|Barked: Tue Jun 19, '12 7:43pm PST |
|First thing you should do is train an alert behavior separately (paw, nose, do a little dance, etc.)
Put that behavior on a verbal cue. I trained Aidan by chewing cotton balls when I was low to get them soaked in saliva. Saliva and breath are where the low bloodsugar scent is strongest. Sweat works as well but I find I do not always sweat when I have a low, it is different for everyone. Double zip-lock the bags and put them in the freezer to save them for when you want to practice. You can also refrigerate for 3 days before the scent goes bad. Test strip bottles work very well to keep scent fresh, so I'll bag a sample, bottle it and then bag the bottle. I would use a scent sample only once and then toss it. Other people use them several times but I don't like the idea they can be contaminated with other scents.
When you have a sample out, have the dog smell it, then treat. When the dog seems to get that the scent is what you are treating for, repeat but after having the dog smell the scent, ask for the alerting behavior, then treat when it is done. You should also do this every time you are experiencing a low. You will have to take frequent blood sugar checks while you are training, many more than is normal, to make sure you are catching your lows so you can use the opportunity to train. If your lows make you pass out/incoherent you may need a helper to help train the dog in these instances.
I find it depends on the dog what works better: working with samples or with real-time lows. Aidan doesn't do well transitioning from samples to real lows, so as soon as he understood the scent we stopped the samples. However, it's important to understand alerting behavior only continues if it's kept up: if your lows are infrequent, there's a chance your dog will forget unless you keep up daily practicing with scent samples. Since I experience several daily lows, it's not a problem for me to constantly keep my dog sharp. If I were to experience several days without a low, I would go back to the samples.
Most importantly: lows should be the most exciting thing in the world to a hypo dog! They may suck for you but you need to really get the dog excited about them. This is why it can be difficult to train on your own, if you feel like the low will severely impact how you act around your dog. If there is panic/fear in the air while you're working with low scent, the dog may become confused or not think the lows are a "good thing". There are a few different methods for training to signal lows, but all of them come to a similar point: make the dog think lows are the best thing in the world so they're excited about telling you!
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