I came across an interesting website today called Dogs4diabetes (D4D). It is an organisation that takes seeing eye dogs from 4 months to 1 year – and retrains them to provide medical alert assistance to Type 1 diabetics.
In order for the dog to inform the diabetic that it is having a hypo – they are trained to pick up off their collar a device called a bringsel. It is a search and rescue tool that was modified for hypoglycemia-alerting. Basically, when the dogs smell that low blood sugar, they pick up the bringsel to get their owners attention. In order for the dog to inform the diabetic that it is having a hypo , they used to use a physical alert, like a jump, to indicate the alert, but they realized that the dogs really needed a more obvious "You are low, you need juice now" type of alert. This is a completely trained behavior, rather than a "natural" canine behavior that the trainers are using.
They also wanted to develop a safer method of alerting, since not everyone wants a 65 pound dog jumping on them (particularly if their blood sugar is low!). Instead, the dog picks up the bringsel, gets the attention of the diabetic (some dogs paw at their owners, others whine, others do a small half jump, etc.), and the diabetic can check his or her BG and get some sugar for themselves and a treat for their dog without being scratched or otherwise encumbered by a jumping dog. It has really proven very effective--and has radically changed the training of these dogs in a very positive way. This type of alert is more obvious to the handler, and is less obtrusive when out in public so you won't stick out like a sore thumb.
In order to qualify, the diabetic must be at least 12 years old, and have been diagnosed and on insulin therapy for at least one year. Unfortunately at this time they are limited to serving Northern California, but they hope to begin expanding their program to serve the Western United States in the coming years. In the long term, it is their goal to serve diabetics nationwide and possibly Canada.
Though it costs roughly $25,000 to train each dog, they are committed to placing dogs with diabetics at no cost for the dog. The only fees involved in participating in our program are an application and material fee, currently totaling to $125.
If you are wondering like I was about how long it takes to get one of these D4D dogs, it's about 1 to 1 ½ years, which can vary with the availability of dogs and funding which is understandable.
Below is their website if you are interested in finding out more or donating ( includes a video as well ) -http://www.dogs4diabetics.com/aboutus/aboutus.html