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!