Service dog handler lobby

Justmehere

Moderator
My SD is probably nearing the end of her SD days a little earlier than I hoped, but at a common age to retire. I'm struggling with this reality - be it now or months or years from now.

For me, when the time is right, I'll train another dog. I've got mixed feelings about the SD life but at the end of the day, it helps to keep me alive when all else fails.

But this part is a hard part of the process.
 

siniang

Not Active
Does it help a little knowing that even when she retires as a SD, she'll hopefully still be with you for hopefully quite a while? And she'll continue providing comfort and with time, a new SD will slowly transition in, that'll help you with her getting older.

:hug: :hug: :hug:

(Dang, I'm really missing the hug emoji today)
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
@Sideways, what I'm wondering is I was always told that seizure detection, much like cardiac detection, is something that some dogs (very few) are born with and most are not. Basically a luck of the draw if you get a dog that can detect seizures. How I am reading this is much like blood sugar/diabetic alert, a scent can be trained in any dog to alert to seizures. They said they got trained medical alert dogs that were trained to alert in various medical conditions (therefore not all seizure alert). So, is that what this means? You were saying (I think) that a dog is responding, not alerting, to body changes when a seizure happens. Which is a response, not an alert. Correct me if I am wrong there. That convo happened a while ago. But does this some what prove that any dog can smell a seizure before it happens? I know there were only a few dogs in the study but what's the chance that they got all dogs that could detect a seizure odor if only a few but not all dogs are born with?
 

Sideways

Sponsor
I was always told that seizure detection, much like cardiac detection, is something that some dogs (very few) are born with and most are not.
Yeah - I remember you saying this, but I hadn't heard it before and didn't know where you were sourcing that from, so I didn't challenge it.

To the extent that some dogs are just naturally better at being SDs than others it's probably true to a degree. Like a whole litter of pups go through the same training to be a Seeing Eye Dog, but only some will pass the testing (although, even that has changed dramatically with the change in the way the those dogs are trained, and these days, using a +R method, they expect around 80% of the dogs to pass, suggesting that a dog's capacity is limited more by its trainer and training method than the dog and its natural skills).

But no, my understanding is the scent-detection, which seems to be the basis for quite a lot of specialised medical alert dogs, is more down the to training method and skills of the trainer and handler than something random occurring in dogs.

You were saying (I think) that a dog is responding, not alerting, to body changes when a seizure happens
I'm not quite sure what you mean by the distinction here?

If you pair a dog with a person who has a medical condition like epilepsy, and you train that person how to interpret the dog's body language, the person can learn to read the way our dog's naturally respond to changes in their handler.

So, a many dogs will naturally be able to detect stuff like this. And the first few times they notice "Boss's hormones/sweating/respiration etc has suddenly changed", their behaviour will change in response to that. Like, "Something's up, Boss, you okay?"

Most often, we interpret that as annoying or unwanted attention/behaviour from our dog (because we aren't aware there's something wrong with us), and either ignore it, or discourage it ("Piss off dog, I'm trying to work"). The dog instinctively learns this isn't something they need to respond to.

But if you're trained to notice and use these subtle reactions from the dog ("Dog's behaviour has changed, might be something up with me, dog deserves a reward for that"), then you're automatically laying the groundwork for the dog to continue alerting you whenever that same problem occurs.

It's the reason why when we're training dogs and their handlers, any change in the dog's behaviour, the first thing we train the handler to do is check in with themselves (am I okay, am I breathing, am I tense, I am dissociated, etc etc), rather than automatically correcting the dog. Because oftentimes, the dog has simply picked up "Something about Boss has changed, and I'm concerned".

If the handler learns to respond to that positively? Then the dog will keep doing it.

An example is my dog licks my hand when I'm dissociating. Not something I trained him to do, but he's very reliable at it. He alerts me to my dissociating long before I do.

That came about because the first few times he suddenly started licking my hand when he was happily lying on my lap asleep? I checked in with myself and noticed - shit, I'm totally spacing out - and rewarded him for it. Which is super cool.

Is that an alert or a response? Probably doesn't matter either way. It's just really useful!

any dog can smell a seizure before it happens?
Probably not, or at least, probably not as easily. Dog's have 2 different organs they use for detecting scents, and in dogs with a smooshed face (pugs etc), the second one (which humans don't have) is crushed up and doesn't work as effectively (it sits between their nose and their soft palate in their mouth).

In their primary scent organ (their nose), all dogs have around 10,000 or more scent detection thingos in their nose than humans, and they all have those small flaps on the side of their nostril that allows them to seperate air going in, from air going out. So - all dogs have a capacity to pick up minute smells in a way that we humans can't even begin to comprehend.

However, their is variation between breeds. Dogs that have been bred for scent-based work can have up to 40,000 more of those scent thingos in their nose, as opposed to the mediocre 10,000 more that regular breeds have. So, you're going to get some breeds (like hounds) that will find scent-based alerting (like seizure alerting) much easier than a regular breed.

ETA Then of course you add in breeding - good chance if you get a Border Collie pup from a particular lineage, they'll have a natural instinct to herd sheep, and in fact their idea of a good time is herding sheep.

Buy a Beagle from the right lineage and you get the same effect - they not only have a great nose by dog standards, they naturally looooove smelling everything and anything. So they use them to sniff out bombs and anthrax in mail because they don't just have the biology required, but their breeding is such that all you really need to train them is what to do when they detect particular smells, because they're out there smelling all this stuff instinctively anyways, and all humans need is them to let us know what they're smelling. That's a Beagle's idea of a good time, which makes that training much simpler than with other breeds.

So, same goes for sniffing out seizures. Some dogs are biologically and behaviourally predisposed to do that more than others.
 
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lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
Yeah - I remember you saying this, but I hadn't heard it before and didn't know where you were sourcing that from, so I didn't challenge it.

It's what every single person (hundreds at this point) in the service dog community, many with a seizure alert dog told me. And, Chopper doing a natural alert of cardiac episodes, it made sense. I literally had no idea someone had any sort of scent change before a seizure. I was thinking it was something like cardiac episodes or something like that, that the dogs were picking up on. Had no idea it was scent. Cause with scent training, a natural alert wouldn't make sense anymore. Again, like Chopper's natural cardiac alert. I didn't have to train it. He was already alerting me. I just needed to figure that out and shape the alert I wanted and its how he does many of the anxiety/panic alerts now. I had likened it to that more then scent.

And taking the word of those that do know more about this then I and have an alert dog for seizures, I really took the word of those I thought more knowledgeable. Hell, I can't count the amount of times I've been corrected for it as well. That's probably in the thousands. And there wasn't really much info I could find on it out in the interwebs of science either. Which is why this peaked my interest so much.


I'm not quite sure what you mean by the distinction here?

I think I either misunderstood what you meant (probably) or am miss remembering the convo (probably) or both (most likely).
 

Sideways

Sponsor
It's what every single person (hundreds at this point) in the service dog community, many with a seizure alert dog told me.
This doesn't actually surprise me. Even coming from a vet it wouldn't surprise me. It's so very typical of the dog community - it's almost like talking politics, where people don't just have their opinions (which may or may not be from solid scientific basis or not), but they're so passionately sure those opinions are right.

But yeah, grand mal seizures definitely seem to be a scent. There's probably not a lot of point trying to convince anyone otherwise - you know what people are like! But it's handy to know.

In a way it's good, because it's one of those things that you sort of become aware, "I need to stay open-minded about this...". Lord knows I've completely changed my training approach over the years, learnt better ways of doing things, and have to remain open to the concept that I may yet be proven wrong again, as we learn more about dogs.

I don't know what I don't know, so yeah, when you said that epilepsy detection was something pretty random from one dog to the next? I don't actually have rock solid science on hand to disprove that (well, now I do!!), so I tried to be open to the possibility I was wrong.

Too many people who have a dog simply aren't prepared to be told they're wrong, and it's not worth the emotional investment trying to argue, you know!?!
 

lostforgottensoul

MyPTSD Pro
Too many people who have a dog simply aren't prepared to be told they're wrong, and it's not worth the emotional investment trying to argue, you know!?

Oh, totally! The worst is telling someone they are doing wrong with their dog or dog training.

I'm a pretty opened minded person naturally. Unless triggered or something. And even then, I tend to toss it in my head forever until not triggered and come to my senses.

I guess its when the mass is saying something, that doesn't make it true until proven scientifically.
 
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