You just bought a dog that is suppose to be a diabetes alert dog. The trainer or breeder told you this dog will do its job, but what assurance do you really have that the dog meets at least a minimum level of competency to do that job? Believing the trainer or breeder you bought your dog from is like asking the fox to guard the hen house.
With the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance standardized testing protocol, you can now be assured that if your dog has been properly trained, it will be able to perform the minimum tasks required of all diabetes alert service dogs.
By having experienced canine professionals review and evaluate your dog’s test results you can be assured your dog is among the best.
The test features two key components:
The Public Access Test is performed in a public setting to confirm that the dog will behave politely and appropriately as an all-access, working service dog.
The Scent Test confirms the dog’s ability to alert to the blood glucose level (low or high) that it has been trained to detect. The scent discrimination test also validates that the dog is specifically alerting to the blood glucose elements of the diabetic and not to other contaminates or factors. These tests will give you the peace of mind your dog knows his or her job unquestionably.
Detailed guidelines, test instructions, and a score sheet will be emailed to the applicant upon payment of application fee. All test results are kept completely confidential and will not be released to any organization or individual.
What’s Involved in Testing?
Anyone with a diabetes alert dog can apply for the certification test. Your dog should be fully trained and already performing live alerts on the diabetic person the dog works with. You do not need to be a professional trainer to apply for the testing, but all aspects of the test must be performed. If you have trained your own dog and would like the certification, you may want to consider hiring a professional trainer to help review your dog’s performance ahead of the test to offer suggestions to be sure you are properly prepared and can complete the test.
You will need someone to videotape the test and then create a CD or DVD with the video recording to be sent to the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance panel that will review the test. There must be someone other than yourself to run the scent discrimination test as double-blind test. This simply means neither the person running the test nor the person taking the test knows where the scent sample is located in a line-up of similar-looking objects.
What Does the Dog-and-Handler Team Have to Do?
The handler must be able to show control over the dog in public situations, such as loading and unloading from a vehicle, going through doors, and eating at restaurants. The dog must demonstrate a minimum level of obedience and show no aggressive behavior toward other people or animals in a public setting. The testing is designed to show two things:
- One, that the dog and handler team are safe and under control in a variety of public situations;
- Two, that the dog has the ability to alert its handler to the presence of glycemic odor while working in public.
There is also a scent test later on, where the dog must be able to discriminate a diabetic saliva sample from non-diabetic saliva samples and to indicate this to the handler with a distinctive alert.
The canine-handler team must score 90% on the whole test for certification.
Certification does not, in any way, indicate that the dog should replace any medical devices or protocols for managing diabetes.
The standard fee for certifying a canine-handler team is $100, which is non-refundable and payable to the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance. Initial application is made on the Application page. If you should fail the first test you can retry once within one year from application at no additional fee.
All testing must be videotaped for review by the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance Evaluation Committee. The evaluation should be videotaped in a manner that clearly shows the canine and handler performing each test. Tripods and other devices to provide stability for the camera are preferred. Complete instructions for submitting video are included in the information packet you will receive after paying the application fee.
A certificate and document of qualification, signed by an official of the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance, will be issued to the team upon the review by a Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance committee and acceptance of the submitted video and accompanying paperwork. This certificate will be valid for one year from the date of issue.
Other Things Necessary for the Certification
All general guidelines must be verified and initialed by the person administering the test on the Guidelines and Testing Checklist that will be provided after applying for certification. Any proof of attendance of training or other credentials must be submitted with the final video documenting test and are the responsibility of the handler applying for the Diabetes Alert Dog Alliance certification.
- Canine must be a minimum of 12 months of age.
- The handler must have received instruction in a recognized Canine Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) Program and must provide a copy of their certification. (this does not have to repeated at subsequent re-evaluation of the dog)
- The handler must have attended an American Red Cross (or equivalent) basic first aid course for canines and must provide a copy of the certification. (This does not have to repeated at subsequent re-evaluation of the dog)
- The handler must produce written proof of the canine’s successful completion of a nationally recognized obedience evaluation that meets or exceeds the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test. Equivalents include, but are not limited to, evaluations conducted by recognized instructors with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers or the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors.
- The handler must provide a video recording of a nighttime alert. The alert must take place between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. The handler should hide a sample on his or her person and lie in a bed or on a couch as though he or she is sleeping. The alert should be clear, and the canine should continue to alert until the handler acknowledges the alert.
- At no time during the evaluation process may the canine tested show aggression or reactivity towards other dogs, the evaluator, or handler by barking, growling, raising its hackles, or lunging. Any incident will be grounds for immediate failure.
- The canine tested must be housebroken; any soiling in a store, restaurant, or similar public space will be grounds for immediate failure.
- Any abuse of the canine during the evaluation will result in immediate failure.
- Treat and toy rewards may not be used to lure the canine into performing a behavior necessary during the evaluation.
This certification is for the canine and handler team in attendance only. The handler must own the canine or regularly train with the canine.
The evaluator may not coach the team, handle the canine, or interfere with the team’s performance during the evaluation. The evaluator may only give directions of what step is to be done next. If necessary, the evaluator may ask bystanders to move on or explain to shopkeepers what is taking place in order to facilitate the smooth execution of the evaluation.
The equipment the canine wears on a regular basis when performing his/her job should be worn by the canine during the evaluation. This equipment may include, but is not limited to, to a service dog vest, backpacks, or head halter.
Where is the Testing Done?
The suggested location is in a public place such as a large building or a shopping mall. You will need a parking lot, elevator and/or escalator, a restaurant with a restroom and a place with public transit (bus, train, metro, or streetcar).
What Equipment and People Will be Needed?
Required material for the scent testing part:
- 3 saliva samples on dental cotton. The handler should have collected saliva samples prior to beginning the evaluation. Details on handling and verifying the saliva samples will be provided in the Sample Collection Sheet upon application. These samples should be contained in a re-sealable plastic bag when not being planted on the handler as part of the test.
- Several small, metal, lidded tins with holes punched in the lids to allow air flow.
Required material for the public access testing part:
- Desk/table with chair
- 6-foot lead for your dog and whatever gear it normally wears
- Shopping cart
- Plate of food
- Well-socialized, leashed canine with additional handler. They will be used as a contolled distraction to test your dog’s reaction to other dogs. It should not be a dog known to the dog being tested.
The following are also to be used for distractions.
- Adult and child
- Bag of food
- Video camera and tripod or GoPro (entire evaluation process must be recorded)
- Poop bags
- Fare for mass transit