Diabetes Alert Dog (DAD) FAQ

Diabetes Alert Dogs

A trained Diabetes Alert Dog uses scent detection to recognize the changes in the blood sugar levels of their Friend for Life and alerts them to impending changes.

The alert develops through the training and placement of the dog with their Friend for Life. It usually begins with a nudge of the hand. The dog will escalate the alert by pawing and/or licking until the communication is acknowledged.

Dogs have a keen sense of smell. Classical conditioning is used to train the dog initially to the scent of low blood sugar breath which is collected in special filters. When the dogs sniff the odour they get a reward. The dog is then trained to respond to the odour. They learn to connect the recognition of the odour to an action – the alert.

This is a difficult question to answer definitively. It takes about 6 months to train a dog that has reached adulthood. There is also basic obedience and public access training that accompanies the scent training. Each situation is unique. Decisions are made based on each child, their family and the dog.

It costs $20,000 to train a suitable dog. There may be added costs for the dog itself which could be as much as $1,500. The cost to re-certify the dog to maintain standards of protocol is $500 annually.

A dog that is specially trained to accompany their Friend for Life to go anywhere they would go in public is called a public access dog. It is the legal right of the person with the disability to take their dog into public venues.

A medical assistance dog is legally entitled to be present at school or work once trained. A request for your workplace or school to accommodate a DAD may be required. An employer or school must make reasonable accommodations to a qualified disabled individual, unless it would cause “undue hardship” to others.

Be sure to visit the Sir Fredrick Banting Legacy Foundation website and check out how you might fit into their Annual Awards Program.