So you decided to get a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD). You’ve seen all the amazing things they can do, you know they can help you manage your diabetes (or your child’s diabetes), and you think you understand what it takes to share a household with one.
You have started contacting organizations and trainers. And you have started to hear: “we have a 2 year waiting list”, “it will be 18 months to train a dog”, “we are accepting applications but we are 3 years out”. This seems like a ridiculously long time, doesn’t it? You can go down to the shelter and have a dog this afternoon. Add to that the $10,000 – $20,000 price tag some of these dogs have and you start to think there is an easier way.
You reach an organization and hear: “we just happen to have 1 8 week old puppy left!” And you think to yourself, “Wow, how lucky is that?!?”
Your first red flag should be that they have only 1 left. If they breed their own puppies, this dog may still be available because it truly isn’t suited for SD work. It may have been the runt. There are any myriad of reasons as to why this place has puppies available for delivery, and every other place you contacted had a waiting list.
The second red flag should be that they will sell you an 8 week old puppy. 8 week old puppies ARE NOT service dogs. And even in the hands of an experienced trainer, receiving the best training, there is no guarantee that this dog will ever be a SD. And yet…
You are convinced that this is easy and totally up your alley. How hard can it be? You’ve seen my dogs in action, perfectly behaved and alerting on you the first time they met you.
The breeder tells you that this puppy has been scent imprinted. It has an amazing temperament. And it is only $7000. That seems like a bargain, doesn’t it?
THIS IS A DOG THAT HAS ONLY BEEN HERE 8 WEEKS. And unless this organization has a 2 year self training program that involves you and the dog receiving help and assistance for the next 24 months, you are getting a puppy. Not a SD. Just a puppy. And in a SD organization, the obedience training may start early, and the dog may be scent imprinted, but the scent work waits until the dog is a little older.
Just like in every other facet of life, you can get fast, good, or cheap. You can only pick 2. Good and fast will be really expensive. Good and cheap will take a very long time. And fast and cheap is just a very inferior pet, or a puppy that has very little chance of truly becoming a SD.
Believe me when I say, don’t rush the process. If you want a good quality diabetic alert dog, that is truly able to alert to your blood sugar issues, protect you, be a pleasure to handle in public access scenarios, and possibly save your life, invest the time. That is where the value is. Even if you decide to self train, invest in a trainer that can help pick a quality dog, and that will hold your hand for 18-24 months. That is truly the only way this works. There is no way to circumvent the time it takes to train these dogs.