It's all well and good to train your dog to recognize odor, but how are you to know that your dog smelled the odor you've trained him for - he has to tell you ! That is what we call an alert behavior. This set of modules teaches your dog how to perform an alert behavior when triggered by a scent or a change in your physical condition (like tremors). This module also teaches you how to know it's an alert and how to respond.
1 - The Anatomy of An Alert Behavior
Discover what an alert is, how it is delivered, that it must be persistent and consistent.
In this beginning module you will explore different alert behaviors with your dog. You will discover which behaviors your dog "likes" to do and which of those likes impinge enough on you that you pay attention.
You will start training the basics of two alert behaviors so that your dog can inform you of something wrong when you're awake and when you're asleep. Some of you will need more alert behaviors later due to having more then one condition. There is a module for this.
2 - Getting the Alert
The action your dog does to tell you that he is smelling that smell or hearing that sound, should be an action that is persistent and impinging. It should be an action or actions that will wake you up (seizures and blood sugar drops often happen around 3 am !), redirect your attention even when you are concentrating hard on a task or conversation, get a response from you that is willing to do something about the alert and not just brush it off.
This module helps you teach your dog the start of persistence and his willingness to wake up himself when needed to wake you up.
3 - Combining the Alert with the Scent
This module starts the process of showing the dog when to do his alert. The scent becomes the cue (trigger) for the alert behavior to happen. This behavior chain should be automatic and never need any cue, command, signal or other help from the human to activate the alert.
4 - Room to Room Alerting
Medical alert dogs are "on" 24/7. There seem to be hours of the day when "things" happen. Between 2 and 4 in the afternoon and in the early morning are prime times for blood sugar drops, seizures, blood pressure spikes, or other medical issues. But dogs need to rest, need to eat, need to do their business away from us throughout the day. Often the dog will be in another room or even outside when the smell of your issue hits their nose. The dog must understand that the alert always happens on you whether you are the target person or the adult to a target child. This requires searching for you and that is what this module teaches.
5 - Creating A Persistant Alert Behavior
Humans have a tendency to say "I'm fine" even when they have a fractured leg. They will tell their trained dog the same thing and try to push the dog away or even run away from the dog. Alert training must take this into consideration.
For instance, my service dog is very persistent about alerting to my sugar levels. But if I'm busy, I will tell him "enough" and "thank you" to make him stop alerting so I can finish what I'm doing. He will just come right back up and mob my face again and again until he sees me taking effective action - either eating protein or tumeric depending on high or low.
6 - Alerting in Public Places
Training at home or in a training space does not prepare a dog for the distractions and strange happenings out in public. This module will show you how to socialize your dog to many of the normal objects, surfaces, people, other dogs, traffic, elevators and such that a service dog encounters. Which this "socialization" is occuring you will have your baggy of scent to continue training your dog to alert despite all the distractions.
8 - What Not To Alert To
This module deals with hearing dogs and those sounds (like crickets and birds) that occur often that you really don't want your dog to alert to. For those who are training scent, we will go over the natural progression of scent in the environment - air flows, the age of the scent and the direction to source. We don't want our dogs alerting to old scent or a room full of the target scent due to longresidence of the person emitting that scent.
9 - Pointing
Some dogs bounce around back and forth, jump up and truly impinge on their owners that there is a sound they should be paying attention to. this is especially prevalent in small hearing dogs. Personally I like the small dogs to be flamboyant about their alerts, but you don't want this in a dog over 40 lbs. Pointing is a type of alert that can be done almost invisibly to others out in public, but if you have the ability to keep your dog in the corner of your eye, this alert can be very beneficial as you'll know what direction the sound is without having your dog bouncing through crowds or traffic.
Pointing is also beneficial with those who are caretakers and not the target human. After the main alert that something is happening, the dog can then point to the target human or which direction will take you to that human.
10 - Nudging
Nudging and pushing are generally used in night terrors, most medical alerts and for those who just can't deal with bouncy dogs. The nudge should be HARD and persistent, same with the push. One of our dogs will actually insert herself between husband and wife and push wife out of bed just as night terrors are happening to husband to prevent wife from getting injured. This is the amount of force necessary behind a nudge or push to impinge enough to alert, to prevent injury or other harm.
11 - Finding Help
This module teaches your dog how to find help. Mostly this will cover finding a significant others or caretaker, but sometimes the dog will need to find anyone. The dog will need to be willing to leave the target human and find someone who is willing and able to help.
12 - Name Recognition
This module again mostly deals with hearing dogs. The dog should be able to recognize his target human's name when spoken by someone else. This includes nick names and the last name. Name recognition should also be taught with PTSD and Panic Disorders so that the dog increases his actions of comfort or support when he hears his target human's name.