I actually once had the crazy idea to teach a dog to wake me if my CPAP mask started leaking or shut off, and I gave it up about 10 minutes later. Why? No air and leaking masks ALWAYS wake me up. Besides, that particular dog was actually afraid of the mask and getting it to be unafraid was a bit daunting.
Doesn’t seem to bother the current dogs, but I still won’t do it. It’s a bit redundant. It’s rather train agility.
So why won’t I train dogs to detect low blood sugar?
First you need reliability, and you need to know exactly what to train the dog for. There are a bunch of people who claim you can use clothing that hasn’t been washed to train the dog. Really? What is your scientific evidence? If someone dies of a low blood sugar and the dog doesn’t alert, can you really afford the law suit? Thought not. Oh, by the way, a bunch of attorney generals are after those people and the list gets longer every day (love Greg Abbott).
We trained on real when we could get it. Real dope, real explosives, real dead people, real bad people (okay, they were fireman, not really bad people, just dumb enough to get bit, but then they run into burning buildings – and that’s really funny when I say it in person, not so much in print).
I trained a lot on synthetics. Synthetics that were paid a ton of money for to be proven that they worked as good as the real. Yeah, there is a company or two that makes stuff that smells like real dope, real dead people etc. You might ask and see if they make “stink that smells exactly like person x when they have a low blood sugar”, but I think you won’t be able to afford it. Also not sure you can prove it’s the same stink.
So to be truly reliable dog has to indicate only when person x is having a low blood sugar. Do we know for a fact that they smell uniquely different? How many false positives will you tolerate. Actually now, having a dog that tells you every two hours that you need to check your blood sugar might be useful, but isn’t an alarm on your pump cheaper since it is on every pump on the market now? There is also CGMs, the first few generations didn’t work for me, and I don’t have the money to waste, but still cheaper than training a dog.
The next problem is what breed should you use?
Bouvier’s were the first police dogs but they went out of the fashion because of the hair. One of the most popular breeds of dogs for drug work are labs. They are pretty single minded, and will stick to the job. I’ve actually trained a border collie for drug work, but they are just too darn smart, they get bored and start making up their own game.
The Department of Agriculture uses beagles because every person who has ever owned a dog will tell you about that cute little beagle they had once (yeah, I get that too), and because beagles were born to find food (yeah, that’s what rabbits are – calories), and all you have to do is teach it not to eat the food which was bred into them too, they don’t eat the rabbit. Granny is not going to be scared when “Snoopy” sits next to her suitcase. In fact, she’ll probably haul out that food she didn’t tell you about it give it to Snoopy if you’re not careful.
So what would I use for a blood sugar detection dog? I would want a dog that is single-mindedly devoted to the person and blind to all outside stimuli. I really don’t think I want that dog, but you might. It would be in your face constantly, Oh, yeah, that was the border collie I mentioned above.
So you find the perfect breed of dog. Guess how many we washed out of drug dog training. A ton. Go ask CCI and the Seeing Eye Dog people how many they wash out.
So if you come home with a pup, don’t count on it doing the job. It will also take several years or at least months to get enough training on it to get concentration. I visited with a beagle who was a “special” this week and there was a huge difference between it and mine. Mine knew how to learn since they started doing it when they hit the house, this one, not so much. It takes several months of work to get that “how to learn thing”.
Back to what kind of dog, I also have figured out that I really don’t want that dog that is hanging about waiting for me to go low. I kind of like the fact that Macy is in the corner of the room snoozing and not in my face. Again, this is why the border collie went to live in a county to be a drug dog, and the beagles have stayed here.
By the way, the border collie I trained for drug work wasn’t happy unless he was working two shifts. He wasn’t happy at my house at all because I didn’t keep him busy enough. Do you really think sitting around waiting for you to go low would really be much of a life for that type of dog?
And yeah, taking a dog to work sounds like fun. I’ve actually done it a few times, it is isn’t that much fun. First you have to worry about when, how and where your dog is going to go to the bathroom. Then you have to worry about how it’s going to react to strangers and your work mates. It really takes away from your concentration. It probably gets better after a few days, but still.
Honestly, that free blood sugar meter you can get from the endo. is sounding better and better every minute to me. Hope I’ve convinced you.
If the above doesn’t remember, to get a truly reliable dog you’re going to have to produce some artificial control lows. I don’t trust anyone on the planet well enough to do that.