I learned a lot of things at the Wildrose DAD Conference. Not all of them dog/DAD related. Here are just a few:

8730799312_acab537e89_b1. We are all at different stages along this journey. It doesn’t do you any good to wish you were further along than you are, and you can’t skip any stages to get where you want to go. I was surrounded by experienced teams working together for several years all the way around to people who have only had their puppy for a few weeks and families who still aren’t sure what these dogs are all about. The wonderful thing about these conferences is the opportunity to watch, learn, and ask questions from anyone and everyone.

2. The people that get the most out of their relationship with their dog put in the most work. On a continuous basis. Forever. A stat was given during one of Rachel Thornton’s talks that makes a lot of sense. The average working life of a DAD is 12 months. Why? Because families don’t realize the amount of work required to keep these dogs constantly working and focused. Laziness on the handler/familie’s part leads to a very expensive pet. Do the work. Put in the time. Reap the rewards.


3. When training a new behavior or command, always remember to start off slow, and work your way up. It’s important for you AND your dog to have successes along the way, so that no one gives up or gets frustrated. Some behaviors even need to be broken down into smaller steps/increments.

4. Even the most successful teams aren’t perfect, and neither are their dogs. They are often there to provide support and information, but they are also there seeking answers to problems they have, to learn new techniques, and they are always learning. These successful teams have a plan of constant training and improvement. Always finding something new to tweak and refine. Again, daily training for the working lifetime of the dog.


5. That dogs can’t read. Actually, that we need help reading our dogs. They are always trying to communicate, but we don’t speak the same language. They give us clues and signals, and we need to learn to look for them, and learn how to interpret them.


6. Number 1 and 4 lead to this. STOP comparing yourself to others. Stop thinking the other teams are “lucky to have that dog” or “I wish our dog could do that” or “why can’t we do that now”. Know that these teams have worked their asses off, and that they were once where you were. Instead of comparing, do something more constructive and use these opportunities to create a road map for your team. Use it to see the future possibilities. Use it to stir the pot, get the fire burning, to come back next year and be “that team” to someone else!


7. That 4 days of intensive training is exhausting. Physically and mentally. The emotional drain took it’s toll. But I needed it. And I would do it again.


8. I learned that our stories need to be heard. They are important. They are significant. They let us know we are NOT in this alone. They help. They heal. They change the way things get done. That for every 1 person that thinks I am using my child by putting our story out there, there are 100 more that let me know what we do here is important. That what we do here has helped them. That sometimes, what we do here may change someone’s life. (And the life changed may be my own). That these stories are painful, but that telling them, and hearing them, is cathartic.



9. I got to meet some teams that have inspired me for a long time. I turned “Facebook” friends into “Real” friends.

10. There are a lot of different ways to get where you want to go. At these conferences we are introduced to different trainers, different training methods, and different philosophies. There is no “right” way. But you can completely custom design “YOUR” way, taking a little bit from each and applying it as you see fit.

11. I am not where I want to be. But I am further along than I thought I was. I have been given some new tools, and I have a clear vision of where I want our team to go.

12. I knew this already, but I was glad to see it reinforced: Most issues start with the handler. It is most often the handler that needs training, and the dog will wind up following right along.


13. Again, another one I already knew: The diabetic community is an amazing group of people that care about each other. We really are a family, with a common goal. To live life to the fullest, take care of our diabetic’s (whether ourselves or our family members) to the best of our abilities, share through our experiences, bond over our similar experiences, and pray for a cure.


14. That I am more passionate than ever about these dogs and our type 1 kids. That through this blog, through our Facebook page, through the power of photography, I will continue to educate and advocate about diabetes, and the roll these dogs can play in our lives.


15. That Major is a really good dog, and that as far as training goes, I need more then he does.


16. That diabetes makes you say ugh!


17. That we are not alone. We are in this together. But that if you need something, you need to speak up. People are listening, and they are willing to help.

18. That I am one of those people willing to help.

19. And lastly, all though I knew this one too, it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.

A big, HUGE thank you to Rachel Thornton, Mike Stewart, all the staff at Wildrose Kennels, Crystal Cockroft and everyone at Canine Hope for Diabetics, all the trainers that provided their time and expertise, and of course all the families that I met that shared their journey with us. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. We learned, we laughed, we got rained on, we even treed a car. Seriously. 🙂

To see a lot more of our experience, you can check out my Flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/wildrosedad2013/

Team Blackdogsrule




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  1. Excellent point, and great pics to go with….well done as usual, Frank!

  2. Thanks, Frank! This was so good and inspiring, and your pics are amazing! And black dogs do rule!!

  3. Thanks for posting this. I wish that I could have been there!