This past month I’ve changed quite a few things related to Suzie’s alerting behavior. I’m now using a bringsel for her to alert with. It's a skinny stuffed cloth cylinder that hangs from objects with Velcro – usually from doorknobs or a belt loop. When the DAD alerts, they grab the bringsel and bring it to you to show that they smell low or high blood sugar. I decided to use this with Suzie to make the alerting behavior clear and not mistake it with regular puppy excitement. The bringsels arrived in the mail and just a three days later Suzie was already alerting with them! Not perfectly mind you, but she has gotten the hang of it. I’m teaching her to grab the bringsel, then jump on me. This is so that if she ever alerts at night when she gets older, she knows to not only grab the bringsel, but to also make physical contact. I was afraid by her just grabbing the bringsel the alert may go unnoticed. She’s been doing very well alerting and alerts to a low that I have about once a day. She’s getting the hang of the 80 and below threshold as well, and is learning that anything above 80 does not result in a reward.
The second new thing we are doing, as of a few days ago, is “Show me”. At the DAD conference I learned about using a box to teach “Show me”; it teaches the dog to show who is the person that is low/high. I’ve decided to use a similar but little different method to teach it as I think Suzie was getting confused as to whether paw the box, lay down at the box, or grab the bringsel, and I don’t have enough experience with it to know how to deal with it. Now I’m teaching “Show me” by placing the scent swatch in a mason jar with holes in it, then hide it in the living room. I walk into the living room with a bringsel on my belt loop and just let Suzie wander. Then when she smells the swatch, she grabs the bringsel and jumps on me. I then take the bringsel from her, give her a pat, and ask her to “Show me”. Then I wait for her to go find the jar and when she finds it she paws/scratches at it or picks it up in her mouth if she is able (I don’t really want her to pick it up, I want her to paw it instead, but I need to find away to make the container so she can’t pick it up with her mouth). After she paws/scratches/picks up the jar, we have a huge low party with half a hotdog, and her squeaky low bunny reward. It’s not the cleanest/crispest training I’ve ever done, but we are both learning. My goal is for “Show me” to eventually be Suzie pawing the exact person who is low/high so that we can eliminate the question of whether the DAD is giving a false alert or she is just alerting to someone other than the diabetic. Sadie (my first DD) currently causes some confusion because will alert, but she’s in a family that has multiple diabetics.
Suzie’s obedience is still in progress (as always) – but I think a little slower than Sadie’s. (Poor Suzie, always being compared to "the perfect child") I think this is a combination of not quite as much public access work at such a young age, as well as Suzie’s different personality/temperament. She has had outings to Kroger, Goodwill, the mall, church nursery, and gone prom dress shopping. Her PA skills are getting better each time. I’m currently working on getting her to accept her vest a little more willingly; a few weeks ago, when her fear period began, she decided that she didn’t like the vest at all and she went stiff for a minute or two after it was put on. Hopefully this will go away once her fear period is completed, which I think it’s lessening a little. I’ve been giving her rewards for just sticking her head through, then for laying it on top of her, etc. Mind you, we’ve been doing that since she was 7 weeks old – ahhh, the beauty of adolescence – always giving you another challenge that you didn’t expect or want…
But Suzie is an extremely happy puppy and loves everyone she meets! Each morning she comes barreling out of her crate and when I squat down to pet her she jumps in my lap, squirms, licks my face, and the repeats it. As we walk to the door to go outside she runs into the living room and says good morning to my parents who sit on the couch. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a happier girl! When we went to nursery yesterday she absolutely loved the kids and when I held her back she laid down, squirmed, and tried to crawl towards them because she wanted to say "Hi" so badly. Kids are her favorite, but at the moment she’s a little too exuberant so they aren’t sure whether to pet her or to run away from her! We will continue working on scent work with the bringsel and “Show Me”, as well as additional PA, to hopefully contain some of the little missile’s exuberance. She sure is a joy to have!...most of the time.