Zülpich: Melanie Latz trains diabetic warning dogs


Nasha is no ordinary German shepherd. She is a superhero. Melanie Latz’s snow-white four-legged friend is a diabetic warning dog. Nasha is trained to help people with type 1 diabetes. They smell it when mistress or master is hypoglycemic and sound the alarm. Although these dogs are not a substitute for the meter, they can show the hypoglycemia before it can be seen on the meter.

“If someone has hypoglycaemia, Nasha strikes and scratches people’s legs to point out the danger,” explains Latz, who has been a dog trainer in Martin Rütter’s DOGS network for eleven years. The aim is for the dog to show hypoglycaemia. But it could even be that the dog reacts to an excess of sugar.

Training to become lifesaving sniffers

Melanie Latz not only teaches dogs the basics of upbringing, but also trains them to be life-saving sniffers. “In principle, suitability is neither race nor age dependent. Almost any dog ​​can become a diabetic warning dog. It is important that the dog is not shy and has a good bond with its humans, ”says the lawyer, who lost interest in her job about a decade ago and has since found her calling in training dogs.

The fact that dogs can smell hypoglycaemia in spite of shower gel or perfume, and that through clothing, is due to the significantly better developed nose compared to humans. A person has around five million olfactory cells, a dog – depending on the breed – between 125 and 225 million.

While humans process olfactory impressions with around one percent of their brains, it is a full ten percent in dogs. According to Latz, the anatomical prerequisites of dogs can primarily benefit children. Diabetic warning dogs are ideal to help children deal with diabetes. The reason: if the dog is trained, ideally he can smell the emerging hypoglycaemia even at night. Even if he should sleep himself.

If the smell gets in his nose, there are several trained procedures, according to Latz. In the case of children, the dog should first ring a bell so that the parents can be woken up and can help. In addition, the dog learns to get an emergency bag and bring it to the owner. For example, there is glucose in it. “I also teach the dog to scratch its legs,” says the trainer. This is clearly more noticeable at night than licking the face or barking.

Ideally, the family comes to the trainer before they get a dog. “Then we discuss which dog, for example, can integrate into the family and how,” explains Latz. The spatial situation also plays a role. When the framework conditions are right and the dog has become part of the family, work on the fundamentals of the human-dog relationship begins – and of course the training too. According to Latz, it is not possible to generalize how long this will take. That is very individual. In addition, dogs have better and sometimes worse days during puberty. The training must be controlled accordingly.

What is certain, however, is that the training is demanding. Latz regularly gives masters and mistresses homework. It has to be worked through. The training works on similar principles as the training of a drug detection dog. In this way, the dogs are conditioned to locate and display target objects with specific smells. At the beginning of the training, the dog learns to localize material samples with the smell of hypoglycaemia. He later looks for these samples on the diabetic’s body until, in the end, he shows very real hypoglycaemia without samples – all over the body.

“It is important to always ventilate. The dogs are not allowed to store the smell as everyday ”, says the 43-year-old. Usually a scrap of cloth is used as a hypoglycaemia test. Where do they come from? That is a trade secret, says Latz with a smile. She has already trained two dogs to be measuring devices on four paws, reports Latz. Two more are in training. “The owners are already very grateful,” says the trainer.


Source: Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger – Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger by www.ksta.de.

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