Today I learned that basal blood glucose needs can double overnight some nights, or drop by half other nights. Well, that explains why my overnight readings look like a rollercoaster created by a crazy person. I know that stress makes my blood sugar spike. I wonder if a nightmare makes my blood sugar go bananas? Wouldn't surprise me at all.
Noelle has added a new behavior to our lives together. She comes over for a breath check every so often. It's like she's being a nurse! She sticks her nose on my nose and snuffles. I breathe for a moment, then she backs off. I check my blood glucose monitor afterward. Every single time, I'm either rising or falling. Not a significant enough change for me to do something about it, but Noelle notices the most subtle little shifts. She's gotten better and better over the years.
I think diabetes alert dogs are amazing. Research this year out of the University of Bristol has some interesting findings. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/ar...l.pone.0210092
Some of the findings:
"There were a number of the partnership traits which were associated with better alert performance (see odds ratios in Table 2). Specifically, increased sensitivity was associated with dogs scoring higher for Strength of dog’s alert, Willingness to try new behaviours and “get it wrong” and Dog’s Motivation and enjoyment of the task (only sensitivity to hypoglycaemic episodes was significantly affected). Increased sensitivity was also associated with the client-based factors of higher Level of communication with the instructor, higher Severity of client’s diabetes, greater Clients’ willingness to reward dog’s alerts, smaller Size of household, and higher Speed of drop in client’s glucose (only hypoglycaemia sensitivity was significantly affected),
Higher PPV (fewer false responses) was positively associated with Client’s willingness to reward dog’s alerts, Confidence in their dog’s ability, Size of household, and with dogs that were rated higher for Motivation and enjoyment of the task, Strength of dog’s alert, and Willingness to try new behaviours and get it wrong” (Table 2)."
In plain English: For a diabetes alert dog to be successful, the human must reward alerts and make it very clear to the dog they did it right. And... the dog needs to be motivated, willing to try different tasks, and enjoy it. Combine both a willing human and a willing dog, and you've got an amazing team in the making.
I think Noelle is so successful as an alert dog because I am a clicker trainer who uses positive reinforcement to train. Get it right, get reinforced. Get it wrong, nothing happens, except I'll lower criteria until I make it obvious as a stoplight what I want, then I'll reinforce the right choice. And I'll raise criteria in smaller steps next time. That's how I train.
According to the science out of the University of Bristol, that type of training leads to stronger performance in diabetes alert dogs. You can't hit a dog for the wrong response, or ignore the right response, and expect an alert dog to keep alerting. Noelle never false alerts. I think it's because I ignored them early on. No reaction either positive or negative helped Noelle figure out that false alerts lead to a dead end.
Interesting that alert dogs don't respond as well to children. Probably because children don't realize the importance of always reinforcing the dog. And alert dogs don't work as well in a busy house full of people. Again, probably due to lack of intensive reinforcement.
I respond to Noelle's alert before I treat my own low. Tag, you're low, Mom. Good dog. Off we go to the kitchen now. Noelle gets some chicken or cheese while I guzzle a Coke. Those short little 25 gram cans of pop are splendid for treating low blood glucose.
I love my diabetes alert dog. Have I said that before? Well, it's true. I do love this dog. Lots and lots and lots.