Diabetic Alert Dogs (DADs) are amazing, highly-specialized creatures. Because of a dog’s incredible ability to smell high and low blood sugar, they can make life-saving companions for kids and adults with type 1 diabetes. Plus, you couldn’t ask for a more adorable first-responder!
But while all service dogs are born with a keen sense of smell and chosen for their aptitude, they aren’t born knowing that they need to identify high or low blood sugar and then alert their owners. That takes a lot of specialized training, and that training takes months (at the very least), and not every dog makes it.
Professionally trained service DADs can take up to 18 months to train, and then there will be additional time training the dog to work with a specific handler—another 6 months to a year according to Dogs4Diabetics.
It’s possible to train a dog at home given someone chooses a dog with the right temperament and aptitude and uses an appropriate training program. There are also some programs that offer online video training for people wishing to train a dog at home. These programs are much cheaper, of course, but lack hands-on professionals. Anyone considering purchasing or training a DAD should be prepared to do extensive research to make sure that the program they choose meets their needs and will result in a reliable service dog.
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In the video below, Libby Rockaway trains a golden retriever puppy, Sadie, starting when Sadie is just 1 1/2 weeks old. Not all DADs start training from birth, but the most highly-specialized services dogs will train from birth to about 18 months.
Watch as Sadie learns to identify the scent of high and low blood sugar in increasingly challenging situations until she is able to identify a high or low in a human handler. It’s hard to watch and not be proud of Sadie and her accomplishments! We are grateful for all service dogs and their trainers, and we love watching Sadie learn the ropes!