Sunday, January 9, 2011

Alert, Really?

I've had some time to gather my thoughts and try and sort them. The following post is in NO way meant to discourage anyone from persuing an alert dog, it's just MY experience with one certain facility.

Yesterday we drove to the K-9 facility that was over 1.5 hours away from us. I went into the whole situation with an open mind. I wasn't sure what to expect, other than I knew we'd see a demo of how alerting worked. When we got there, I was a little disappointed to see that the "training facility" was in fact a small room (about 12x20) with non-skid rugs. We took a seat on folding chairs lined up and we were told how they teach the dogs to alert with samples. One of the dogs that is a "demo dog" was brought in and we were shown how she alerts. We were told that she was a little hyper because she'd been in a kennel all day. (first grumble) It took her about 5 minutes to sense the "low scent" and it was pretty neat to see her paw at the trainer. She was awarded with food. We got to pet her and she was very excited to see us. We were told that the breed they like to use is Goldendoodles or Labrodoodles since they are hypoallergenic and don't shed. After we visited with her for a few minutes, she was led back to the kennel. My new navy blue sweatshirt was covered in dog hair. They don't shed? (second grumble) The next dog was brought in and he was nearly the size of a Great Dane and VERY hyper! Kacey was instantly turned off by this one because he was so big. He is a "started" dog so he hasn't gotten all of his training yet. He was a nice dog but WAYYYYY too much dog for us. When we were shown how he alerts, he seemed to just be excited to get some food and it didn't look like much alerting to me. (third grumble) He was taken back to his kennel and the third dog was brought in. She was much smaller and came in jumping around like a frog. Another one that was high strung. She appeared to be alerting but again, it seemed like she knew he had food in a cup connected to his belt. She kept trying to jump on him and he turned to us and told us that was her way of alerting. (fourth grumble) All the dogs had basic obedience training but none of them had been public certified yet and that was something we'd have to take classes to do. We'd have to travel down there 1-2 times a week to work with more obedience and scent training and then work on getting public certification. I'd pretty much made up my mind by this point because you know how you get a gut feeling that something just isn't right and it sounds "too good to be true". I didn't get the impression that they'd been doing this very long and wrapping up $10,000-$20,000 in a dog is HUGE! I looked down the row of chairs at Frankie and he sat there quietly and I could tell that he wasn't showing approval. We told the trainer that we'd like time to think about this since it was a huge step for us. It was such chaos that I didn't even get any pictures. The trainer explained to us that a fully trained dog will cost $20,000. He doesn't push for that because they like the families to be involved in the training so they like to place what they call "Started" dogs. These dogs cost $10,000 and they help you corporate funraise to absorb the costs. These started dogs have basic obedience class and have started scent training with low scents. It is then the families job to pick up where they leave off and travel back and forth for training and then start going out into public with the dog to work on public certification. The trainer told us they like to place started dogs because it's cheaper for the families and we can "customize" the scent training, etc. (insert red flags waving wildly)

As we walked out, Frankie looked at me and said, "Well?" I kinda shook my head and he said, "You tell me what you're thinking and then I will tell you how I feel about it." So I turned to Kacey and asked her what she thought? She went on to tell us that she thought the dogs were too big (they were a little bigger than a Lab) and it was hard to tell if they were alerting or if they just knew the trainer had food and were giving them their paw. She was right! She was having the same feelings that we were.

Right now, it's not the right time. It's not the right facility for us. I'm scared to raise $20,000 for a fully trained dog and then not get what we pay for. It's a tough situation! I just wasn't impressed enough and it makes me sad but it's really not for us right now. I'm just not totally convinced these dogs were alerting. It just felt like they were finishing obedience training and sitting to give a paw to shake. I was really worried that Kacey would be in tears if we said no right now. She wasn't all that disappointed. She actually smiled and said, "I'm getting a new pump and a CGM so I will be just fine Mom!" Ahhhhhh! :) Thats my girl!

So for now, thats what we're going to do. We're heading down the road with Animas and Dexcom!


Wendy said...

Your heart had to try you'll never wonder "what if" or "should we have"

Thanks for's not the right time for us either :)

Anonymous said...

Two organizations that have a good reputation are Pawsibilities Unleashed and Dogs4Diabetics. Dogs4D gives you the alert dog virtually for free, provided you live in California (where they are located) so they can train you and the dog. Training is ongoing. Dogs4 may open up facilities in other states; unfortunately, not in New York near us. Canines are used very successfully for drug sniffing, bomb sniffing and cadaver dogs and have been for years. Law enforcement would not use these dogs if they could not do the job. I know the dogs have the capability; it is the facility that trains the dogs that is the problem. What are the standards for training and how are they enforced? And training is ongoing which may not work for a lot of people. I would love an alert dog but don't have the time to devote to training, plus she would only use the dog part time at home, not take the dog everywhere, which is another no-no. I also would like a smaller dog and the breeds used (labs, goldens, doodles) seem to be large.

Misty said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Jill. This is something I have always been curious about.