Getting on soapbox. Flame retardant gear on, I have a feeling I’m getting flamed. But I may also help save a child’s life:

Enough already. A 150 bg reading with 2 units of insulin on board is not your dog alerting to a low. You left out the part about how your child just ate 30 minutes ago, had a meal of 75 carbs, and the 2 units is working on the carbs from lunch. If the child has 2 units of IOB, YOU GAVE IT TO THEM TO COVER FOOD! We know that 2 units of insulin could drop your BG 100-200 points (depending on age/weight), but that assumes the child has NO FOOD OR CARBS in their system. If you just fed them within the last couple of hours, the IOB is working on food. Your child could very well stay at 150, or could go up or go down. In actuality, what is happening is EXACTLY the way it is supposed to work. Eat food, take insulin, insulin requires time (in our case 3 hours) to work its way through the system, all the while working on the carbs that she ate. Now if there is a BS spike (which often happens after a meal) where the BG shoots up to 200 or higher, THAT is an alert. When the dog alerts and the child is in range, but you think the dog may be right, wait 10-15 minutes and check again. If there has been a significant drop of 20-40 points, that was possibly a good, heads up alert. If they are 145, all though that is a drop, that ISN’T an alert.

And as for the “my dog alerted at 11:30 and little johnny was 135. Then I checked at 12:15 and he was 120. Then I checked at 1:30 and he was 99. Then I checked at 2:45 and he was 70. Good low doggie!”. Well, that is just ridiculous. Your dog should have been on his place, and not come to you until sometime after 2. I tell you what. I’m going to tell you to go check your child right now. I bet that sometime in the next 5 hours, they will be out of range.

Most likely, you have trained your dog that when they swipe you with a paw, you treat. They aren’t alerting, they want a treat, and you taught them a way to get one.

Here is what you need to do. Tighten up the reigns, and provide the dog with structure. Make sure they are doing a lot of place work, they are getting a lot of obedience training from you, and you are providing some scent sample games and real time training to work with the dog. But telling me your dog alerted 4 hours ago? Please. And as for that alert, why didn’t he re-alert 3 hours then 2 hours, then 1 hour, then every 15 minutes until you corrected the low?

We all love to brag about the amazing things our dogs have done. But lets be honest. We want these dogs to be accurate. If we as handlers are treating all these other things as alerts, or drag our dogs through them, or treat them every time the child is really in range after a meal, with insulin on board, or prompt/cue them to alert, then when you REALLY need it, you may not really know your dog actually is capable.

When Major or Raven alert and our daughter is 135, we don’t reward. We say “we will watch it”, and then we will check again in 15 minutes. Most likely when we check again, if it was Major, Stella will be below 80, and if it was Raven, she will be over 170 (they each have a freaky specialty of early alerting to a drop (Major) or a rise (Raven) ). What we think of as an “early” or “predictive” alert, is in reality, a real time blood sugar change that current modern medical tools can’t catch that quickly.

So please, you are expecting these dogs to be an extra safeguard for your children. But before trusting them with your child’s life, make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for disaster.

Rant over. Off soapbox.

Team Blackdogsrule

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  1. Truth!

  2. Ummm…Amen, brother!

  3. Oh my goodness!!!!! Yes! Drives me insane!!!!!! Do you want your dog to SOUND amazing or BE amazing? Couldn’t have said it better!!!!

  4. A quick question, does Major only alert for drops and Raven for a rise in BG?

    • No, they both alert for both highs and lows. But if asked who normally get’s them first, Major tends to get the lows faster and Raven gets the highs faster. That isn’t a hard/fast rule, just an observation.

      • Cool just was wondering! We have Rudy, he does both too! My son is 14 so hormones are killing us right now! Poor Rudy I am sure is tired of alerting to all the high BG’s!! Can’t seem to get out if the 200’s!
        Love your posts, they all hit close to home!!

  5. Frank:

    This post is a good reminder to me of the risk of inadvertently training our DAD to paw swipe in return for a food reward. I have worried about this myself because Bo has paw swiped me when Austin is not home. I ignore those paw swipes but maybe I should be doing something else?

    How much time do you have do you have Major and Raven spend on their place/mat when they are at home? If Bo is not put on his place he will follow us around the house. I’m wondering how I determine an appropriate amount of time I should have him practicing being on his place when we are at home.


    • Hi Jennifer,

      We have a place mat of some sort (Kuranda, yoga mat, place blanket) in most every room in the house, so depending on where someone is, there is a place to put the dog. Often, as we move around the house, we bring the dog with us, and then put them on the place in the new room. Sometimes, as a training session, I will leave them on a place in the other room (Major is a rock star at this, Raven struggles in this area, and will try to sneak off and get on mom and dads bed), but most often they are in the same room as us, but on a place when we get there.

      When Stella is home and hanging out, she may use a lab as a pillow on the floor, or if we are watching TV in the evening, one of them may be at my feet by the couch, but generally, when we are hanging out at home, they are on a place.

      As for the paw swipe, I agree. At one point we tried to change up Major’s alerting behavior, but he got confused, so we rolled everything back. He still puts 2 paws on me and licks my hand. Then AFTER we check and verify, I may ask him to show me what it is, at which point he will bow or wave. Raven is a bringsel dog. She will grab a bringsel off my belt or we have them in various locations around the house. Her “pre-alert” behavior is really easy to spot, especially if I forgot to put the bringsel back in it’s normal location, because she starts to hover and look around the coffee table for it.

  6. Nothing flameable here! Good stuff, even though we don’t have a DAD, it still speaks to how complex BS can be – insulin, carbs, TIME, age/weight, no magic, just staying on top. Oh, and this is why we need a cure. Yesterday.

  7. Well said, Frank. When I started looking into DADs I heard all kind of amazing stories about dogs alerting from miles away, and their ability to anticipate a low based upon IOB. Frankly (!) it was quite disturbing. My background is in engineering and I consider myself very much an amateur scientist and what people were describing sure didn’t sound very scientific. For a while I thought the whole DAD thing was a hoax because of some of those outrageous claims but I was able to find people with clear heads who avoided over-romanticizing the simple and highly trainable skill of scent detection. It’s just science, not voodoo.

  8. I remember someone working for a company… I want to say what company but I won’t. Told me that the dog picking up my sons stuffed animal was an alert…. Hmmm….. I’m going to say pry not! Watch out for what the so called trainers tell you as well… Most of them are instructed to say whatever will make you happy.

  9. Can I address this post to a specific company or two? I hope anyone interested in signing up can read this. Finally, the truth was spoken about IOB and alerts, FINALLY. Thanks Frank!

    • This is available for everyone Krista. And I didn’t even mention panting, farting, or peeing in a crate as an alert… 😉

      • HAHAHA I had a longer post typed up that I erased before submitting the one I did. In the original I mentioned how our company considered it an alert if the dog peed in our house. “Its uncomfortable, its an alert!” Funny when I was convulsing on the floor and Nick was trying to help me, and my son was calling 911…the dog was sitting on the floor sleeping. Her favorite thing to do for about 23 hours each day. 🙂

  10. I saw nothing in here about precursors to an alert. I can usually tell by my dogs other behaviors if its a I want a cookie, vs a real alert. In real alert scenarios we get other cues like panting, blowing of pupils, whining, barking, little boy parts coming out, drooling, air scenting, etc. When its an I want a treat, its usually just a paw swipe.

    • There are lots of pre-alert behaviors that we can keep an eye out for, and even use to help bring out and train alerting behavior. This isn’t that post. These scenarios always start off the same, “Doggie alerted to me so I checked little Johnny. He was 140 with 2 units of IOB! That could have sent him into a coma! 2 units could drop his BS by 150 pts!”. They never mention how long ago Johnny ate, or how the IOB got there. They make it sound like the IOB just miraculously showed up, or their pump has a mind of it’s own. The reality is the child probably just ate, and the IOB is there because they gave it to Johnny to work on the carbs in his food. They need to wait15-20 minutes and check again. Chances are they are training the dog to paw swipe. Not to alert.

      The sad part is, they have trainers that are telling them that is a real alert, because the trainers don’t understand diabetes and how IOB works. It is a very dangerous scenario