We’re starting a new series this week where we will be answering three quick questions that we’re often asked by our readers and followers. This week’s Quick Questions is dedicated to Nihmh’s training as a Medical Alert and Mobility Assistance Service Dog. If you have a question you would like to see answered on the blog, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
What tasks is Nihmh training to perform?
Nihmh is training to become a Medical Alert and Mobility Assistance Service Dog to mitigate my chronic illnesses and disabilities. Currently, Nihmh alerts to abnormal heart rate, oncoming syncope and migraines. Although she began naturally alerting, Nihmh has been trained to perform specific alerts (i.e. pawing, paws up and nose bumping) to get my attention in an appropriate way. Due to my chronic pain, dizziness and fainting issues, Nihmh is also training for mobility assistance where she will retrieve items from the floor, open and close doors or drawers and fetch a medication pouch.
How did Nihmh begin naturally alerting?
Nihmh began alerting about a month after I brought her home. I noticed her performing breath checks (where she would smell my mouth). Sometimes following a breath check, she would attempt to lick my mouth or my nose. Following this behavior, I would then feel a migraine coming on. After I caught onto her natural alerting, I was able to take a migraine-abort pill and the migraines were always less severe. Since licking is not an appropriate behavior, it was important for me to “shape” the alert by encouraging her to instead paw me. Beginning in July, Nihmh began alerting me at times where I would not end up getting a migraine. This prompted me to purchase a heart rate monitor to see if it was related. Much to my surprise, I didn’t just have an elevated heart rate during her alerts, but it was often over 130. Nihmh’s heart rate alerts have put us on the right track for finally getting a correct diagnosis after eleven years.
When will Nihmh be considered a fully-trained Service Dog?
Nihmh is currently considered a “Service Dog in Training.” It often takes a solid two years of dedicated training before a Service Dog is considered fully trained. It is expected that the dog has impeccable public manners, dependably performs tasks to mitigate their handler’s disabilities and is solid in their obedience training and commands. While two years is often the average amount of time for a Service Dog to complete their training, it is still dependent on the individual dog and the individual handler. We will be re-assessing Nihmh’s abilities and qualifications in 2019 to determine if she is ready to graduate to “Service Dog.”