Every parent dreads not being able to help when their child is in grave danger. For moms and dads of kids with epilepsy, this fear is something that they have to live with day in and day out. Even letting their son or daughter play in the backyard can stir up feelings of anxiety.
A seizure assistance dogs can take the worry out of everyday life if your family is affected by epilepsy. Our canine friends are much more than just cute, furry faces. You can buy a pre-trained pooch (for a fairly hefty sum) or you can embark on teaching a dog how to properly react to a seizure.
A dog's nose is so much better at smelling than a human's. They can actually tell when a seizure is about to happen by the scent of the chemicals released inside the victim. Once a pup has seen a seizure take place, they can be trained to soften the fall of the person, or to go alert another human by barking.
Many canines will respond or alert to a seizure without any training at all, however properly teaching a dog what to do greatly increases how effective they will be for the task. Buying a dog who is already trained can cost up to $20,000, giving you some more motivation to try some teaching yourself. The process can take anywhere from 6 months up to 2 years, and works best if your pooch is exposed to someone who has at least three episodes a month.
To help kickstart your training process, there are some things you're going to need. These include:
Remember, teaching your dog to alert while someone is having a seizure is not a small feat. It's going to take a lot of time and determination for this training to be complete.
Below are some methods that will help you on your way to shaping an amazing service animal.
My neurologist did some testing and I am having seizures. I'm not sure where or how to start the process of making him a service dog. I was hoping you could help lead me in the right direction.
Hello Breianna, The firs step if you do not have a dog yet is to decide if you want to purchase a trained dog through a Service Dog program or purchase a puppy and train and raise it yourself, with the hopes of the dog becoming a Service Dog. Dogs that are intelligent, people focused, food or toy motivated at least to a certain degree, and have stable enough temperaments to be in public (no timidity or aggression issues) are best candidates for Service Dog work. Many alert dogs depend on smelling body chemicals that proceed things like seizures also, so they need to have at least a decent sense of smell (no smooshed nosed breeds like pugs and bulldogs). Do some research into breeds when choosing a dog, and be picky about where you get a puppy from. Look for a well bred pup, from intelligent, willing to please, healthy parents, who do not have aggression or timidity issues (temperament is genetic also). This is one time when I do not recommend rescuing a puppy since you cannot evaluate parents. Adult rescues occasionally turn out to be good Service Dogs but these dogs are the exception not the rule, and they are not puppies whose temperaments are less obvious while young. Once you have your puppy, he needs to learn general manners, thorough socialization, and to generally get to the point where he can be calm, focused, and friendly (but still focused on you). This requires an intermediate or advanced level of training in obedience. Most dogs spend the first year simply learning manners so that they can qualify to be with their owners in public (by definition Service Dogs cannot be distributive in public), in addition to being able to perform specialized tests. Getting in a good puppy kindergarten class, an intermediate obedience class, then a canine good citizen class are great ways to accomplish the obedience, focus, and socialization needed. You of course have to practice everything you are learning between class weeks though, especially socialization, which is probably the single most important thing to do with a Service Dog (most other things can be improved later, but a lack of socialization can lead to aggression or timidity and not be treatable enough to become a Service Dog once present). Once you have basic manners down, work on task training (alerting to the seizures or assisting during the seizure). This can be done at the same time as other training, but doesn't have to be started as early as puppy training does. Check out the website linked below for more information on seizure alert and assistance training. You will need to decide what you want your dog to do to help your seizures (For example: alert you before one happens, go get someone during a seizure, bring you something to help like medication, or something else). You can teach multiple things but to qualify as a Service Dog your dog will have to learn at least one task that helps. https://www.littleangelsservicedogs.org/seizure-alert-dogs/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I got this puppy with the intentions of training it to become a service dog and notice the issues of when I get choked up I get to where I can't breathe and I get light-headed in there I've been in some cases where I passed out and my wife currently is a type 1 diabetic that has a critical type of type 1 diabetes and deals with fluctuations in her diabetes and more wanted to train the dog as best we can to notice and react to the different situations that vary in between me and her together
Hello Kelly, First, focus on socialization, manners in public, trust and respect for you and your wife, and overall obedience skills so that the dog will qualify to be with you both in public as a Service Dog. That training is the most time sensitive while raising the dog, the task training can be taught as you go but is not as age dependent. Second, choose which task you want to train first. Do you want to teach diabetic alert to low or high blood sugar first, or oncoming seizure alert, bringing someone to you when you are in the midst of a seizure, or another task that helps either you or your wife. Focus on one task at a time though, especially if that task involves scent detection (which low and high blood sugar alerts do by training the dog to alert to a saliva sample taken during low or high blood sugar). Once you have taught the first alert and she can do that one consistency, then you can try to add a second task, teaching it the way you would if she hadn't learned another task first, in most cases. You will essentially be teaching two different things, just like you can teach a dog two different commands. For example, my sister has a Service dog who is trained as an anxiety support dog, who also does Celiac alert, which detects trace amounts of a protein in food for her, and he detects low blood sugar for her. The three tasks are different but she has several needs with two things being part of the same medical condition (the blood sugar is a separate condition) so the dog has been taught to perform multiple tasks. She taught anxiety detection first, blood sugar second, then Celiac third, focusing on one task at a time until he knew that task well. Before she began any task training they focused on intensive socialization through puppy classes and outings, and obedience training and manners until they had accomplished an intermediate to advanced level of obedience. At that point she added in task training for Service work - which a dog often needs to have a naturally good nose to do when it comes to detecting things through scent, he needs to be focused on people (or his own person specifically), he needs a balanced temperament (without aggressive or fearful tendencies), and he needs a desire to please, to succeed at Service Dog work. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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For the past 5 yrs I’ve been having random seizures. Thankfully at home or a friends house, but I never know when they’re coming, and doctors don’t know what causes them. I bought my border collie 2 yrs ago as a puppy and didn’t have any intentions on him becoming a service dog. But since they are so random and unpredictable I figured it would be helpful. I’m also pregnant so I think that increased the interest. Is there a way I could have him trained to be my seizure alert dog.
Hello Mackenzie, Check out the article linked below for some tips on how to train an alert, the different types of seizures that affect a dog's ability to alert ahead of time vs. simply get or offer help during one (some seizures can be detected ahead of time and others cannot - but a dog can still be trained to offer assistance during one and get help, even if alerting beforehand isn't an option). https://www.littleangelsservicedogs.org/seizure-alert-dogs/ I suggest contacting trainers in your city who offer private training and have worked on scent detection training for Service Dog work. A saliva sample taken right after a seizure will be needed to train a dog to detect the chemical change that takes place in some people's bodies right before a seizure, to teach an alert. The saliva sample can be taken by sucking on something cotton, like medical gauze, then placed it into a zip lock bag, then into a closed container and freezing it until you are ready to take it out of the freezer to use during a training session. These samples can often be used a few times before you will need a new sample. There is also a good online community of owner-trainer Service Dog handlers who train their own dogs. That might be a good resource to connect with others in your city who are working on teaching their dogs the same tasks, or to learn from others' training journey online. Instagram and Facebook both have a community of Service Dog owners. Youtube also has some resources, but I suggest sticking to videos put out by Service Dog Trainers mostly, since YouTube is so broad. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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My husband and I are adopting a beagle puppy. I have brain cancer, which puts me at risk of seizures. I will need to be on anti-seizure meds for ever, according to my doctor. While I’ve never had a seizure, this is still a large threat in my life. Would it be possible to train our puppy as she grows to be a seizure alert dog, even if I’ve never had a seizure (knock on wood)?
Thanks in advance,
Hello Maddie, You could train her to assist you during a seizure by performing pressure therapy, getting help, bringing medication, or doing another helpful task during a seizure. You can roll play having a seizure and teach her based on your actions how to respond. To teach a dog to alert you ahead of time you need a saliva sample taken from the person right after a seizure. Without this saliva sample it would be hard to teach her to detect an oncoming seizure and there are some types of seizures that cannot be detected ahead of time at all. It depends on the kind of seizure and how or if your body chemistry changes beforehand. If you prepare her as a service dog, teach her to help during a seizure by doing something like going to get help, and work on helping her learn to use her nose in general with fun games like hiding treats, then teaching her to detect oncoming seizures later if they were to begin (when you could then get saliva samples) should be doable since she will already have a good foundation to learn from. If you know someone else who has seizures who would be willing to collect saliva samples right after one (they would probably need help with that while disoriented), then you might be able to teach her now using their samples, but your chemistry could be different so there is no guarantee that ithe training would transfer to you, so I can't fully recommend doing that. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi my name is Alondra and i have a question. My husband has had 3 seizures in the past year the first one was to the second one was 8 months apart and then the second one to the third one was 2 months apart it seems like they’re getting closer but we got pup in January she’s now 5 months old and i was curious if she’s trainable ? Do we HAVE to get a dog that’s not ours or can we get our dog train , we would like to know an approximately a cost ? Thank you
Hello Alondra, You do not have to get a trained service dog but training your own dog typically takes about two years of hard work training and socializing, and not all dogs are cut out for service dog work. A service dog needs to have a natural aptitude for detection (a good nose, focus on people, motivated to work and train, a balanced temperament). Service dog training is a combination of genetically choosing the right dog and spending on average two years preparing the dog for it's work. One of the most important parts of service dog training is socialization. A Service dog needs to be so familiar and relaxed around other people, dogs, environments, sights, sounds, and experiences that he is able to be well behaved and calm in almost any environment. Without that level of behavior he will not be allowed public Access and will not be able to be with you when needed to detect seizures. A well bred dog with a great temperament can learn those things from their owner and through classes like puppy class and a canine good citizen class but the owner needs to be dedicated. You also have to evaluate if Daisy has a good nose and is focused enough on people - many Huskies are independent and prey driven and not used as service dogs for that reason, but there are exceptions and there are a handful of Husky Service Dogs. To purchase a fully trained Service Dog can vary in price. Check out the websites linked below for some examples: (Check out their application for a break down on cost): https://k94life.org/programs/applications/ https://www.littleangelsservicedogs.org/apply/ https://4pawsforability.org/the-process/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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I just need help on where to look to find someone to train dodger to detect my sons seizures. I’ve called organizations, I’ve visited assistance dogs international, and so far no one can help. I’m lost on what to search or where to look next.
Hello Montana, If a larger organization isn't able to help you, then I suggest googling "service dog training (your state)" or "service dog trainer (your state)", or "medical alert dog training (your state or city)" or "medical alert dog trainer (your state)". There are some private trainers who offer service dog training. A private trainer or private training group that also does service dog training may be easier to locate in your area. Some trainer or organizations shy away from seizure alert training other's dogs because many believe that the dog has to naturally start to indicate a seizure is oncoming in their own, then if they show good potential for being a seizure alert dog by doing that, you can work on official training for it with that dog, others have shown that dogs with the right temperments and a good sense of smell can be trainer using saliva samples to detect even if they haven't detected on their on in the past. There are also some types of seizures that can't be alerted to beforehand because there is not a biochemical change in the body that happens before symptoms appear for the dog to pick up on and alert to. In those cases the dog is taught to go get help, medication, or offer comfort after, but they can't be trained to alert beforehand because there isn't anything to alert to until it is already happening. Look for a trainer who has taught service dogs things like diabetic alert, allergen alert, celiac alert, or another alert that was based on scent or biochemical changes in the body, even if they haven't done seizure before. The training is similar to other scent based alerts. Your best chance is probably to find an individual trainer on Google who offers service dog training, then call and ask about seizure alert specifically. You may have to drive a ways to someone if you are not in a really large city. You may even want to email potential trainers who have service dog experience the article linked below about seizure alert dogs being trained to detect seizures using saliva samples - in case they haven't trained seizure alert but have done other alerts and scent training and could help you still. https://www.littleangelsservicedogs.org/seizure-alert-dogs/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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Hi I’m 29 and I started having seizures about 3 years ago. After lots of tests and changes of medications I’ve managed to find out I have left temporal lobe brain damage from some previous domestic abuse. I have recently adopted a dog from a friend who could not keep her due to homelessness. She’s sweet she’s great she loves everyone and other dogs but she is HYPER. Not chewing or bad behaviors just very excited even other dogs get annoyed at her sometimes. I’m kind of determined to train her into my own personal service dog. Mostly because she’s become closely attached to me quickly over other humans in the house and her temperament is great she’s not anxious or scared just happy and overly excited sometimes. I’ve looked into trying to adopt or get a service dog previously but due to my financial situation it just won’t ever be a possibility for me unfortunately. I’m thinking duchess is going to be my best bet as she already sits at my feet and sleeps next to my legs. Any advice would be extremely appreciated!
Thanks so much in advance!!!
Hello Meredith, If she doesn't have any behavior issues and has a great temperament, then with dedication she might make a good service dog. She needs to be focused on you, willing to please, decently intelligent, and have a good nose. You can work on calming exercises to help with the energy. Teach commands like the ones liked below to help her develop an "Off" switch" inside. Also, working on training that stimulates her mind a bit each day should not only help her learn the things she needs as a Service Dog but also take the edge off of her energy. Many energetic dogs do best with mental stimulation in addition to moderate physical exercise. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo I would look on facebook and instagram to connect with other service dog owner-trainers (those who train their own service dogs). It can be a great place to connect and learn from others who are doing what you are doing when you don't want to pay for a trainer's help. Check out the article linked below for a little information on seizure alert dogs and training based on scent. Be aware that some seizures cannot be detected beforehand because of the type of seizure. In those cases, seizure service dogs are trained to do things that help during the seizure, such as going for help, retrieving medication, pressure therapy, recovery support, anxiety reduction, ect...but not as early warning dogs because the person's body chemistry doesn't change enough beforehand to detect an oncoming seizure. https://www.littleangelsservicedogs.org/seizure-alert-dogs/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
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