The job responsibility of a Medical Alert Service Dog is simple: Allow their owner to live confidently with medical conditions. Especially the "invisible" ones.
The dog's personality is of extreme importance, as he or she must be owner attentive and eager to work. Eli's training to be an alert dog will be a life long process requiring a huge amount of dedication and effort.
The crucial aspect in Medical Alert dog training is the attentiveness to the owner. This can not be stressed enough. Eli's training in this regard will begin with a simple "focus" command. This is done by using treats or positive praise to have him focus his attention to me. When his complete attention is on me, and not the treat, Eli will be rewarded. After continual practice, Eli will make the connection that his undivided attention on me is a good thing. Then we will be able to incorporate using the command word, "focus".
The theories as to how dogs know their owners will present symptoms differ and no method is proven. It may be an odor or chemical that the human body emits which is detectible to the dog, or it could be that the dog notices changes in body language. Additionally, each alert dog has its own alert technique, which can include whining, barking, pawing, excessive pacing, or blocking the way. For these reasons, again, communication between the dog and owner is vital for the owner to understand the situation and allow the dog to help.
The training of detection has to include the symptoms. Eli absolutely must spend 24 hours a day with me. When symptoms occur, the connection needs to be made between a reward for Eli and the symptom I am experiencing. Observing how Eli responds is critical to knowing what his warning sign to me will be. If I am having a seizure, for example, someone else will need to acknowledge the response Eli has to the seizure by giving him praise or treats. This process will teach Eli that his sense of the upsetting situation I am going through is not a scary thing that he should hide from, but a "trick" that is a good thing for him. As the symptoms occur more, Eli will associate his reward with the symptom and will provide his warning signals increasingly sooner. Also, the more perceptive Eli becomes, his main focus will be detection and he will frequently "check in" with me, even while playing or sleeping as long as the strong connection is there. This, of course, makes this time of bonding ever more necessary.