Training your own diabetic alert dog

I am interested in training my own DAD. Because trained dogs are so expensive to purchase, some diabetics opt to train their own dogs. This thread is for those interested in, or have accomplished training their own dog.

This is my inquiry to the Canadian Foundation for Animal Assisted Support Services

Hi. I am a Type 1, Insulin dependent diabetic. I have been searching for trainers in Canada, and I am having a hard time finding any. The USA has lots of them, however, and Diabetic Alert Dogs are a valid category of service dog in the US.

Trained dogs, however, are very costly to purchase sometimes up to $10,000. The need is so great among diabetics, and diabetic children that it is staggering. Very few people can afford a trained dog.

I am looking into training my own dog through the help of a qualified DAD trainer in the US, but concerned about the limitations of Canada's service dog categories.

Is there anyone working on training these dogs (that save lives) in Canada?

Is Canada recognizing these DADs as a valid category of assistance dog?

Thank you for any information you can provide.

Mary McNeight, trainer from Washington State, runs the Service Dog Academy. She has some great information:

She is also setting up the Diabetic Alert Dog University. For those of us interested in a low-cost option for training our own dogs, this is GREAT NEWS!

Here is another good site about the training process.

I am very interested in learning how to do this too. I am only at the learning phase at this point, but believe that this site will help to guide me through the process.

It's a lot of work, and commitment. Some days lately I haven't felt very much energy, and I have been discouraged thinking maybe I can't do it.

I did talk to one trainer in the US that said they prefer to help you pick a dog to train. It seems some DAD trainers prefer certain breeds. Like, Labs, Labradoodles, and dogs that are a bit larger.

I live in Canada, and they tend to be behind the US in some things. This is one of those things. :-(

Best wishes to you, Kathy!

I have a natural alert DAD, a mini Dachshund named Maizie. You can read about her in my blog. I have however trained from scratch one of my Dachshunds (also a mini, longhair cream) Georgie to alert. I don't use Georgie as a SD, as Maizie is only six yrs old and will be by my side for many yrs to come, but I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could indeed train a dog to alert. I've worked with guide dogs (I'm sight impaired) for the last 27 yrs, and also have raised several pups for guide dog work. I am active in AKC conformation with my Dachshunds. So I have a good bit of experience in training dogs in a variety of situations and really enjoy working with every dog I've had. It's a very rewarding thing to build such a strong long lasting bond with one of these wonderful creatures.

Hi Everybody,
I have been working with Mary McNeight, through Service Dog Academy, to train Zoe to be a DAD. We are doing well, and Zoe is going through the training.

I just want to say that Canada is a bit behind the times when it comes to accepting assistance dogs in public places. It is difficult to have to explain and go through being one of the first DAD handlers here.

This weekend, we are at a beautiful camp called Geneva Park YMCA, on Lake Couchiching just outside of Orillia, Ontario. Then I registered, I made sure that assistance dogs are allowed. I was told to just make sure I bring my dog in when I register.

While eating our dinner, the General Manager of the camp comes and sits down at our table. He says, "I understand we have a furry friend here". I said yes. He said, "We are a no animals allowed establishment." I just kind of looked at him, and was seeing myself taking Zoe all the way back to Toronto, a 2 hour trip. I said, "she's a service dog". He said, "Oh? Well, do you have papers?" I said, "What kind of papers?" He says, "Papers that declare what kind of service she performs, etc." (which was a clue he knew nothing about service dogs...) Meanwhile, I was embarassed and everyone at the table was spellbound. Zoe, sleeping under my chair.

I said, I don't have papers with me because the woman I spoke to told me I wouldn't need them. I can tell you what service she performs. He says, "Okay, tell me what she does." I proceded to tell him what a DAD does, and that I wear an insulin pump, and that Zoe must go everywhere with me.

Nobody informed him, or any of the other staff that a service dog was on the premesis. Interesting.

He apologized, over and over, until I felt so bad for him.

I was later in the auditorium getting ready to play the keyboard (Zoe on the platform with me) and he came in. I thought, oh no, are we going to get kicked out of here? Really?

The General Manager approached me and he said he just wanted to apologize again, that he was sorry he interrupted my meal, and he was making the staff aware, and then he just kept apologizing. He let me know his name was Jim, and I said it was very nice to meet him and please be assured there were no hard feelings.

There are so many people with disabilities here - a whole group of cerebral palsy sufferers, people in electric wheelchairs, etc. It's kind of interesting that the place doesn't have much experience with assistance, or service, dogs.

I have a chihuahua/wiener and have never "trained" him to alert me but he does!! He has woken me up several times with a hypo and if I am awake and if he can't wake me he wakes my husband. He is always real helpful when it is low cause he keeps me calm, just thought I'd share....

I too work with Mary (and I have proof...)

My experience was similar to yours, except going to a work site in Charleston, SC for the same company I work for here in Everett. I show up to work on Monday, and the guard lets me through. Same thing for Tuesday and Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, I get the "no pets allowed on site" message from the security guard.

I keep the training records with me at all times, and showed them to the security manager, and got the same apologies.

Most people think they're doing the right thing, and I give them the benefit of the doubt, and show them Cooper's tricks, and explain how he helps me *not* see the paramedics. They usually walk away amazed.

I have worked with Mary for the last year, and I cannot recommend her highly enough. I suggest that you get on her Facebook page (Service Dog Academy) and chat with her there.

(at the risk of repeating myself) Here is a video of my Cooper and Mary on the local news up here:

My cost has been (USD):
$700 for the classes (I am local to her, and went to the classes every week).
$40 for the "Before you get a service dog" class, which is now an e-book for free. I cannot stress reading this enough. Everything in there has happened to me in the year I've had Cooper.
$200 for puppy classes, as Cooper was 8 weeks when I got him, and I needed him to be a good puppy as well as a DAD
$400 for Cooper
$2800 for board and training. I live in a rental house, and I wanted to be sure that we were following the lease and not having a pet dog living here. I didn't want to have one "in training" and try to get around it. I talked with the landlord prior to getting Cooper, and they "wanted to see papers", and I thought that was fair, so we provided more than ample proof to the owners.

That last step and cost was entirely my doing, but I have owned a rental, and the people that own the house don't want people using the law to get around their desire to not have pets in a house. I know that DADs aren't pets, but there are people that will (and have) tried to get around this. But that's just me.

Mary is a straight shooter, and will tell you where you're going wrong, and loves hearing about your successes too.

My greatest joy in Cooper is this:
in 2011, I was seen by paramedics 8 times.
in 2012, I have been seen twice, and the reason for this is I was traveling with Cooper, and he was a little discombobulated after a transcontinental trip (in the cabin), and what I do now is do training right after we land (and he takes care of his business). On a subsequent trip, he did 100%.

and lastly, he alerts me as my BG drops, so I'll get an alert at 155 on it's way down to 90, 1/2 hour later.

There are 2 new books about training your own diabetic alert dog that came out in Feb & March 2013.

1. "Training Your Diabetic Alert Dog" by Rita Martinez CPDT & Sue Barns Ph.D.
2. " DOG A Diabetic's Best Friend Training Guide: Train Your Own Diabetic and Glycemic Alert Dog" by Veronica D. Zimmerman .

i am in the process of training my own DAD. i say in the process, because i feel like i'm constantly training. she alerts me when i don't feel my lows, but if i catch it first, i always use the opportunity to brush her up on her skills. i took her on vacation with me last week, and though she isn't public access trained, my main issues are at home when i tend to not be paying as much attention to myself and how i feel, and sure enough, as i was laying in bed watching tv, she alerted me and was right, i was 56! i have to say, i picked a small dog (but with the proper attributes, high prey drive, etc), and it has caused a lot of issues because people think i'm a faker and she's not really an alert dog. so keep that in mind when picking out your dog. (several people at the resort made comments like "don't worry, we are rule breakers too, we won't tell", even after i explained she was a service dog!!!)

I'm so glad to hear that other people are training. We rescued a dog who has started to see my lows. It's not perfect yet. Does anyone have tips on how to reinforce this behavior? I am going to try to contact some local trainers (LA) for help.

Did you find a "legit" location to get service dog certification?

I am legally blind (diabetic retinopathy)and partnered with both my guide dog Jingles (lab/golden cross) from The Seeing Eye, and my little 9 lb mini Dachshund Maizie my DAD. I've worked guide dogs for almost 30 years, and Maizie and my guides work in tandem. I've only had one "issue" with Maizie's tiny size in the six years she has been my DAD, and that was just a few weeks ago. I was at a hair salon that I use every six weeks or so. The place was crowded so I signed in and took a seat. I heard a guy on the other side of the room say to someone else, "They allow dogs in here?" A woman, in a very snotty voice and loud enough purposefully so she'd know I heard) said, "Well, the eye dog is allowed but the little one is just an accessory." I always take the time to educate when someone makes comments about why I have dogs with me, but this time I didn't get up and go talk to the person, it was so crowded and I had just gotten my dogs settled and sat down. I wish I had gotten up and said something but just didn't. Anyway, the guy later came over and said, "Your dogs are beautiful." I thanked him, and he said, "They're so well mannered, you do a great job with them." Again I thanked him. When he walked back by a few minutes later he asked what type of service the "little" dog performs. I told him she's a DAD, and chatted a bit about her job. He was fascinated and thanked me for explaining. He went back to where the woman who made the snarky comment was and told her, "The little dog is a service dog just like the big one." She didn't reply. Good for him! So nice to meet up with people who are open to learning about service dogs.

Good luck with training your dog to do alert work. It's a very rewarding process, but takes a lot of time, effort and patience.

There is no such thing as "certification" for Service Dogs in the US. There is no "legit" location... all of the online sites that offer ID/certification for a fee are scam sites. You are not required to carry ID or any type of "paperwork" for your DAD.

It would be wonderful if you can find a private trainer to give you guidance and help in the training process. Let us know how it's going.

Cooper is very handsome. My first guide dog was a yellow Lab, and I've had 2 black Lab guides as well, and my current guide is a black Lab/Golden cross. :D I noticed in the video Cooper was very vocal and barked/whined. Curious why you allowed him to continue that behavior without correcting it right then and there? I've had several Labs as guides, and know that barking is a no-no, training to avoid the behavior begins very early, around 8 weeks when they're placed in puppy raiser homes. My current guide Jing (have had her a year now, she's 3-1/2 yrs old) let out a "woof" once in Walmart when she saw a friend of mine. lol. Startled me, and yes, she got corrected instantly. Hasn't happened since though.

One little addition for those travelling by air. the FAA doesn't have to follow the same rules. Airlines are allowed to ask for a letter from your doctor. According the the guy I talked to at their hotline number (they actually have a phone number to get a live person if you are at an airport and having issues with your service dog), said the letter just has to state your disability. I have been asked for this letter three out of four flights. The last time they actually said "it says nothing about a dog", and I told him "this is what the FAA said I needed", and that was the end of that discussion.

Also, this is who i work with for training my dog:

There are some places on line that you can get some advice and ask questions. Here is one.. There is also a facebook page called Diabetes Alert Dog talk that is useful.

Good luck. It takes awhile, but is very worth it.

We are not required to show paperwork of any kind for our DAD. Yes, the FAA trumps ADA on airlines, but we are still not required to show paperwork. I have flown many times over the years with my guide dogs, and over the last six years have flown several times with both my guide and Maizie (DAD) together. I've never been asked for paperwork of any sort, and if I were asked I would not provide it because it's not legal for them to ask.

The only people who must carry paperwork from dr are those with mental disabilities who work Psychiatric Service Dogs. They must call 48 hours in advance of a flight as well and let the airline know they will have their PSD with them. We (those with Service Dogs of other types) are not required to contact the airline, and are not required to show paperwork.

Another FYI... people who have ESA (emtional support animals), which aren't covered under the ADA (they are not ervice Dogs, and cannot be brought into public venues otherwise) are allowed to travel by air with their ESA just as we with our SDs can. Airlines travel and housing are the only areas people are allowed to have ESAs.

I just got my book "Training your diabetic Alert Dog" from Rita Martinez. If you want to train your own diabetic alert dog, this book is the one to get. This book came out in Feb or March 2013 so this book won't be in the library just yet.