Dogs can actually be trained to alert to seizures?
We are very aware that most of what is said about seizure alert dogs opposes
this idea - but we strongly disagree. Our training methods vary greatly from what is
traditionally taught. We will not hide our secret, because this knowledge is not
something that should be hidden. When other schools adopt our methods and
begin training their dogs with the same techniques more people will be helped - and
that is our greatest goal!
With any amount of research you will have read that only certain dogs can alert to
seizures - that it is something they do naturally - and they cannot be taught to
perform this miracle.
Let us explain our difference in thought;
The dogs who alert naturally to seizures are the dogs that care; these dogs are distressed that
their beloved handler is having a seizure. Why do they care you ask? Because they are naturally
anxious dogs by breed and personality. Many of these dogs are displaying outward signs from
their distress of knowing their handler is about to have a seizure, such as barking, whining,
pacing, clinging to their handler, etc., but many other dogs are alerting in their own way by
yawning, licking their paws, or hiding in another room, of which are all also signs of distress from
a dog - it is just that in many of these cases the handler would never put two and two together;
that their dog is licking its paws 20 minutes before every seizure for example. But in the hopes
that the dog will naturally alert in a visible way trainers will hand-pick dogs who are naturally
anxious, hoping that the dog will inadvertently alert the owner before the seizure occurs.
This is where we go further.
We do not believe that only anxious dogs can sense seizures - we believe that ALL dogs can
sense them - but that not all of them care.
So how do we get them to care?
We play what is called 'the alert game' with our dogs. When we say ALERT the dog is trained to
paw at our leg to get a tasty treat that is reserved only for this amazingly fun game. The dog starts
to LIVE for this game! They can hardly wait to play it. Then here comes the miracle ...
When the disabled recipient comes to San Diego for Handler Training we show them how to play
the alert game, and we make certain the dog loves playing it with their new handler.... Then we
cut off the game.
We instruct the disabled recipient to only play the game right after they are recovering from a
seizure. Pretty soon the dog realizes that the only time they get to play this amazing game is
when their handler has a seizure. The dog senses the chemical changes in their handler's body -
they know a seizure is about to happen - they know the game is about to happen - and they come
over and paw at their handler's leg to play the game.
The dog is saying, "Hey, it's time to play the game!"
The handler knows, "My dog says I'm about to have a seizure."
All we need is a dog who pays attention to their surroundings, and a dog who likes food. We
don't have to guess anymore about what dog is anxious enough, and how might the dog
inadvertently alert to the seizures, and will the dog ever put two and two together.
We truly hope that more trainers pick up on this - we won't care that they are using our techniques
- after all, we are here to help as many people as possible.
Types of Seizures
There are many different types of seizures. Some seizures, such as many temporal lobe
seizures, build gradually, with seizure activity building slowly over time. This allows an advanced
warning system for a dog to recognize a scent cue and alert in advance before the seizure
'breaks through' with the visible signs of a seizure. Some seizures, such as many frontal lobe
seizures, strike quickly like lightening and many do not have a gradual increase of seizure
activity. In some of these cases, with frontal lobe seizures, it is impossible for a dog to alert in
advance because there is no seizure activity within the brain that the dog can detect - but dogs
can still be taught to alert during the seizure which can assist in the form of the dog alerting
another household member of their recipient's seizure. Many detailed factors come into play
which can determine if a dog is able to alert in advance of a seizure, or during a seizure. Every
case is different based on the types of seizures the disabled party experiences, how often these
seizures occur, and when these seizures occur. We will need to speak with you and your
neurologist to have a full understanding of your seizures. This allows us to determine what is
possible to make sure you have a realistic expectation of how a dog can assist.
Our dogs are also trained to assist after a seizure. They are trained to locate and retrieve a
phone for their handler to call for help if needed. They are also trained to help brace or balance
their handler for stability after a seizure. In certain cases recipients will ask that the dog be
trained to retrieve a family member in another room.
Seizure Assistance and Alert Dogs for Children and Infants
Because of our alert game we can train the dog to alert a parent that their child is going to have a
seizure. No more worrying! It is such a relief for parents to know when their child will have a
Is a Little Angels Seizure Assistance and Alert Dog right for me?
You must ...
1)Have seizures more than twice a month on average in order for the dog to experience them
often enough to learn to recognize them.
2)Have strong communication skills and the ability to be consistent with a dog regarding
3)Have a love for dogs.
4)Have patience to work through problems. (Even a trained dog is still a dog.)
5)Have finances to provide your dog with veterinary care and maintenance for the next 10-12
6)Be willing to travel to San Diego, California for handler training, preferably with a friend or
family member for support.
Hander Training is where the disabled party learns how to work with the dog as a team. This
generally takes 7-14 days, with training every day. This is when the dog learns to respond to
the commands of the handler, and when the handler learns how to reinforce the training that
the dog has already received. We cover practical, day-to-day life experiences so you will feel
confident taking the dog into your care. We work in real-life situations such as outings to
shopping malls, restaurants, and parks so you will feel comfortable taking the dog with you
into the public setting.
After the completion of Handler Training we work together on a series of field tests, which are
administered by the trainer. After graduation, you and your dog will be certified as a working
team. A certification card will be provided to the handler, as well as a service vest and
identification tag for your dog, which labels him or her as a service animal.
We have a lifetime commitment to each
recipient and each dog that we place.
Once you and your dog have graduated we maintain contact to insure that your dog's training
and assistance remains in tact,
that the dog remains healthy and happy,
and that the dog is improving your quality of life.
What are the steps involved for receiving a
Seizure Assistance and Alert Dog?
Step 1: Request an application through our 'Apply for a Dog' page.
Step 2: Return the application for review.
Your application is received via email, and you will receive
a response within 10 business days.
Step 3: If accepted we will contact you to schedule a phone consultation.
The consultation is an average of 60 minutes where we discuss realistic expectations of how a service
dog can assist you, and to make sure you are a good fit for one of our dogs.
Step 4: Agreement.
If we believe one of our service dogs can assist you we will write out a customized agreement and ask you
to review your final decision with friends and family.
Step 5: Return your agreement with your $500.00 deposit to be added to
our waiting list.
The deposit is your sign to us that you are committed to the program. Once this is received we begin
fundraising for the costs associated with your dog. Some recipients also choose to be added to our
website under the 'Donations' page - this is a personal decision and is not a requirement.
Step 6: Fundraising.
Organizations nationwide spend an average of $30,000.00-$40,000.00 on each assistance dog trained.
The average service dog graduates with over 600 hours of training, and with that expense also comes
veterinary care, boarding, grooming and training supplies. Because of the commitment of all our
wonderful volunteers Little Angels spends a fraction of that, at $24,000.00 per dog. This is an expense
covered through fundraising. If possible, we ask each recipient to be involved in the fundraising process
when they can, but it is never a requirement.
Step 7: Dog Selection and Specialized Training.
Once the funds are met, regardless of how the funds were raised, we move you to the second part of our
waiting list where you are a priority for dog placement. This is when we choose a dog from our training
program that has the natural propensities to assist in the ways needed for your disability, and we continue
any additional specialized training needed specifically for your needs.
Step 8: Handler Training.
During handler training we work with you, one-on-one, and show you how to reinforce the training your
dog has already had. Once you and your dog graduate our program we stay in daily contact for the first
month, followed by monthly, and bi-yearly consultations for reports on your dog's ability to continuously
provide assistance to you. Handler training takes place in San Diego, California. Travel and hotel costs
are often covered by additional fundraising so there is no out of pocket costs for our recipients.
Testimonials from Seizure Alert Dog Recipients
Lizzy alerted last night (first to our neighbor and then to me) while Michael was in a
bounce house at a baseball game. And sure enough, Michael had a seizure about 10
minutes later while in line for the slide. Fortunately, I had treats to reward her. I’m
amazed that she could sense something while sitting outside the bounce house and with
all of the other distractions at her first trip to the ballpark.
(On top of that, this was the first seizure he had in months.)
- Cindy A.
My son Ethan was diagnosed with a very rare type of Epilepsy called Myoclonic Absence
Epilepsy (MAS). MAS is very hard to treat - you see Ethan’s seizures are generalized.
This means the seizures are happening everywhere in his brain, making it very hard to
control with medicine. Because his seizures are not occurring in one specific region it
makes it extremely difficult to treat. Ethan has a seizure every single minute and it has
been a long road with his disability; Ethan has spent several days/ weeks in the
hospital. We have tried many doctors at different hospital trying to find drugs/ diets that
would work for him. A few times we found a particular drug that seemed to be working,
but then the seizures come back. Ethan has been through many electroencephalogram
(EEG) testing. Almost seven years now, we are out of medications for Ethan to try, and
are looking for more ways to help him.
One year ago I was presented with the idea of a seizure dog for Ethan. I had thought of
the idea before, but this time I took it a little more serious seeing that his disorder is not
improving. When I did more research on the benefits of the seizure dog, I decided what a
wonderful idea it was. One of the developing biosocial issues in the field of psychology
and human development is how societies may or may not socially include or exclude
children with disabilities. People who live, work, go to school, and cope with Epilepsy
must often deal with having a most disadvantaged/least able social status, in addition to
their significant challenges. Ethan has to struggle daily with the extreme biosocial,
cognitive, and psychosocial challenges on a daily basis. Having to face these challenges
I have had to stand up for my son, being the best advocate that I can be, while trying to
help my son cope with his Epilepsy. My son’s cognitive ability is not the best, but day by
day he faces these challenges. Psychosocial challenges are an everyday situation that I,
as Ethan’s mother, am faced with every day.
Having the seizure dog helps my son handle the cognitive challenges he faces
throughout his day. Another benefit of having a seizure dog is that it helps him develop
many new friendships. The seizure dog also is helping him gain independence while
making sure that his safety is intact.
Without the support of my co-workers I would have not been so educated on the seizure
dog. I owe much thanks to all the support from my fellow co-workers as they are the
ones that presented the idea to me. They have lead me down an amazing path that has
turned everyone I know and myself into better people.
I want to make sure that I give much thanks to Katie (the Director of Little Angels Service
Dogs)! She is truly an awesome person. Katie was and has been there whenever I need
her. I could never imagine getting our dog from anyone else but her! I cannot express
how much we truly are blessed to now have her as part of our life! When we did our
research we never heard of Little Angles so we applied to many different schools to get
Ethan’s service dog. Because of my sons age Little Angels was the only one that
accepted our application. Katie is truly a Godsend to us and is truly an “Angel!”
Chloe is the first service dog in my son’s school district. Katie has been there for
everyone that has been involved, and she is an amazing advocate and such an
inspirational person. During training Katie wanted a day to spend with Ethan and Chloe
to see how Ethan would do when other kids would be around him. Katie brought her
family out with us and treated us to a day of Kayaking and spear fishing (too bad the
water was so cold… lol). She truly thinks of every way that the training would be
beneficial to you. Not only is Katie an angel but her family is too. Just such awesome
people; we were so lucky to meet them! We love you guys and miss you very much!
Going through the daily struggles it was so amazing to be in such an uplifting place with
everyone. It was such a blessing to be out of the negativity we deal with on a daily basis
and to feel for the first time in our life how to be truly happy. Now we not only smile on
the outside, but now because of Chloe on the inside!
Chloe is such an amazing dog; she knows when Ethan is sad and is always there to
cheer him up. For me this is the best thing I have ever done in my life because now my
son is the happiest kid on the face of this earth!!!!
We also owe extreme salutations to the foster family. During our training days we had
the opportunity to meet Chloe’s foster family; “The Rohmer’s”. We thank you for your
volunteer spirit and your desire to support our Chloe and ourselves. Thank you so
much; you have helped us in so many ways that you will never know. Knowing how
much Ethan loves Chloe I cannot imagine how hard it was for you to give her up!
Hopefully it brings you peace and comfort to know that Chloe and Ethan are the bestest
of friends and she will be forever spoiled. You took your precious time to make a
difference in my son’s life. You are all my heroes for the efforts you gave.
Ethan has benefited from the help of his new service dog Chloe and now his dog is
helping him to improve his quality of life. Though Ethan may have passed his formative
years, he is still at his starting point to understand what the seizures has done to him
personally, emotionally and socially. The companion/seizure response will give him the
opportunity to explore and be more independent without being in the constant
limitations because of seizures. I know that as he grows up, so is the frequency and the
recurrence of his seizures and to have this second pair of eyes and ears will give us a
peace of mind. As a child with a learning disability, this will also give Ethan a chance to
educate people about the stigma of having epilepsy.
Because of all the generous hearts that we have crossed paths with it has given me
hope, inspiration, and admiration. I hope that one day I can give back in ways that can
have an effect on others in need. It is amazing and very powerful when a community
comes together doing what ever they could do for the good of humanity! The emotional,
physical, financial, and mental support that my family, friends and the community has
given me in my life has made me the mother I am today.
I used to think that family was just family, that it wasn’t really important. But as I got
older, and received lots of support from my family, I realized that they are important.
Without my family, friends, co-workers, Katie, and the community I wouldn’t have gotten
very far. God has put people in our lives, and I call them angels. My family has helped me
through my trials, and has always had a shoulder for me to cry on. I asked Ethan what
family meant to him. He said to me,” Love, and standing up for one another.” He also told
me,” I will never forget when you told me that you wished that you could have the
seizures instead of me.” Through Ethan’s eyes I am his hero but I don’t think he will ever
understand just how much of a hero he is to me. If I would not have been so blessed to
have him in my life I would have not been so lucky to have the family I have today, or to
have even realized how important they all are. People ask me daily,” How I do it and how
do you always have a smile on your face?” I tell them this, “Even though Ethan is still
not seizure free I believe in my heart that God knows every hair on our head. God has us
on this journey of life for a reason and day by day his message is slowly revealing to me
and this helps bring me comfort.”
Forever in our heart and Always in our prayers,
Nichole, Ethan and Chloe Pinto