How Seizure Alert Dogs Assist Their Owners
Seizure alert dogs are service dogs that assist individuals who have seizures by alerting them prior to a seizure so the individual can find a safe place, take their medication, or do whatever they need to do to prepare for the seizure.
How a Seizure Alert Dog Is Trained
We collect scent samples from the individual before, during, or immediately after they have a seizure. The recipient sends us several different scent samples, and we work with the dog to ensure they can recognize that scent enabling them to alert their recipient in advance.
Dogs have an extremely sophisticated olfactory system; thus, they can smell things that we cannot even fathom. Prior to a person having a seizure, their body chemistry begins to change. These are the scents that we use to train the dog. The dog learns to detect this and alert their recipient, so that person knows it’s coming, and they can take whatever action is appropriate for their situation.
What Breed of Dog Can Detect Seizures?
All dogs have a better sense of smell than people do. Certain breeds are known for their sense of smell. What we look for is whether the dog has the whole package to serve as a service dog.
For example, a bloodhound is the number one dog with the most scent receptors, allowing it to detect these scents easily. However, bloodhounds were bred for a different purpose. They were developed to follow and track scents. As a result, they typically do not make as good of a service dog as another breed would.
The German Shephard and Beagle are tied for second place for having the most scent receptors in the nose. Obviously, the German Shepard is known for being a working dog and loves having a job. They have been an extremely versatile breed for decades as a service dog, a guard dog, a therapy dog, police dog, military dog, and many other functions.
A beagle, on the other hand, is a tracking dog like the Bloodhound and is trained to trail a scent. You will have a harder time getting these breeds to pay attention to you if there is a more exciting scent somewhere else.
The German Shepard is an excellent choice, as well as Golden retrievers and Labradors, who have a particularly good sense of smell and are also good working dogs that you will commonly see as service dogs. It’s not just the breed that can smell the best since they all have a better sense of smell than humans; it’s about the whole package. The dog must have all the appropriate traits for a service dog.
Can You Train Your Own Dog to Be a Seizure Alert Dog?
The challenge with training your own dog is that service dog training is a very advanced set of skills. Typically, pet trainers do not train service dog tasks. It could be possible if you’ve had experience training service dogs in the past, but that is only one element of being a service dog.
A service dog must be able to do a lot of things. He/she must be large enough to be out in public, so they don’t get stepped on or otherwise injured in crowds. Even our bigger service dogs get stepped on in crowded areas. A service dog must be brave enough to be comfortable working in public. We expect our dogs to alert 90% of the time or more. They are usually closer to 100%.
If the dog is distracted and fearful in public, he’s not paying attention to his recipient and the recipient’s needs. He’s no longer acting like a service dog. Instead, he’s acting like a dog that doesn’t want to be there. He’s not happy. A dog like that could become so fearful that if a person reaches for them, they could bite someone. Even if they are wearing a vest that says, “please do not pet,” people still reach for them all the time without asking. At times they hug and pet them before the recipient even knows what’s happening. This could be a disaster with an inappropriate dog in public.
A service dog can never be a public safety threat under any circumstances. An individual needs to know the correct etiquette and laws that pertain to both merchants and individuals that have service dogs. The concern is that individuals who want to train their own dog may not know all of these important aspects; they may not realize all the other training that needs to go into this dog, and sadly, that’s why we see a lot of inappropriate dogs in public today because they haven’t been properly desensitized, they haven’t had their confidence built, they haven’t developed the proper public access skills that they need to have, nor the obedience and manners they need.
There are so many things that need to be known to professionally train a service dog. That is why Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a national organization producing hundreds and hundreds of dogs that are professionally trained, thus very acceptable to be in public. Unfortunately, it’s often our dogs who are attacked by inappropriate dogs in public.
How Do You Qualify for a Seizure Alert Dog?
For any type of service dog, you simply need to fill out an application and send it in. This can be accomplished online, or you can have one mailed to you. The application asks a lot of questions because Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs must find out exactly what your needs are and your environment, etc., to make sure it is conducive for a working dog to do its job.
We ask for confirmation of disability because you must have a permanent disability to qualify for a service dog. There are different variables, but this is how you would start the process. Once you speak with our Recipient Relations Department, they will finish qualifying you through a Q & A over the phone.
If you qualify, you will receive a letter welcoming you to the waiting list. At some point, there will be a series of orientations to teach you what you need to know about your service dog before you ever get one. Once the service dog is fully trained, we pay all the expenses to have you come to our headquarters, where you will spend ten days learning about your new dog, bonding and making sure you and the dog work well together.
Once the dog finishes his/her training, and the recipient finishes their on-line training with us (i.e.: learning how to care for their dog and the expectations of a service dog, among other important training), we then do the actual pairing. This is when we introduce the dog and the person and teach the recipient how the dog alerts. Not all dogs alert the same way, so it is important for the recipients to understand their dog’s specific alert.
Want to Learn More About Seizure Alert Dogs? We Can Help!
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we are happy to answer any questions you may have about seizure-alert dogs and other types of service dogs. How they are trained, and how they can help you or another individual. Feel free to contact us today to learn more!
U.S. Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh recognized Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs as one of the 835 recipients of the 2022 HIRE Vets Medallion Award during a virtual award ceremony presented by the U.S. Department of Labor. Guardian Angels is one of only 19 Platinum awardees in the State of Florida, and one of only 66 Florida companies to receive a HIRE VETS award of any level from the Department of Labor.
The Honoring Investments in Recruiting and Employing American Military Veterans Act (HIRE Vets Act) Medallion Program is the only federal award program that recognizes employers who successfully recruit, hire, and retain veterans.
Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Founder and CEO, Carol Borden stated: “At Guardian Angels, it is not only our mission to serve our veterans with disabilities, but to hire and train veterans for civilian career paths as well. Our veterans have given so much of themselves to serve our country and all of us. I believe, it is now our responsibility as Americans to do whatever possible to assist them in their transition from military to civilian life”.
Guardian Angels is honored to join 835 other companies from 49 states, plus the District of Columbia, who have shown a commitment to hiring veterans, but also ensuring that they have a long-term career and growth plan that uses the diverse skills they acquired through their military service.
Recipients of the 2022 HIRE Vets Medallion Award meet rigorous employment and veteran integration assistance criteria, including veteran hiring and retention percentages; availability of veteran-specific resources; leadership programming for veterans; dedicated human resource efforts; pay compensation and tuition assistance programs for veterans. More than 1,400 employers have earned a HIRE Vets Medallion Award since 2018.
About Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs:
Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs is a 501(C)3 Based in Florida that rescues, raises, trains and then donates individually trained medical service dogs to veterans, first-responders and others who suffer from disabilities including PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, seizure and diabetic disorders, mobility issues and much more. Over the past 12 years, Guardian Angels has paired hundreds of individually trained medical service dogs with recipients across the nation, and with your help, that number can continue to grow. Visit our website at: www.MedicalServiceDogs.org to get involved or learn more.
Pittsburgh, PA November 21, 2023: Chris Ann Phillips, Chief Administrative officer of Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs has been awarded the Pittsburgh Veteran of the Year by veteran-owned Military Friendly® in a contest sponsored by Fort Pitt Capital Group.
Phillips was chosen from among six outstanding veterans through public online voting. Those candidates included another Guardian Angels’ staff member, Mr. Jack Wagner.
Chris Ann’s story will be highlighted in the April 2023 issue of G.I. Jobs Magazine, which is distributed free to transitioning service members and veterans worldwide.
Chris Ann has been deeply involved in the veteran community for more than 20 years. Before joining Guardian Angels, Chris Ann established the military recruiting program for PNC Bank, and was the lead in creating the Community Mutt Strut. Chris Ann has served as a mentor for American Corporate Partners, and a recipient of the ESGR Patriot Award. She was a two-time finalist for the UA Chamber of Commerce’s Colonel Michael Endres Leadership Award and serves as the Director of Development for Pittsburgh Warrior Hockey.
Notified about the award, Chris Ann said: “I am honored to receive this award on behalf of all of us that serve our nation’s veterans. It is a privilege to be the voice of those in the veteran community, no matter the need. In my role at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, I am blessed to be part of a mission that truly saves lives. My work is not done and as long as one veteran is in need, I will continue to serve”.
Phillips served in the United States Marine Corps from 1981 to 1985, separating as a Sergeant.
Military Friendly will present the award to Chris Ann at this year’s Gala of Angels, a fundraising event to be held on December 7 in Pittsburgh.
Gina, who was paired with her service dog Rhino in 2018, has intractable epilepsy from a TBI (traumatic brain injury). Rhino is specifically trained to alert Gina before a seizure happens so that she can get to safety. (more…)
Blake Sowers, Apprentice at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs and US Army Veteran, joined the Guardian Angels team in July 2022. (more…)
From November 14th through the 20th, we are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week! At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, our apprentices learn to play a vital role with our organization by helping to train our amazing service dogs to assist disabled recipients. (more…)
On October 2nd, Maranda Jacob the National Recipient Relations Director at Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs celebrated her 5th year with the organization. Maranda previously worked in the human services field since she received her Bachelors in 2005. Since 2013, she had been working for Child Protective Services and was looking for a change due to feelings of being burnt out and to preserve her mental health. (more…)
At Guardian Angels, mobility dogs are trained based on the needs of the individual. For some people they need help with balance or help getting out of a chair or off the floor. In other cases, mobility issues can be more complex for individuals who need the assistance of a service dog, which is why our training is tailored to the needs of the recipient. (more…)
Robyn Staebler became a Michigan Ambassador in 2021 after she attended a Celebrate Michigan’s Military event and heard recipient stories. “I knew immediately that Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs was an organization that I would be proud to represent. I also knew the first responder community needed to know this was an option for those that were disabled,” said Robyn. (more…)
Potty training typically starts when the dog is a puppy, but many of these tips can be applied to adult dogs as well. When it comes to puppies, what they put in their mouth comes out the other way quickly, so they need to be taken out often. (more…)
A diabetic alert dog is a type of medical service dog that has been trained to respond to scent samples that are then transferred to actually alert the recipients of low or high blood sugar levels.
At Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, we have a low number and a high number that we collect swabs from the recipient and train the dog to hit on.
Do Diabetic Alert Dogs Really Work?
Yes, their extensive training greatly helps a recipient because a lot of times, people can have a severe sugar dip in the middle of the night that can cause them to go into a coma. Everyone else in the household is asleep, and the recipient, of course, doesn’t realize they are going into it either, so the medical service dog can alert to it at critical times so the recipient can take their medication.
They work just as well as someone who has to wear a box or alarm that goes off when their blood sugar is low. Someone who is hard of hearing or asleep may not hear that alarm, but the dog will continue to persist. Not only does the dog hit on the number it is asked to, we usually expect them to hit 90% of the time, but we typically see them hit 100% of the time.
It’s really vital to the work that the dogs do. There are a lot of things that dogs can do that medical technology can not duplicate. They do, of course, have different tests to test your blood sugar, but the dogs will hit on it every time.
How Expensive is a Diabetic Alert Dog?
It depends on who you are going through to get a dog. It’s important to keep in mind that there is a big difference between just having an alert dog and having a service dog. An alert dog is a service dog, but there is more to it than just training them to hit on the scents. They also have to be trained for all the things that happen in public and all the required etiquette of a service dog in public.
These are dogs that not only work at home, but they also need to function in public and have all the manners that are required for the service dog in public. You can go to someone to get a dog. If you go to a trainer, they may be able to train scent skills, but you need to know whether they know the law and can train for the other elements of a service dog. It’s not just the task; it’s a whole entire lifestyle that the dogs learn.
You also have non-profit organizations like Guardian Angels that teach the dog scent skills as well as everything the recipients need to know about having a service dog, such as how to make sure it is properly responding, practicing regularly, and different things that we teach the recipients to keep that dog sharp.
As a non-profit, we donate our dogs. They cost us about $40,000 from start to finish, and we also do a lifetime of follow-ups to ensure the dog is working properly and intervene if there are any behavioral issues. In contrast, a trainer or another organization or individual may not offer the same services.
Can I Train My Dog to Be a Diabetic Alert Dog?
By federal law, individuals are allowed to train their own dog as a diabetic alert dog, but you have to consider the experience the trainer or individual has. We don’t recommend it because most people do not have the skill to be able to train dogs at a high level as we do. Even regular dog trainers do not do what our organization does. Even if they can train the dog to alert to the scent, you have to consider whether they know about the laws and their rights, merchant rights, and proper etiquette in public.
How Long Does it Take to Get a Diabetic Alert Dog?
It depends on the waiting list. There are about 61 million people in the U.S. who have disabilities, with a fairly high number of them having diabetes since it is a common disability. There are not many service dogs organizations or service dogs being trained. We’ve seen numbers of around 1500-2000 service dogs a year trained and out in the working system. When compared to 61 million people with disabilities, you’ll find that many organizations have waiting lists anywhere from 2-10 years long.
Want to Learn More About Medical Service Dogs? Contact us Today!
At Guardian Angels, we are happy to serve as a resource for information on different types of medical service dogs and medical conditions that qualify for a service dog. Please contact us with any questions you may have.
Tuesday, September 13, 2022 – Harry Funk for Trib Live
“After a two-year hiatus, Pittsburgh’s Community Mutt Strut returned for an in-person day of fun for four-legged friends and their people pals, all for a good cause. The event, held virtually during the covid-19 pandemic, benefits Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit that rescues, raises and trains canines to provide military veterans with essential companionship. “We’re here to add awareness to what our veterans are facing,” Plum resident Bill Jeffcoat said. “These veterans are coming home with visible and invisible disabilities: post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, insulin dependence, seizure disorders, mobility issues.” He is president of Life Changing Service Dogs for Veterans, a Pittsburgh-area organization formed seven years ago to support Guardian Angels’ mission. “These dogs allow these veterans to become a part of society. They’re able to go out, become employed and be part of the community once again.” Among those attending the Sept. 10 festivities was Carol Borden, founder and chief executive officer of Guardian Angels, which has its headquarters in Williston, Fla. “What a perfect day to hold the Mutt Strut, as this is National Suicide Prevention Day. And that is what we do,” she said. A major impetus behind her organization is helping to reduce the number of veterans who take their own lives, with the statistic that 22 per day often cited. “Our suicide rate still stands at zero,” Borden said about Guardian Angels’ pairings, which have been taking place for 12 years.
The Mutt Strut’s major sponsor has been PNC Financial Services Group Inc. “We do a lot of things at PNC that we’re really proud of throughout the year, but for me, this is right at the top,” Gregory Jordan, executive vice president, general counsel and chief administrative officer, said. “It’s so direct. It’s so powerful, and I think it’s so meaningful.” Since 2016, PNC has raised enough money on Guardian Angels’ behalf to provide the financial resources to train nearly three dozen canines, according to Jordan. “You can say 35 dogs,” he said. “But when I hear that, I think 35 lives.”
The dogs’ training focuses on mitigating the challenges of veterans facing post-traumatic stress disorder, and the canines also learn to sense medical emergencies, such as internal bleeding. “These dogs become life-saving,” Jeffcoat said. His organization, which was founded by Vietnam-era veterans Tony Accamando and George D’Angelo in 2015, is working on fundraising to build a Guardian Angels campus in Robinson Township, Washington County. The estimate is that the new facility will double the capability for training dogs. Jeffcoat is another Vietnam veteran, serving with the U.S. Marine Corps as a dog handler. Although the military valued dogs as scouts and trackers, most were euthanized overseas rather than being returned to the United States, including Jeffcoat’s partner, Fraulein.
On a positive note, Mutt Strut 2022 exceeded its fundraising goal of $300,000, drawing supporters and dog lovers from all over the region. Traveling from her Hampton home, for example, was Emily Murphy. “For the past few years, we haven’t been able to participate because of the pandemic. But it’s nice to be back and show support for the organization,” she said about Guardian Angels. Representing Unleashed Doggie Daycare in West Deer, she brought Farrow, a therapy dog who visits establishments such as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to provide comfort and support to residents. Many others visited with their dogs to enjoy activities including the main event, with many of the pooches in costume as they paraded along a path near Frick Park’s Lawn Bowling Greens. “The dogs are the heroes. They are amazing. But all of you are heroes, as well, because you’re here supporting this event, having a great time, bringing your own dogs out for fun,” Borden said prior to the parade. “So let’s have fun.”
Thanks to Erica Francis and Fox2 Detroit for sharing our program! Thanks also to our Michigan Regional Coordinator, Mary Lamparter; Veteran & Guardian Angels Staff Member, Nancy Dakin and to Recipient Matt and his Service Dog, Cobalt for sharing their incredible story.
If you believe that a service dog could assist you, learn more about the process here.
If you would like to donate, to help us continue training service dogs for those in need, click here.