5 Reasons DADs turn into expensive pets...
3. A "prepared dog" may be older and "done" but you are getting a walking toddler. (If they come from a DAD organization). The concepts of past year/s are coming together into a developmental progress that is outstanding, but still has its moments of tumble. DO NOT GET COMFORTABLE thinking an older dog won't require any less of the work as the type mentioned above. You still need to "baby proof" your home and stay diligent to follow through, give consequences, rewards, encouragement and SCENT WORK.  
  • The Super Sniffer: HANDBOOK by Debby Kay is a tool you want to acquire at any stage of the game; but especially now, as you fine tune this dog who has had a bit more time to mature. They aren't quite there yet, but have also had more time to fine tune their public access skills depending on how they were trained.
No matter how you go about this, know that the bond with your dog is most important. 
  • Do you LOVE this dog? Does your kid? 
  • Are you able to send scent and items that help the dog train (if you are doing it from afar)...can you visit in the meantime? 
  • Are there opportunities for you to "preview" an org, or learn their methods before you commit? DOES THE STAGE OF YOUR DOG matter to your family/will it make an impact?
Good luck on your journey, and please comment your experience below! ~ Anna

DAD ORG viewing this? What terminology do you use and define your pups training/obedience benchmarks by?
I have been told by a few orgs since this post their dogs at 12mo+ are "fully" trained, "finished", etc... I'd love to hear more of your feedback since every org is different and defines their expectations to clients differently.

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