Frequently Asked Questions

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

… AND VERY HONEST ANSWERS 

How do I know if a Poodle is right for me?

We cannot fully determine this for you. However, we can tell you that you should make sure you are at a place in life where you can accept such a responsibility. It is life changing…literally. If you could not bring home a toddler and be able to cope well with it, you should not consider a Poodle (or any animal for that matter). If you are not experiencing significant low blood sugar reactions, seizures, blackouts, or comas, this may not be worth all the effort you will need to put into it.  However, as many Poodles alert spontaneously for diabetes, why wait?  Get a Poodle and get started.

Are there other options for catching dangerous “lows” and “highs”?

Yes. One option we are aware of is called a Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS). A CGMS works for some and not for others. While it is a very individual decision, you must admit that you do not have to groom, feed, potty, or train a CGMS. A CGMS is fairly inconspicuous in comparison to a Poodle. For some diabetics, the CGMS works wonderfully and it does not work at all for others. You’ll want to consult with your endocrinologist about the CGMS and make your decision.

Also be aware that the Medtronic CGMS inserts with a 19-gauge needle.  This needle is LARGER than the needles used on horses by veterinarians.  Give me a Poodle any day!

Even with a CGMS, you still have to test A LOT!  Additionally, new research has indicated that the device can be “hacked” from half mile away causing the insulin pump to overdose the diabetic.

Are these Poodles “fail proof”?

No. As per Wikipedia, the Poodle is the second most intelligent breed of dogs, behind the Border Collie.  A Poodle is a very smart dog but prone to mistakes especially in the beginning – even Poodles trained as diabetic alert dogs. In the beginning, you will find alerting is spotty. With proper training, patience and time, the consistency of the alerting should increase.  If a Poodle loves you, it will alert.  Our job is training YOU to recognize when the Poodle is alerting.  If a Poodle is sick, it may not alert, depending on the circumstances. If a Poodle is overly tired, it may not alert, depending on the circumstances. Poodles are not robots and have needs that must be met for them to best perform and those include being healthy and well rested.

A diabetic alert dog is not a replacement for testing and should never be what you rely on completely. Common sense should be used and a diabetes alert dog should never be your only or primary tool for tight control. It is simply a very smart, very lovable tool in your tool chest.

How long is the waiting list?

We do not have a waiting list. Instead, once accepted into the program, you will be connected with a Poodle Rescue organization in your area. Each Poodle Rescue organization has its own questionnaire and application process.  We will assist with this as best we can via Internet, e-mail and telephone.  Many of the Poodle Rescue organizations charge a small fee for the Poodles ($250 to $500 is common).  If you would prefer a Poodle puppy, we will put you in touch with a reputable breeder.  We do not work with puppy mills or “backyard” breeders” as we wish for these beautiful animals to maintain the character, grace and intelligence of real Poodles rather than “mixes.”  We generally do not work with half-breeds or questionable breeds and prefer to only work with purebred Poodles, as they are the best at this work from our forty-five (45+) years of personal experience doing this work.  Sugar Dogs International does NOT sell or give you a Poodle.  You are responsible for securing the Poodle from a Rescue organization or from a reputable breeder that breeds AKC Poodles.

What do these diabetic alert dogs cost?

Sugar Dogs International, Inc. does not charge you anything for the Poodle.  Again, Sugar Dogs International does NOT sell or give you a Poodle.  We are a Florida not-for-profit corporation with IRS § 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.  We operate from donations only.  If Sugar Dogs International, Inc. selects, purchases, raises, trains, and places a Poodle with you, the cost of doing so along with the lifetime support could be as much as $100,000. We realize families cannot afford this. Instead, we offer a donation option and ask that each diabetic donate $500 (US) initially. We are always grateful to those diabetics who donate a greater amount.  The average donation is $7,500 per Sugar Dog team.  The IRS will allow a total of $13,000 to be donated by one person per tax year (as of 2013).  We realize this is a great deal of money to some but what is the value of your diabetic’s life?  We welcome monthly donations.

Your charitable donation to Sugar Dogs International, Inc. creates a partnership whereby you are helping Sugar Dogs International, Inc. raise funds to continue its programs. You are not buying your Poodle from Sugar Dogs International, Inc.

There are many more expenses in connection with having a Poodle as a diabetic alert dog:  veterinarian’s expenses, grooming expenses, obedience classes, food, leashes, toys, etc.  All are tax deductible as medical expenses of the diabetic as per IRS Publication 502 (2010).  We recommend the Poodle Club of America to answer basic questions about Poodles.  www.PoodleClubofAmerica.org.

What is the best average age to train a Poodle?

Twelve (12) months of age is average. Some may be older or younger.  We train Poodle puppies beginning as young as twelve (12) weeks old and we have trained rescued Poodles as old as twelve (12) years.  Both have alerted just fine after following our training guidelines consistently for a measured amount of time.  And yes, you can teach an older Poodle new tricks.  They are one of the most intelligent breeds.  We offer a Seniors Helping Seniors program for Type 2 diabetics wherein an older diabetic adopts an older Poodle.

Socialization of Poodles should begin at six (6) weeks by the breeder and continue for the life of the Poodle.  This means taking the Poodle with you out to eat, sitting outside in the beginning until the dog is completely trained not to attempt to get on the table, etc.  Socialization also means taking the dog out with you to enjoy new sights, new sounds and new environments.  As a service dog must ride elevators, trains, planes and buses, we also suggest that you begin by teaching your dog to ride in a car.  If the only place your dog goes in a car is to the vet, it may not enjoy riding in the car.

What am I getting into?

These Poodles are NOT fully trained diabetic alert dogs initially. Their obedience training may have been started before they were rescued and they may know and exercise the do’s and don’ts appropriately but YOU MUST follow through with your training in order for it to progress and be maintained. We teach you how to do this. It is the same for fully obedience trained Poodles as well. If you do not maintain the obedience and reward program, the Poodle may stop alerting.  All dogs are pack animals; we will encourage you (the diabetic – not the child’s parent) to be the leader of your pack.  If the Poodle loves you, it will alert!

These Poodles are NOT fully scent-trained police dogs. Police dogs or drug sniffing dogs are trained to alert to cloth rags in buckets, which at one time were wrapped around marijuana or cocaine.  We do NOT want our Poodles to alert to our dirty laundry and therefore, we do not use “bucket” training or “rag” training.  We will teach you to play scent games with your Poodle in order to encourage scent discrimination skills. The amount of time spent doing so depends on the amount of time YOU spend with the Poodle. We suggest that you begin training the Poodle immediately by taking it everywhere with you, to work, to school, to restaurants, to the theater, everywhere.

Over many months, the Poodles progress with their alerting and go from 10% alerting to 25% to 50%, etc. …each at their own pace. Once they get above the 80-90% mark, you may fine-tune the alert to be a very specific behavior that you can recognize and identify with ease.

Nighttime alerting will most likely not begin for at least six (6) months. Many Poodles are going from a rescue environment to a new home where they are expected to work for 24 hours a day.  This is a sudden and drastic change of who they are, where they are, and most of all they are now working 24/7/365!  Just like when you bring a newborn infant home and start suffering long hours of work plus sleep deprivation, these Poodles take a while to adjust and be able to work day and night.  BUT THEY DO IT!  THEY ADAPT VERY BEAUTIFULLY!  Please be kind to your Poodle and be aware that generally it takes two (2) years of consistent blood glucose testing and daily training for them to be completely trained as diabetic alert dogs.

There are organizations that train the diabetic alert dogs in a much different manner so that they alert for diabetic lows, which means your service dog or your child’s service dog may not be paying attention to your low or highs as they have smelled a stronger scent (bucket and rag training) of another diabetic having a low or high. Every person on the planet has a different smell.  The other programs do not conduct on-line support but rather place dogs one at a time, creating long waiting lists.  We have opted against this type of training and these types of waiting lists.  Poodles will spontaneously alert!  Get a Poodle and get started!

We only use positive training techniques. We see our job as training YOU, the diabetic, and helping you to train your Poodle to serve as a diabetic alert dog. We have qualified teachers/trainers on our Board of Directors including a Master in Education (formerly of the College of Molecular Medicine at the University of South Florida).  We have a Social Worker and a Registered Nurse as well as others who are highly skilled and who ALL love Poodles.

Communication is key. Keeping a positive attitude, exercising patience, realizing this will NOT happen overnight, and keeping your eye on the final goal will train your diabetic alert dog. Realizing we will work with you as long as you stay in touch and communicate as well as follow through on instructions you are given is vital. We won’t just “drop you” after you get your Poodle and make your donation for our assistance.  We prefer to stay highly involved with our clients over the long haul.

Some people bring a new puppy home and begin experiencing “buyer’s remorse” when they realize we really were telling them the truth when we said they had to do the training and it is work. They then get upset as they feel they should have a fully trained Poodle. We want to make sure you know exactly what you are getting into before going any further.

Why is a donation required?

In short, to make sure the diabetic is serious in their inquiries. We must also cover the cost of the time taken to review and evaluate the application as well as the calls and e-mails made for further questions, etc. Each application that is accepted generates a great deal of wonderful work for us.  If you are accepted into our program, you will receive an acceptance letter via email with instructions.  Subsequently, you will begin receiving e-mailed lessons including articles, charts, specific directions and other training documents which many retain in a notebook.  You may then print additional e-mail instructions to add to your notebook, or not, as you choose.  We are “really into green” and prefer to do everything via e-mail.

What about small children and Poodles as diabetic alert dogs?

The diabetic child must be fully capable and responsible enough to care for the Poodle (with adult supervision). This means that the diabetic child walks the Poodle, feeds the Poodle, grooms the Poodle, plays with and trains the Poodle (including attendance of all obedience classes).  The diabetic child tests his/her glucose at least four (4) times a day with the leashed dog-in-training attached to the child via a binder clip of dog’s leash to child’s waistband.  This step cannot be eliminated.  Additionally, when the dog begins to alert, the child must test to verify that the dog is alerting; otherwise, how would you know that the Poodle is alerting?  (Adult diabetics will follow this same routine as well.)

A diabetic child’s school is not legally responsible to provide care for the Poodle so the diabetic child must be able to do so consistently and responsibly. The age for such varies from child to child.

However, it is safe to say most children under the age of twelve (12) years will not do so for at least six (6) months. If they are under the age of ten (10) years, it is more likely to be twelve (12) months or more. If they are under the age of seven (7) years, it could be multiple years. Remember, you are combining a Poodle and a diabetic child and asking them to go into public on their own, and behave and respond to each other properly. When the Poodle alerts, will the diabetic child respond appropriately? When friends want to play, will the Poodle be properly supervised and responded to when alerting? Each activity, no matter how small, requires direction and attention from the diabetic child. Will they always remember to react to the dog? A Poodle is always being trained…. for better or worse. If a diabetic child is not able to be consistent in their directions and supervision, they will teach their Poodle bad habits. If a diabetic child does not properly respond to the Poodle’s alert, the Poodle may become confused and stop alerting. These are only a few things to consider.

We ask that you call or email any time you are having an issue. We are available for 24-hour emergency support for those clients with a Poodle serving as a diabetic alert dog in their home  with a true emergency. You may have to leave a message but we strive to return those messages quickly for true emergencies.  Generally, we accept non-emergency telephone calls between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (EST).  Remember, we cannot give medical advice and suggest that you contact your regular physician or 911 in a medical emergency.  (If you call in the middle of the night in the USA EST and it is not an emergency that requires our attention, your name may be placed on a blocked call list.  We are diabetics too and require our proper rest for good health.)

Many families wish to train their dogs for additional tasks. We help point you in the right direction when the timing is appropriate.  We do not suggest agility as the second level of obedience training.  Obedience training is just that, TWO (2) levels of obedience training.  Not two levels of puppy classes.

When will my child be able to begin taking their Poodle to school?

If under the age of ten (10) years, it will be a while. Between the ages of ten (10) years to fourteen (14) years are “iffy”, depending on the diabetic child’s abilities and willing responsibility levels. Your diabetic child must be able to fully handle the Poodle on their own with no help from school staff before they will be allowed to take the Poodle to school. Sugar Dogs International, Inc. evaluates each diabetic child and their progress with full dialogue with the diabetic’s parent(s) and school principal before making such determinations.  Yes, we are available for telephone conferences with school administration at mutually convenient appointment times.

What about pets in the home?

We suggest no other dogs in the home, inside or outside. Other pets may or may not be allowed depending on the variables involved. Ferrets, cats and hamsters are examples of other pets that are not allowed, as they are distracting to the diabetic alert dogs.

If this is a stumbling block for your family, you will want to reconsider just how serious you are about adding a real diabetic alert dog to your family.  Our experience has shown that older dogs in a household become the pack leaders and a new puppy learns from the older dog rather than learning its lessons as a diabetic alert dog.

If you already have a dog and have been treating that dog like a dog, chances are that’s all the dog will ever be:  just a dog.  Chances are it will never be converted to a diabetic alert dog.

However, if your dog is already aware of your diabetes (or other medical condition) and is alerting, please bring this to our attention at once as we will work with you to formalize your dog into a diabetic alert dog or a medical alert dog.  Many dogs who have been properly bonded with their human companions alert.

The wonderful temperament of Poodles

As most experienced trainers or behaviorists will tell you, the behavior and temperament of a Poodle is greatly influenced by its environment and its human interaction. This means the home environment and family dynamics play a very large role. Factors that may result in negative behaviors include but are not limited to the following: abuse in the home, abuse of the Poodle, bullying, human aggression, excessive anger issues, total lack of structure and/or boundaries in the home, or other negative human behaviors can and will influence the behaviors and temperament of the Poodle. Other things that may influence how your Poodle reacts to your home environment are major life events such as: prolonged periods of seclusion, a death in the family, a divorce, a traumatic event, or even the addition of a new family member, if not addressed properly.

A Poodle is like a child. They must have an alpha pack leader (THE DIABETIC – YOU, not the diabetic child’s mom or dad) and continued reinforcement of proper behaviors. They must have well defined boundaries to maintain their proper behaviors. They must also have security, love, and proper care. While many look at this and think it is simply common sense, there is a vast difference between recognizing it and executing it consistently within the home. For some families it may not be possible due to their family dynamics. This should be considered before going any further. Make sure you will be able to carry through on your end of the bargain so as to ensure the greatest chance of success for both yourself and your diabetic alert dog.

For this reason, we require our clients to report any signs of aggression and maintain the right to remove the Poodle from the home for the safety of the Poodle and client. Please keep in mind that dogs are not aggressive unless trained to be that way UNLESS they are mistreated.  For example, if you allow a your child or your child’s friend to pull the ears of the Poodle, the Poodle may bite.  Would you allow the child’s friend to pull the ears of an infant sibling or hit your infant?  No, you would immediately remove the “friend” and therefore, we cannot condone punishment of the dog if it is mistreated and it bites.  Please remember that we believe that Poodles are sentient beings due the same respect as you.

What about fencing?

We prefer a fully fenced yard, of adequate size, for the Poodle’s safety while it plays. The yard must be capable of containing the Poodle and keeping other dogs out.

If you live in an apartment, we suggest a toy or miniature rather than a standard Poodle.  We prefer that the Poodle have a dog door and freedom to toilet self in a fenced yard; however, if this is impossible, the diabetic must be willing to walk the Poodle at least three (3) to four (4) times per day as well as offer “free time” in a dog park where the animal may run off leash daily or at least several times per week (regardless of the weather).

For children under ten (10) years, consider the book Poodlena by E.B. McHenry. The publisher is Bloomsbury Publishing, New York, London and Berlin, 2004; distributed to the trade by Macmillan.  Paperback edition published in 2005.  It is available on Amazon.com.

What if I do my part and this fails?

If we sense that your training is not going well because you are not testing your blood glucose levels, we will request copies of your test logs for the past three (3) months.  If you bring a Poodle into your home, properly carry through with your two (2) levels of real obedience training (not puppy training and not agility training), follow through with e-mail directions given, maintain the healthcare and grooming requirements of the Poodle, and stay in cooperative communication with us, and things still do not work out, Sugar Dogs International, Inc. will evaluate the Poodle and the diabetic in an attempt to see if there is anything else that should be corrected. We tailor our program to you.  If the Poodle is failing to alert due to no fault of the diabetic (or his/her family or their circumstances) and the family and/or individual are properly carrying through with all directions and responsibilities, Sugar Dogs International, Inc. will work with you and your Poodle Rescue organization or breeder to exchange the Poodle for another. If the diabetic or his/her family is only failing in certain areas but trying very hard, and the Poodle is not alerting, and we feel another Poodle would still suit the situation better, we may opt to work with you and your Poodle Rescue organization or breeder to exchange the Poodle for another.

Truthfully, we have had diabetics and/or their families adopt a Poodle into their home and then treat the dog like a dog. We can assure you now that this does not work.  A diabetic alert dog must be treated like a member of the human family.  Some feel it is just too much work. Some have a hard time taking frank, direct direction from others. Some feel the Poodles require too much attention when the family is already “dealing with” a diabetic child.

Bottom line is that training any dog is work. If you do not do your part including attending two (2) levels of obedience training, doing your training homework, following through with the guidance given on consistent glucose testing, and other homework required with the Poodle as may be specific to you and/or your Poodle, following instructions in a cooperative spirit, of course it will not work.  No one at Sugar Dogs International has a magic wand, yet.

The UP side!

Those who have followed through have made it work and done a wonderful job not only for themselves but also for the service dog community as a whole. These clients we will help through most anything we humanly can. We have had clients forget vet paperwork while trying to cross a border and we intervened and faxed documentation so they could cross the border.  We have had clients forget the Poodle’s diabetic alert dog vest and we arranged one to be shipped one to them while they were on vacation. We have had clients who literally had an emotional breakdown when confronted by store personnel who did not wish to permit public access and we have intervened there as well. We have had clients who have encountered a rebellious or overwhelmed teenager who no longer felt they could deal with their diabetic alert dog’s needs and have intervened there as diabetes really is a stress related illness. We have had clients who just need to vent, as sometimes this “sweet life” is not easy. We gladly listen. We have even had some clients who needed more than the average obedience help with their Poodle and we have arranged for a trainer in their area to help them (after training that trainer to understand what we do, how, and why). We truly will go out of our way as long as the individual diabetic and/or family is willing to do their part and try.

We are here to empower you to help your diabetic child or yourself. We’ll give you the tools, help you locate a Poodle, help arrange the obedience training, and share with you the knowledge we have gained from working with Poodles as diabetic alert dogs for more than forty-five (45) years. We’ll walk you through things, step by step, and help you rework things when one path doesn’t work for you or your family.  All training does not work for all people.  We understand.

We are not here to wave a magic wand. You must do your part too. If you do your part in earnest, we will be thrilled to work with you to make sure this is successful.  Don’t forget:  If the Poodle loves you, it will alert!  We don’t make that statement lightly and we don’t say it about any other breed.

I’ve read through everything and am still interested. How do I get started?

Please apply by completing the “Application” and requesting your endocrinologist complete the medical form (this is a required step).  Your doctor needs to know that you are working with a diabetic alert dog and we will want to see copies of your A1C results.  We also chart your creatinine and BUN lab results in an effort to note significant changes.  Lab results should be scanned and e-mailed every three (3) months.

Remember, we suggest Poodles because we KNOW that Poodles spontaneously alert.  So get a smart one and get started!  We will be with you every step of the way and the end result is very definitely worth the effort.

We promise, “If the Poodle loves you, it will alert.”

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As an independent non-profit, we can’t raise capital like a regular business does.  Our successful launch of Sugar Dogs International, Inc. was only possible with the financial backing of supporters like you.  

Your donation funds important projects that will benefit Sugar Dog teams for years to come.  When you support Sugar Dogs International, you’re investing in a staff of professionals who are deeply committed to our mission.  You’re investing in an entrepreneurially oriented non-profit with a proven track record of successful initiatives.  You’re investing in the future of Sugar Dog teams worldwide.  100% of the teams who follow our training method exactly have improved A1c lab results!!!  Great results.

Of course, you may note which Sugar Dog team benefits from your assistance.

Your donation, big or small, makes ALL the difference.  To support our work, please click on the DONATE button below.

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 Disclosure:  We recommend that you seek medical care from a board certified endocrinologist, tax advice from a certified public accountant or a board certified tax lawyer, and legal advice from a board certified attorney as nothing contained on this website is offered as medical advice, tax advice or legal advice.

Sugar Dogs International, Inc. is an all volunteer Not for Profit organization. Our federal tax ID number is 27-0988608. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-800-435-7352 within the State of Florida. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the State. CH44762