Before we head off on our big road trip to Port Elizabeth with our toddler and our Keto pup, we thought we would share a quick update and maybe give a bit more insight into Keto's training and what it will mean for us having a Diabetic Alert Dog when he starts alerting to Harrison's highs and lows. Posts about Keto's training can be found under D.A.D. 101 - the abbreviation DAD obviously means Diabetic Alert Dog.
What is a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD)?
Simply put, a DAD is a dog that has been trained to alert for scent changes in the saliva of a Diabetic that are markers for a high or low blood glucose level. How he will alert depends on what we train him to do when he picks up on these scents. We are considering a high alert to be a nudge with his nose on our person, and a low to be a physical raising of the paw and prodding us with it - like a "hey you" prod.
In the context of our home, and the relationship that we have with dogs, Keto is going to be filling several roles. He is a companion for Harrison first and foremost. We are investing hugely into positively reinforcing good interaction between both Keto and Harrison. It's funny... Right now I am reading two books consecutively: Training your Diabetic Alert Dog by Rita Martinez & Susan M Barns, as well as New Toddler Taming by Dr Christopher Green. How apt that this is all happening at the same time! Training a Diabetic Alert Dog and Taming a Toddler! We believe there is a lot of value in the bond between doggie and kiddie and a lot can be learned from these relationships.
Why would we want a DAD for Harrison?
It goes without saying that whilst technology is so advanced there are still downfalls particularly with regards to an affordable Constant Glucose Monitoring (CGM) device that is 100% accurate, 100% of the time. That is unheard of. Harrison is also very young still (now 2 years old) and not yet fully able to let us know when he starts feeling a "high" or "low" glucose level coming on. CGM's are also not usually quick enough to alert in time to take action to curb the high or low without feeling the pressure of rushed treating.
Having a DAD will mean we have tighter control over these fluctuations in glucose levels which will inevitably promote a healthy and long life with fewer negative implications of Diabetes over a long period of time.
Without having to go into too much detail, the crux is that a well trained DAD will alert to a rapid fluctuation well before the CGM picks up the downward or upward trend. Time is of the essence in glucose control, especially in the "low glucose" realm. Hypoglycaemia can put patients at immediate risk of seizures and even comas. If not treated in time by quickly giving a dose of sugar, or in more dangerous situations the Glucagon pen, it may not end well. With a dog alerting to the trend, a patient can quickly test and administer the necessary glucose to curb it dropping out of the safe zone.
What we have accomplished so far?
Keto is 17 weeks old and has recently graduated from Puppy Classes with Adrienne's Puppy School based here in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal where we live. He was a star pupil and has an exciting little future ahead of him. He has been enrolled in obedience classes for next year and over the next few weeks we will be introducing a clicker into his training which will make the reinforcement of correct behavior easier especially as we start exposing him to new environments and of course, scent training and alerting for these scents.
Where we are heading?
As mentioned above we are going to commence scent training in the next few weeks with Keto. Things likely happen a lot slower in our home as we are training him ourselves with regards to the Diabetic Alerting at the same time as raising a toddler and of course working full time. Every morsel of time is essential so when there is a moment free we are trying our darnedest to get this right.