What is a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD)?: A Diabetic Alert Dog is a service dog that has been trained to alert diabetic handlers (owners) in advance of a low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar levels before they become dangerous so that the diabetic can take the necessary steps to avoid a problem by taking glucose or insulin depending on the situation. These dogs are trained to specifically react to the chemical change in the diabetic. These amazing animals provide emotional security that leads to a more confident, independent lifestyle for the diabetic and his or her family. These dogs have also proven to assist in bringing down a diabetic's A1C level to help prevent diabetic complications in the future.
How effective are DADs at detecting my high and low blood sugar?: A dog’s nose is truly amazing! The sense of smell of a canine is over 1000 times more sensitive than that of a human! A dog has over 225 million scent receptors whereas a human has only 5 million. One eighth of a canine's brain is comprised of the olfactory bulb. This anatomy along with a canine’s natural drive and hunt instincts enable us to train a dog to differentiate distinct scents. You will see for yourself that these DADs are VERY effective in alerting! Note however, you as a diabetic handler must do your part when working with a DAD to manage your diabetes just as much if not more so. The DADs must see and smell that you have taken the proper steps to return your blood sugars to normal range. Remember these are also NOT MACHINES, they are living beings. They make mistakes, they are not perfect but darn close! Our founder lowered her A1C from a dangerous 8.3 to an outstanding 6.0 in the first three months of having her DAD!
How are DADs trained?: Unlike many of the DAD programs, Lone Star DADs are trained by a type 1 diabetic with the assistance of her own DAD. Training a DAD is a labor-intensive process. For us it is a labor of love. Our bodies are a unique makeup of organic chemicals - all of which have specific smells. Low and high blood sugar levels cause a release of chemicals in the body that have a distinct odor that is undetectable by humans but is very distinct to dogs. Our training process is a positive reinforcement-based approach that motivates these dogs to alert when they smell this odor. The pups are exposed to the diabetic scent from day one and trained not only on frozen scent samples but also on daily real time alerts. We will ask that you provide us with scent samples (more specific info on how this is done will be provided to you). Using these samples along with the trainer's real time highs and lows, we use this positive reinforcement-based approach that we feel is critical to the process of training an alert dog. Finding a diabetic scent means fun and food for the pup so it is a freely given response to the scent and not one that must be asked of them. This is important as the DAD is working for you 24/7 unlike other types of service dogs that are on and off duty. Once an alert is confirmed by a finger prick test, the dog enjoys a treat, praise, toy or game.
Where do the DADs come from?: Our philosophy differs from that of most DAD trainers in that we do not desire to add to the already overpopulation of dogs in the United States, we DO NOT breed dogs. Instead, we believe that within the hundreds of thousands of unwanted dogs out there, many that will make excellent DADs. The process of finding just the right dog is a long one but it can be done and we are set on it! We are lucky to have an on-site 24/7 veterinarian that is devoted to assisting in the selection, training, care and medical needs of our DADs. The dogs come from shelters or are donated from select breeders and private party donations. All our rescues are put through an extensive evaluation period before ever entering our training program.
Do you offer a guarantee?: Absolutely! You will receive a health guarantee as well as a training guarantee. We are confident you will be completely satisfied, we guarantee it!
How much are your DADs?: Our goal is to provide these dogs to people that need them no matter what your financial situation. Your finances should not get in the way of your health and having a DAD. We have foundations that we work with that can possibly assist with the cost of a dog. That being said, we do require that you use some of your funds as well, even if approved for assistance. If you do have financial constraints, we also suggest that you start fundraising immediately. We do have a waiting list and that along with the time it takes for training, usually gives plenty of time to raise the money. We recommend YouCaring.com for crowd funding as they take only 3% of the funds to cover their costs. The cost of the dogs is discussed with you once your application has been approved.
Will my insurance cover the cost of a DAD? Unfortunately, no, however, some health care plans do have medical spending accounts which you can draw from to offset the cost.
How old are your dogs when they are placed? This depends on the dog's maturity but usually about 12-14 months old.
Can you train my dog to be a DAD? No, we do not provide this service.
My son/daughter is 5 years old can they have a DAD? Our policy requires the diabetic/handler to be a minimum of 12 years old WITHOUT THE DOG GOING TO SCHOOL WITH THE HANDLER and they must be 16 to take the dog to school. Even at this age, we are looking for a very mature diabetic that has proven he or she is taking control of their diabetes and is responsible enough to care for a service dog and commit to the continued training. Our waiting list is long however, so feel free to apply once your child has reached the age of 14.
How long is your application process? Once we receive your complete application, it usually takes 2-3 weeks to process at which time we will call you for a phone interview and to review the application and ask additional questions. At that time, we usually let you know if you have been pre-approved but there are times we need to send your application for board approval. If that is the case it may take an additional week. Once pre-approved, we require that you come to our facility for a meet and greet for final approval.
How long does it take to get a DAD? Home placement varies depending on your needs and the length of the waiting list at the time of approval. We do not produce en' mass as each dog is hand selected and individually trained. Once we assess your needs and approve your application, we can give you a better time frame. On average, it is usually a 12-18 month process from start to finish. However, at times we try to keep some dogs in training that are close to graduation. If that is the case then you could possibly have one within 3 - 6 months of approval.
What breeds are available? We evaluate many dogs when deciding which ones will join our program. The evaluation is not based on breed alone. Our preference is Labradors and golden retrievers. These two breeds are known for their scent work and are highly driven working dogs. This does not mean that other breeds cannot be DADs, this is purely our preference. We also train doodles and schnauzers for documented allergy issues.
Do I have to live in a certain region or state to obtain a DAD from your program?: Yes, we are still accepting applications for handlers that live within 8 hour drive of New Braunfels, Texas. However, we are moving to Tennessee!! We are now taking applications for handlers that live within an eight hour drive of Chattanooga, Tennessee. This includes the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia!!
Do I have to pick up my dog or can you arrange shipping?: We will never ship a dog. All dogs must be picked up in person and we require that you make several trips to our training facility during the training process. Lodging is available at nearby hotels.
What if I have questions or problems after I receive my dog?: We pride ourselves on your complete satisfaction and are committed to supporting the team even after graduation. You will have access to our trainers as well as our veterinarian in case questions arise even after graduation. We form very close bonds with our DADs and our handlers during training and we will always keep up with them.
Are your dogs considered "Finished" dogs?: We do not believe there are ANY dogs that are "finished" dogs. Continuing Education is the key to a successful team! We will discuss this further during your interview.
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Frequently Asked Questions about DADs: