How To Train Dogs To Detect Diabetes

By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor,

Tanya Farber of Times Live recently reported on the training of Honey, the first South African dog in training detect blood sugar levels among those with diabetes.  The dog belongs to Duncan Smuts, an 11-year-old boy with diabetes.  Honey will follow Duncan everywhere, even at school, to keep tabs on his blood sugar levels, which need to be checked at two-hour intervals, 24 hours a day.

The training utilizes samples of Duncan’s saliva taken during times of high and low blood sugar.  Through positive reinforcement procedures, trainers are working to train Honey to not only discriminate the smells  of saliva but to engage in particular behaviors, such as alerting others to Duncan’s condition, fetching a phone, or fetching medication.

Duncan was quoted as saying “The most difficult part of diabetes is having to check my sugar consistently and it is very irritating having my parents on my back all the time telling me about sugar and insulin.  I also can’t go to sleepovers because my dad worries about me and he can’t sleep.”

Honey will be a welcome addition to the family.

Be sure to check out the full article as well as a related bSci21 article on training dogs to detect cancer.

Let us know about your experiences with animal training in the comments below, and remember to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive new articles, and free monthly issues, directly to your inbox!

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