Our Service Dog program is currently not accepting new clients. We are focusing on finishing the current dogs that we have and do not anticipate accepting any new clients in the future other than the participants through partnerships we currently have.
See dogs that have been matched to a recipient.
What is a Diabetic Alert Dog?
If you or a family member are diabetic, then you know firsthand how challenging and scary diabetes can be. A friend to rely on can be a great comfort and a true lifesaver. At Thistle Ridge, our Jack Russells are specially bred and trained to be this kind of friend – to help people with diabetes.
Thistle Ridge Diabetic Alert Dogs (known as DADs) sniff for the specific scent related to dropping blood glucose levels, and then alert the person until acknowledged. Once alerted, the diabetic person can check their blood glucose level and take action to prevent a dangerous low. DADs are also trained to alert to dangerous high levels and can be trained to alert another person in the household when the diabetic does not respond.
Properly trained Diabetic Alert Dogs that perform a task to mitigate a disability are recognized as service dogs and provide all of the freedoms as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you are not familiar with the specifics of what is covered and acceptable for service dog behavior, please visit http://adapacific.org/ada/faq.php#animals
Using a Different Breed as a Service Dog
We fully realize that Jack Russell Terriers are not the breed for everyone although we highly recommend the terriers we breed for detection work. If you desire to use a different breed, we can assist you in finding a reputable breeder that has a history breeding detection dogs and that will adhere to the strict medical testing standards that we require. We have many great contacts in the dog breeding community and will help you evaluate the puppy to be absolutely certain it is a candidate for the program. Please know that purchasing a dog from a breeder will include an additional cost up front that you must pay to the breeder. Please be prepared to pay additional costs for a dog bred for service. We allow for a $1500 allowance in the basic cost of our training program. We will not consider rescue or shelter dogs into the program due to the unknown health history and because we are unable to evaluate the parents for temperament and physical health.
The Partnership Begins
First you will be matched with a specially selected puppy. Then you’ll be guided through the puppy bonding phase of training and learn how to care for your dog. As your puppy matures, the real development – and joy! – begin. We’ll work with you and your dog as a team to develop your partnership, teach you the necessary commands, and train you in the proper handling of your dog. The dog will live with us until the very final phase of training, but will have frequent contact with you and your family throughout the entire training process. Not all dogs will make it through the program, and because the #1 priority is to make sure the best dog is placed with you, there is a chance, that a dog chosen as a young puppy may not end up being the dog that is your DAD or Service Dog. When this happens, it is communicated clearly and the selection and matching process starts over.
What it Takes to be a DAD
The traits we look for in a potential DAD are extensive! It’s not just a smart, obedient dog that will do this job. Here are just a few of the things we look for in a candidate:
- Exceptional scenting ability
- Biddable (i.e.: the dog must be willing to work for praise or food or some other consistent motivator)
- Highly Social
- Confident with everything
- Have Conscious Disobedience (will continue to alert after you tell it to go away if you are not acting on the alert)
- Be willing to invade personal space
- Be able to maintain exceptional self control
Considering a Special Service Dog from Thistle Ridge?
We serve a limited area, and to apply you should be within about a 3 hour radius from Jasper, TX. This includes East and Southeast Texas, the Houston Metropolitan Area, and Western and Central Louisiana. Candidates from other areas will be considered only if you have the willingness to travel to Thistle Ridge frequently (expect a work session every three months and more frequently near the end of training all at your expense), and provide travel for the trainer to and from your home at your expense during the application process, training process, and follow up visits after the dog is in the home. These expenses include costs for gas, hotel, rental car, meals, and reasonable incidentals such as parking, other flights involved with traveling with a dog, etc.
You must be able to take full financial and physical responsibility for the upkeep for a diabetic alert dog. This requires daily exercise, grooming, vet visits, high quality food, and everything else that goes along with having a dog in your home. The dog stays with the diabetic for the majority of the day and night, so being able to accommodate this is a must. And lastly most dogs will live for 10-20 years and you must be able to care for your dog, even after it retires from it’s life of service. Our program is primarily targeted at older children and teenagers but each situation is evaluated on a case by case basis. You must be dedicated and educated in self care and willing to continue that care after the dogs comes to live with you. It is NOT a substitute for medical care, but rather an additional tool to help manage your healthcare program. At this time, Medical Alert Dogs are not covered by medical insurance programs. You should expect a fully trained dog to cost anywhere from $18,000-$25,000 depending on the situation with the dog and the training model that is chosen for you. Things that will vary these costs will be purchasing a dog from another breeder, additional travel costs, and extended training time due to lack of following the protocol by the diabetic or the family once the dog is in the home. We understand that this is a great deal of money for a dog, and want you to know that we will help you with fundraising ideas, fundraising websites, Social media networking, and anything else we can do to help you obtain your dog with as little financial burden to you as possible. Each dog receives over 1000 hours of documented training, and we want you to feel confident that the dog you get is the best. We realize that while it can be a bit of a “sticker shock” at first, the value of a life saved and the improvement in the quality of life has no price tag. That’s why we do everything possible to make sure you get the most well-trained, genetically superior dog available to you. We only train a handful of dogs at one time, and will keep you on a commitment list while waiting for the perfect puppy to be located or born and begin it’s training. Each dog is trained by me, and by doing this, you will always know how your dog is handled, where it is staying, and every aspect of the day to day operation.
We are part of the Diabetic Alert Dog Alliance, a group that is working to set the standard for DADs. Please visit their website to learn about all of the information and research about using a DAD. All of our trained dogs meet the guidelines for a service dog under the Assistance Dog International Training Standards.
To begin the application process, please fill out our basic screening form.
Our Training Facility
Our dogs are housed and trained in a specially built cabin for optimum exposure to stimulus. They also spend a great deal of time in our home and out in the public. The dogs are not kenneled but rather crated at rest times and turned out in exercise yards when not working. They are crate trained and trained to a dog door as soon as they begin training, and are well socialized with other dogs – both dogs training in the program and various breeds that live with us and out in the public. The cabin also has two lofts, one used as a sleeping area for recipients and their families, and one used for training and storage. The cabin is also equipped with a queen sized futon for training night alerts where I can sleep during the process and where the DAD recipient can also stay to be heavily involved in the training. In addition, we have a fully equipped grooming and bathing area for the dogs.