Recently I have experienced an influx of people asking questions about “natural alerts”. Let me say I think that is the WRONG WORD for this. It is not some strange unnatural phenomenon…it is more than likely a trained response to a situation….we just had no clue what we were teaching/training the dog at the time. Even more interesting is that I believe this “alert” was trained through negative stimuli which most people that work with scent say NEVER PUT A NEGATIVE WITH A SCENT!
I have been in the dog world a very long time. I took my first steps holding on to a dogs collar. I have to tell you growing up on a farm, that todays more humane practice, were far more old school. Both with kids and animals! You did it because you were told you too! And if you didn’t there were consequences! I am not ashamed to admit this…..sometimes I didn’t do things because I was worried about what my parents might do or say! Over time ….my thoughts began to change to more motivational methods in teaching. I want to my dogs to make good solid choices in what they do! I want a dog that thinks for themselves but that are also team players! I want my dogs to know I am very proud of them when they do it right and am disappointed when they do it wrong! Not angry just that I disapprove!
Dogs are pack animals by nature! Most dogs generally what to be with their people! As with anything there are exceptions to this but every wonderful dog quote out there speaks to a dogs loyalty and devotion.
I went on a mission to figure out this so called “natural alerting”. A friend of mine spoke with a renowned trainer named Connie Cleveland. Ms. Cleveland had the following situation occur.
“Someone who had a “natural seizure dog” had recently got a new dog to train for seizure alert work as their first dog was getting up there in years! The new dog while doing wonderful in every other area was not alerting nor even showing interest. So they decided they needed more help and went to Ms. Cleveland. After a lengthy interview it became clear to Ms. Cleveland what was occurring. The first dog was in the home when the seizures first started occurring. At first the every time the young girl had a seizure, the whole family would go into a panic! (Rightly so) It was do this, do that! DOG GET! DOG MOVE! DOG KENNEL! DOG GO OUT! The dog was always pushed away in the excitement of dealing with the seizure! Dogs by nature are pack animals and very often are not very happy being pushed away. They want to be with their owners. So the dog (pretend you hear a dogs voice) says: ”I just want to be with my girl…why do you push me away? How about if I do the exact same thing every time? What if I lay on top of you and REFUSE to move no matter what you tell me !” Finally someone in the family observes that this dog is VERY clingly to the young girl right before a seizure occurs! The family begins to document what the dog is doing and sure enough, the dog was alerting! Eventually the family begins to really trust and rely on this dog! He is really good at alerting, to the point that the young girl when she sees the alert, goes to the car and seat belts self in, has seizure and goes on with life. Fast forward 10 years or so…the dog is getting old, so they try to replace the old dog, but it isn’t going so well ….WHY? Ms. Cleveland believes that it is because THE PARTY went away! Most people would gasp, ”how could anyone call caring for someone a seizure a party?” Dogs don’t think or see PARTY….they feel energy. There is a lot of energy put out there when a seizure is occurring.” The dog learned to a lot because it didn’t like being PUSHED AWAY!
So now lets talk about Bravo and Cheveyo! We could even talk about Loco, Hooter, Opie, and Crunch…but I was way to stupid of a dog trainer back then to recognize what they were doing. It took age and time! If you have followed this blog you have read the story of the first time I recognized Bravos alert. If not you can read it here: http://diabeticalertdogjourney.blogspot.com/2010/02/alert-stories.html . As I thought about what Ms. Cleveland had told my friend I realized that is EXACTLY what I had done with my Bravo and all the other dogs before him. It went like this: Dogs would be usually one on my lap or next to me in chair, and the other laying on my feet on the floor. I might be on computer or watching TV and they would be napping. I would move to grab that black thing (my BG meter) and they would both wake up. They would then smell blood as I checked my numbers. Then if I were ok I would shut it and lay back on table but if I were off (low) I would most often swear, PUSH DOGS OFF ME, and go running for the kitchen to get food. Think about that a minute! DO you see it? I pushed them off! I pushed them away! Both Bravo and Cheveyo are very sensitive dogs to that sort of stuff. But I was not bright enough to see it! It took Bravo doing some CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE for me to see it. Then I wanted to KNOW WHY!!!!!!!!!
As I have gotten more and more involved with the Diabetic Alert Dog world I have seen civil disobedience often being the very start to a dog alerting! Sometimes they forget every command they know and sort of spaz out. Other times they are antsy. Still other times it is like they are searching for some unknown thing! Different dogs offer different behaviors to tell you something is off. As we begin to figure out the dogs KNOWS the scent we then begin to clarify HOW the dog can tell us we are off.
Bravo uses many ways to amp his alert. Sometimes if I am aware it is just subtle eye contact, if I am walking he will come across me and wont let me move. He will often grab a bringsel or my meter. He has progressed to the point that I can ask him what it is once I see the alert and he will BOW for a low and WAVE for a high. A few times he has actually WAVED made eye contact then BOWED. I was high but dropping fast…again he figured that out on his own! I am still working on the answer to that!
Recently while at a family gathering for my mothers 80th birthday, we were sitting at the breakfast table. Mom was dinking in the kitchen while my sister and I were chatting at kitchen table. My sister is also diabetic. We were talking away when my 80 year old mother who has never had a house dog in her entire life, who usually tells all her friends that my dogs can do amazing tricks…exclaims “YOU GIRLS NEED TO CHECK YOUR SUGARS, CAUSE THAT DOG IS GETTING AGITATED! This is my mother…bless her heart…I would have never considered one of her abilities to be the power of observation.
Any how the moral of all of this OBSERVE YOUR DOG, NEED TO KNOW WHY, BE PATIENT AND PERSISTENT and some day you too will have the “AH HA” moment of so THAT IS WHY MY DOG DOES THAT!