While paw alerts ensure that you are aware of your dog’s presence, sometimes they can be a little ambiguous. Dogs that are naturally paw oriented will learn the paw alert in scent training sessions very quickly, however those same dogs will also tend to use their paw for other communication because it is natural for them. For example when she wants affection she may place her paw on your arm, or when she needs outside she may attempt to place her paw on your lap. This can cause confusion, unnecessary glucose testing, and lead to frustration because she either appears to be false alerting or appears to be missing alerts.
Are you thinking of training a DAD but don’t know what you would like as an alert? Below are common alert behaviors as well as the benefits and difficulties of them.
Paw – this is by far the most common alert behavior. It is easy to teach and the dogs can do it from any age. Another benefit of pawing as an alert is it is discreet and can be done when the dog is still laying down, minimizing the disruption to those around you. The difficulties are if you have a large dog or enthusiastic alerter, the pawing can be slightly painful. Their nails have to be kept very short to prevent scratches on your leg. If the dog will be alerting directly to a child then the pawing may be uncomfortable as well.
Many breeds can excel at being Diabetic Alert Dogs! While the breed is not the most important factor, certain breeds are more likely to succeed than other. The most successful breeds for any type of service work are: Golden Retrievers, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Collies. There is a reason established organizations such as The Seeing Eye, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Canine Companions for Independence use these breeds – they have experimented with other breeds but have found the “Fab 4” have the highest success rates. Below are other common breeds, and a few pros and cons of each.
Currently the MD Dogs materials teach how to train a paw alert – it is the most common alert, simple to teach, and any dog can learn it. However, there are some drawbacks to the paw alert and because of this some would prefer a more distinct alert or something that does not require physical contact (especially if the dog is alerting to a young child). The MD Dogs bringsel was created for this purpose!
Libby Rockaway is the founder of M.D. Dogs Incorporated and the author of Puppy Steps and Diabetic Alert Dog Training Steps