About Diabetic Alert Service Dog or D.A.Ds

A dog’s nose has 220 million olfactory receptors. The human nose has a mere 5 million. Compared to canines, we are practically “scent blind.” That’s why a trained service dog can detect what we can’t: scents that indicate changes in blood glucose.

Using a D.A.D. can help you maintain your independence, prevent hypoglycemia, and control your blood glucose range. But getting a D.A.D. isn’t as easy as getting a CGM (continuous glucose monitor). A dog is not a device.

Public perception is one of the issues to keep in mind when considering a D.A.D. Diabetes is usually an invisible disability — but appearing in public with a service dog makes your disease visible to the world. Are you okay with that?

Having a D.A.D. isn’t like having a pet. It’s more like adding a child to your family. In addition to committing to ongoing training, a D.A.D. represents significant financial and liability responsibilities. Are you okay with that?

Finding the right dog takes time and care. You can’t just pick any dog from your neighborhood shelter. Being a D.A.D. is a job and many breeds aren’t suited to the life of a working dog. Selecting an appropriate dog means considering the size, age, and breed that’s right for you, your home, and your life. And, as in any important relationship, there must be true “chemistry” between you and your D.A.D.

Training is tremendously time-consuming and challenging. You’re not just obedience training a dog to sit and shake. In fact, you’re not just training the dog. The training process is just as much about training you. Training establishes and nurtures the complex relationship between you, your dog, your family, and your trainer. And it’s a process that lasts as long as your life with your D.A.D.

It’s vital to work with a qualified trainer who is experienced in scent work. Check credentials and references thoroughly. We recommend working with trainers who are CARAT-certified. CARAT, the Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool, helps trainers to evaluate the temperament, functional behavior, and adaptability of potential service dogs.

We also recommend trainers who use a positive reinforcement approach. Your D.A.D. will be asked to think independently to determine when you need to be warned about a blood glucose event. A dog that fears punishment or correction will be reluctant to take the initiative.

It takes research, diligence, patience, commitment, and time to integrate a D.A.D. into your life at home, work, and school. But that the right dog, with the right training, can be enormously helpful as you contend with the challenges of living with diabetes.

©2013 Dogs For Cures. All rights reserved.

Dogs for Cures is part of Cures Within Reach, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to improving patient quality and length of life through repurposing existing drugs and devices for new uses. We love including dogs in our broad definition of 'existing devices' to support patients! Learn more at www.cureswithinreach.org

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