Noelle and I started working on her future as a diabetes alert dog shortly after her first birthday. My old service dog, Honey, I trained too hard too fast when she was a puppy and it interrupted our relationship in some ways. I expected too much too soon, and added a layer of frustration into our relationship that I've always regretted. I wanted to do things differently with Noelle. No hot house training her first year, just giving her a chance to be a silly puppy, with lots of bonding and practice training.
She's a natural born diabetes alert dog, and started alerting to low blood sugar spontaneously at about six months. However, that natural ability does not qualify as an "individually trained task" under the ADA. About a month ago, I introduced sniffing out low blood sugar scent on purpose. She's scenting out my low blood sugar scent despite five distraction scents. Distractions are hand lotion, soy sauce, vanilla extract, sesame oil, dish soap. She gets it right every time.
She can ignore 11 distraction scents and zero in on my low blood sugar scent in seconds. The first time I trained her on this scent, I went low while we were training. Noelle had selected the right container, and as I was praising her, she took a step backward, and then went bonkers, jumping and leaping all over me. I tested my blood sugar and it was in the low 60's. Nice catch, Noelle.
We've started going out in public together, and Noelle's manners are better than I expected.
This week, we're going to the store to practice sits and downs in high distraction. And not munching food off the floor.
I'll make a trail of low value treats on the floor and have high value treats in my hand. We'll walk back and forth past the low value food. Then I'll increase the value of the food on the floor, until we can walk past anything without her sniffing it. That's how I trained Honey and it worked really well.
Noelle is on her way to being Honey's successor. The relief I feel is overwhelming. Thanks Noelle. You're on your way.