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Dogs with Jobs: Koda the Alert & Response Dog

Written by Sam

Here at TastyBone, we’re in complete awe of dogs with jobs! It takes a very special pooch to undergo intense training in order to fulfil the needs of their human companions. With this in mind, we want to celebrate these working dogs with our Dogs with Jobs series. First on the list is Koda, the superhero alert and response dog. We talked to Belgium based owner, Liz, to find out all about Koda and what makes him so special.

Tell us about Koda, when did you first meet him?

I first met Koda when he was still a tiny puppy. I instantly fell in love with him, even though I knew I wouldn’t get to choose which puppy would become my service dog. The entire litter was tested when the pups were 7 weeks old to see which puppy had the best temperament and the highest chance at succeeding at service dog training. Lucky for me, Koda came out as the best puppy for service work and he has proven himself time and time again ever since! 

There are a few different aspects to Koda’s personality. On one hand, he’s a serious working dog that stays focused and is ready to help at any given time and on the other hand, he’s a silly goofball who can run and play like there’s no tomorrow. He knows when it’s time to work and he loves his job, but he also gets plenty of time to just be a dog and do whatever he pleases. 

What is Koda’s background? How was he trained?

Koda is a purebred MAS dog (Miniature American Shepherd) and showed aptitude for service dog training when he was very small. Once he came home with me at 8 weeks old, we started what is known as a ‘team training program’ under the service dog school Dyadis. Dyadis is a Belgium based school that trains assistance dogs for people with a chronic illness or disability.

Every other week, we would meet the trainers in all kinds of different places, like stores, sports fields, markets and so on. The first few months were mostly focused on socialisation and general obedience. When Koda was around 12 weeks old, he was already starting to pick up on ‘alerts’ when something was wrong with me. Koda was then trained to pick up on certain cues and scents so he could let me know if my blood pressure had dropped or if a fainting spell was coming. 

As time went on, we slowly taught Koda more and more tasks, in the home and in public. Almost a year ago, Koda and I took our final service dog exam to become a licensed team. We are now recognised as a graduated team under Dyadis, BADF (Belgian Assistance Dog Federation), ADEU (Assistance dogs Europe) and ADI (Assistance dogs International).

How does Koda help around the house?

Koda is a joy to have around! He helps around the house by picking things up for me, opening doors, getting my phone if I have fallen, fetching medical supplies and medication, alerting me of oncoming fainting spells and letting me know if I have low blood sugar. 

He also helps with things like taking off socks, finding certain objects or people when I need help and Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) on my legs and chest. DPT generally helps to lower muscle pains, stabilize my breathing and heart rate and help me come to when I have lost consciousness.

How does Koda warn you if you’re likely to have a seizure?

Koda warns me differently depending on what he is alerting me to. For example, if my blood sugar is too low he will focus very much on my breathing and lick me. If I am sitting down, he’ll often go straight to my face, but if I’m standing, he usually licks my hands first. 

For dizzy spells and fainting, he’ll jump up at me and try to get me to sit down. If I don’t recognise it at first, because I’m out of focus or already in a haze, he will try to herd me or stop me in my tracks to make sure I understand that I need to sit down or lie down. If he wants to get across a sense of urgency, he will do the initial trained alert and then start nudging me hard with his nose.

What do you think makes Koda different from other working dogs?

To me, Koda is different because he is so in tune with everything I do and his alerts never fail. In Belgium, he is also the first of his breed to become a service dog, so he is very unique in that way. He never lets me down and we have such a great bond! 

Have you got a dog with a job? Connect with us on social media for a chance for your pooch to be featured in one of our upcoming blogs!