How to train seizure dog starts with knowing that seizure dogs are those who provide companionship and potential seizure warnings for people afflicted with epilepsy. They are a type of service dog, and are not yet as common as seeing eye dogs are for the blind. Many people have reported positive outcomes with owning a dog which is specifically trained to respond to a seizure. Some dogs seem to take to the job naturally, even predicting a seizure before it occurs. Epileptic people who own dogs have reported varying levels of responsiveness amongst their canine companions. A professional trainer can be hired to train a dog, but various steps can be taken as a dog owner to train a dog to care for an epileptic person.
- Choose a dog which bonds quickly with your epileptic loved one. This will ensure that the dog’s first priority is his or her well being. Notice whether the dog tends to follow that person around. Bonding can develop over time, but the initial feeling both human and dog have for one another is important.
- Train the dog to stay close by his companion. For many dogs, this is second nature. Lead him on a leash initially if he tries to follow other people, rewarding him with praise when he recognizes where his place should be. As long as he knows he should be in the same room as the epileptic person, he does not necessarily need to be standing right next to his best friend.
- Create a comfort level for the dog during a seizure. When the dog first observes a seizure, he may be frightened. Offer treats and praise when he is willing to stick close by during this time. It will become a positive for him.
- Show the service dog how to alert someone when he sees a seizure happening. If he does not do it naturally, have one person take him to alert someone when the time comes. Ideally of course, someone else is attending to the epileptic person.
- Offer treats when he identifies a seizure before it arrives. Dogs have a strong intuitive sense, not to mention an equally strong sense of smell and eye for detail. It is not clear how some dogs know when a seizure is about to occur, whether through small changes in body language, or other signs. Offering praise and/or treats is reward-based operant conditioning which confirms to your pet that he is performing his job correctly.
Ideally, a dog would be able to predict a seizure and alert the person, as well as someone else to help. It is useful to choose a dog who values human companionship, and is less of an independent, or aloof, type of dog. Many breeds throughout history have been working dogs, and are happiest when they have a job to perform. Both mixed breeds and pure breeds have been successful in the important role of seizure dog.
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