Imagine you have such a severe reaction to gluten that even coming into contact with and ingesting a small amount of gluten could make you extremely ill. Now keep in mind that gluten is pervasive in our diets, the main ingredient in a large number of commercially prepared foods, and even contained in cosmetics and products such as mosquito repellants and medications. How do you avoid accidentally ingesting or absorbing gluten and becoming very sick?
The answer may be a gluten detection dog. Gluten detection dogs are service dogs trained to detect the scent of even small amounts of gluten in products and the environment. The first known gluten detection dog, Elias, was trained by his owner in Slovenia to detect gluten because she had severe celiac disease and coming into contact with even a small amount of gluten could result in life-threatening symptoms. Elias sniffs out food and other products, and if they contain gluten, he pulls the item away from his owner to let her know that they pose a danger to her.
Celiac is an autoimmune disease in which gluten exposure causes damage to the small intestine, resulting in serious symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, and lethargy. While not everyone who needs to avoid gluten experiences such severe life-threatening reactions, many people with celiac disease do, and exposure to wheat, barley, or rye, which can easily be hidden in a variety of products, needs to be avoided.
Dogs are trained to detect gluten by scent. The problem is that so many different items contain gluten that it can be very difficult to teach a dog to distinguish the gluten scent contained in a product with competing scents present. A gluten detecting dog must be constantly under training to keep their senses sharp and able to detect gluten in a variety of products. Gluten detecting dogs must also be trained to be obedient and act appropriately in a variety of environments, including restaurants, grocery stores, schools, workplaces, and other public places.
Dogs trained to detect gluten do so by being presented products and alerting their owners if gluten is present and by searching out and locating gluten in the environment. To alert their owners to the presence of gluten, a predetermined sign must be taught for the dog to provide their handler. Gluten detecting dogs may paw at their handler, or the item, or perform another appropriate behavior that will clearly signal to their owners the presence of gluten.
LeiLa is just turning one year old & I've already taught her many things (good behaviors & entertaining tricks). I have celiac, so now I'd like to begin training her to detect gluten. I messaged one trainer (Willow) and asked if there are specific resources online that I could use, and she responded that it can only be done by a professional, & there is nothing a regular person can do. Today I found your methods & they seem like they should work. It seems that I should be able to train LeiLa for gluten detection with everyday practice, consistency & patience. Am I correct to think that LeiLa & I can do this together? Is there anything specific you'd like to caution me about, or encourage me with, before I get started?
Hello LuAnn, Many dog trainers are self-taught through years of reading, work with other trainers, and hands on experience. With enough work you could become an expert in this area also, but expect this to take time and work. Because you have Celiac instead of just gluten sensitivity you will need a much higher level of skill in your dog than someone who is less sensitive to gluten and can handle trace amounts. Whether or not LeiLa can be trained to do this actually depends more on LeiLa, her sense of smell, and her ability to detect very small amounts of the protein found in gluten containing products. You will need to cross train her to detect wheat, Barley, Rye, Triticale, and their varieties, as well as gluten in the form of more obscure ingredients that are called by other names and found in products such as Soy Sauce and Gravy. If you want to undertake the training yourself, you likely can, but you will need to be very thorough, and after you train her you will need to test her extensively to be sure that you have taught her all of the various forms of gluten and she will detect it reliably. You will also need to do follow up training sessions occasionally with her for as long as you are depending on her detection, to make sure that she remembers the training as time passes. Be aware that you will need to teach her to detect it in all of it's forms not just in obvious, smellier forms, like wheat bread. After you have taught her to detect and alert you when there is a gluten containing grain product, you will need to also teach her to detect much smaller, trace amounts in products like soy sauce, or in products that have been cross contaminated. If you can teach her to detect very tiny amounts in various forms, then she can successfully help you in this area. To become a service dog she simply needs to learn how to perform a task, in this case, detecting gluten, that directly helps a medically diagnosed condition that you have. I would suggest researching training a peanut allergy detection dog also because the training and level of skill needed in a dog are similar to gluten detection for Celiac disease. The main difference being that gluten is found in multiple grains, so you have to practice with the various forms. When you teach this, if you have not already, research everywhere that gluten can be found and the other names that it goes by, so that you can practice with these types of products while training. I wish you and LeiLa the best! I hope that if you decide to go for it, you feel confident in your ability to learn and train your pup. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
Where can I purchase pure gluten for training purposes?
Hello Justin, Look for something like this: https://www.amazon.com/Vital-Wheat-Gluten-3-5-Pound/dp/B0006ZN52E It will usually be a baking type product with the gluten protein concentrated for baking. Bob's Red Mill used makes vital wheat gluten. You may be able to find that in the baking section of a grocery store near you. If you need to apply it to something else you will need to add water to it to make it a soft or more liquid consistency. If you have Celiac Disease, then I would recommend wearing gloves while you work with it and be sure not to inhale it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
Hi my name is Jeanette. And I have celiac disease. I am wanting to get a puppy. How old does the puppy have to be to try and train it to detect gluten. Also is there a breed type that does it better than others. Also if I can't seem to get it to work. Is there a dog trainer I could take it to in Indianapolis,IN. And how much would they charge. I am having so much issues with being celiac and I have been so depressed. I don't have a puppy but want to get one soon. So I put in the information above what I would like to get. Since it won't let me submit this without the information.
Hello Jeanette, You can start training the puppy to prepare him to detect scents and to behave well in public to pass as a service dog as soon as you bring him home at eight weeks. The training typically takes a full year or two to complete though. The scent detection can usually be done in two to four months but preparing a dog to be well behaved enough to be able to go with you everywhere in public will take longer, and will require the dog to calm down and mature enough with age to behave well. Most service dogs are ready to work at two years of age, but likely making public trips with their owner to practice training much younger. For gluten detection you need a dog that has a desire to work, a strong desire to please, and a really good nose for scent work. For this reason most retrievers and German Shepherds make good gluten detection dogs. Other dogs that are easy to train and use their sense of smell as part of their breed standard, like hunting and retrieving breeds, can also be good. Honestly, a Golden Retriever is a great choice for a first time owner. A Golden Retriever from a high quality breeder with parents that have very trainable, friendly, calm temperaments will be easier than many of the breeds you could choose to. When you choose a puppy, I suggest finding a breeder who breeds for temperament and health and will do a temperament evaluation on the puppies for you before choosing one, including testing the puppies for potential nose work potential, meaning how good his sense of smell is and his interest in scents. If your puppy has parents that have good service dog potential themselves, meaning even though they may not be service dogs they are highly trainable, good natured, calm, and intelligent, and possibly even have good scent noses also, and the puppy with the most potential for service dog work and scent work is paired to you from a breeder who is knowledgeable and raises them well, then you will be setting yourself up for success rather than leaving things more to chance. Also, as wonderful as rescuing is, I suggest avoiding it in this situation, unless you can find a highly trainable, extremely well socialized, calm adult dog, that you know has a great sense of smell and can be trained for task work. A puppy with an unknown parentage or unknown breed can decrease your chances for success with services dogs. There are wonderful mixed breed service dogs, but many of those dogs are dogs that were already adults and predictable and then trained, or were people's well trained pets who later were trained to be service dogs when it turned out that the dog had the potential to help his owner. When seeing-eye dogs are bred and trained, the process starts with choosing the right breeding parents, with good temperaments and healthy genetics, and then the puppies are socialized early, and the puppies that show the best potential to be service dogs are chosen from that litter, and the other puppies sold to pet homes. Looking online I found this trainer whose website I have linked below, who will help owners train their own dogs in your area. They will also do board and train. There are many trainers who are further from you who will also do board and train for service dog training, but that also tends to be the most expensive option. I have never met with these people personally so you will want to check out reviews and ask questions beforehand to make sure you feel they are a good fit for you. https://www.medicalmutts.com/train-your-dog-to-be-a-service-dog Service Dog Training pricing can vary wildly, depending on how much help you need. To fully train a dog basic obedience through advanced with specialized skills it can easily cost upwards of $4,000-$5,000 BUT if you do most of the socialization, obedience training, and general training yourself, joining A Canine Good Citizen class when you need help with general manners, then you can spend as little as $200 on a trainer for just classes or a handful of private sessions to help with the specific things that you are stuck on. Check out the website that I linked above from the trainer in your area. Check out the different group class, private, and board and train programs and that should give you a better idea of pricing. For most things that you will train, you can participate in regular obedience and Canine Good Citizen classes to teach most behaviors. It is mostly just the specialized scent detection work and alerts that you may need something more specific for. Of course it is nice to work with a trainer that has experience with all of it though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
My small dog, Peanut, is exceptionally smart, eager to please, and very patient polite and quite. When I adopted her from a rescue she was about 4-6 months old and with in 15 minutes she learned how to come when called, stop, stay, sit, down, shake a paw, roll over, and to resist eating a treat until I gave her the ok. It was like she had already been taught everything but when I asked the president of the rescue I adopted Peanut from, the lady said that Peanut was in a very neglected and possible abusive home where she was left in a hot garage that got up to the 100s and was severely dehydrated. So the previous owner didn't bother giving her water let alone teacher her commands and tricks. (She also got potty trained in 4 days with no other dog showing her the way and with out a doggy door.) Now that she is 3 years old she is 50 times more intelligent. She can open drawers that are closer to the ground (because she isn't very tall) by standing on her hind legs putting her paws on the drawer and walking backwards. She finds things like the search and rescue dogs...I hide a toy/treat/myself or another person in a small hard to get to and find spaces in the house or outside. Peanut finds whatever or who ever it is very quickly. And she now knows 27 commands. She is a little dog who loves to learn and loves making people, especially me, happy. Recently I found out that I am severely life threateningly allergic to gluten. Even the smallest trace of gluten sends me into a reaction of over 50 symptoms that take a cycle of 5-7 weeks to get over. Thats how long my body takes to get gluten out of my system when I ingest it. After reading this article "How to train your dog to detect gluten" I thought Peanut would make a great service dog for me in this situation. Because she is so smart, eager to please, and very good with people other animals and distractions. I thought she could handle the training.
So here is my question...once I train Peanut to detect any trace of gluten for me how do I get her certified so I can take her in restraunts, to school, to travel, anywhere basically. How do I prove that she is a service dog?
Read more at: https://wagwalking.com/training/detect-gluten
Hello Ali, There is no certification required for Service Dogs in the USA. Those offered are either just for show or are a standard created by an individual program to test whether the dogs that go through their training are ready to work. ADA law (American's with Disability Act- the actual standard) simply requires that the dog not be a nuisance in public, is able to perform at least one specialized task that helps someone with a disability that qualifies (detecting gluten and alerting you in your case), and that the dog's owner has a medical or psychiatric need for a Service Dog (Celiac normally qualifies). When you are asked about your dog, people can ask: 1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? 2. What work or task has the animal been trained to perform? You do not have to give more personal information other than that. If your dog is being a public nuisance (like barking, acting aggressive, misbehaving) then the owner of the premise can request that you leave. ADA law: https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.html For flying on certain airlines and renting homes you sometimes will have to have a medical note signed by a doctor stating your condition and need. This should be from whoever treats you or diagnoses your condition. You may also need an ID with your dog's info on it (you do not have to have this all the time for other locations contrary to popular belief, but some people choose to carry it all the time). You will need an up to date record of your dog's shots and health. 1. I suggest purchasing a Service Dog vest that states that she is a service dog and for people not to pet her (being a small dog you are more likely to have people try to pet her, but they should not while she is working...even if it is not as distracting for her line of work it encourages people to pet service dogs and for many people with service dogs this is a major issue). 2. Carry a laminated copy of ADA law to show to anyone who bothers you, and train peanut so well that her behavior will prove that she is genuine. (Fake Service Dogs harm those with real Service Dogs because owners of stores and restaurants have bad experiences with fake service dogs and don't trust the real, well-behaved ones). For more info along the way you can actually follow my sister Kirsten McKenzie on Instagram. She used to be a Service Dog trainer before a recent move across country with her husband. She has Celiac herself and has her own Service Dog as well. There is a good community of owner trained Service Dogs on Instagram. Kirsten's Service Dog Instagram handle: @kaladin.the.servicedog Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
Where can I obtain a pure gluten odor? I feel it would be ineffective to attempt to train gluten detection without a pure gluten scent.
Hello Danni, Gluten in a common baking additive, added to breads and dough to make it more elastic. Type gluten into Amazon or Google "Gluten" and there are a number of different brands and places you can buy it online, Amazon being one option. Maky baking stores will also sell it. It is often in a tin or packaged like flour and will say gluten, vital wheat gluten, or something similar. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?
Hi. I have celiac disease and would like to teach my dog to alert to gluten. Not sure where to start or how to go about getting her to the stage of being an alert dog.
Hello Izzy, I suggest following others online who owner-train their own dogs. There is a good service dog community on facebook and instagram. Check out: kaladin.the.service dog on instagram for an example of one owner-trainer who also has celiac and has taught their own dog successfully. Socializing your dog very well and working on general manners to prepare your dog for public access is the first and most important step. A Canine Good Citizen class can be a great way to work on public access training. Once your dog is ready for public access work on teaching him to alert next. Simply teach a command like paw, sit, or another obvious but calm cue, teach him to do it on command. Next, purchase a gluten sample from online (handle with care and wash hands well after working with it to avoid contamination). Encourage sniffing it, then give the alert command. Practice this until he automatically starts to do the alert without being commanded when you present the scent - because he is guessing that you are about to tell him to do it. Once he is automatically giving the alert when presented with the scent, then stop giving the command and just let him sniff, then wait, from there on out. If he seems stuck at some point, give him the command again as a hint, as needed. Once he has learned the basics of alerting to gluten, then you get into the details of teaching him to alert to gluten when other options are available and only rewarding when he alerts to the correct thing. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden
Was this experience helpful?