Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Alert vs. Signal vs. Response

I wanted to explain a few commonly-used terms related to service dogs and some of the tasks they might do

Alert - An alert is when a service dog warns you in advance that something is going to happen. The thing hasn't happened yet. For instance, a seizure alert dog might nudge a handler 20 minutes BEFORE a seizure starts. The dog is saying, "Hey, you're gonna have a seizure soon."

People often say their dog alerts to anxiety, but dogs can't really tell you in advance when you are going to get anxious. I get anxious if the power goes out but my dog cannot predict when the power will go out before it happens. What people usually mean when they say their dog alerts to anxiety is that their dog signals them when they are getting anxious or that their dog responds to their anxiety.

Signal - This is when the dog tells you something is already happening. In the even that the power goes out and I begin to get anxious, my dog sees that I AM anxious. If he was trained to nudge me, he would be saying, "Hey, you're anxious now!"

Response - This is when the dog is trained to do something in response to your anxiety (or seizures or whatever). He is actually doing something about it, not just telling you that you're anxious. My dog is trained to bring my medication when he sees that I am anxious. In my case, it wouldn't be helpful for me if he just said, "Hey, you're anxious!" (That might be helpful for someone else, though). What I need him to say is "Hey, you're anxious so take your meds!" And he says that by dropping the meds in my lap.

In short:

Alert - tells you something is going to happen

Signal - tells you something is happening now

Response - does something about whatever is happening

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