Nearly a decade ago, Project 2 Heal began working with Samantha Pressley (now a longtime volunteer and recently our new Social Media Intern) to imprint a litter of puppies so that one could be trained to become Samantha's diabetic alert dog. Early on, it became clear that there was one puppy in the litter that seemed especially up to the task... a black female puppy Samantha would name Moonpie!
9 years later, Samantha and her fully trained diabetic alert dog Moonpie are totally inseparable.
"Moonpie hasn't left my side since she was born... I truthfully don't know where I'd be without her."
After nearly a decade of working as Samantha's diabetic alert dog, Moonpie is retiring from her role as a working dog. Samantha is currently working to imprint our girl Josie's beautiful litter of puppies, from which she'll choose a puppy most suited to become her next diabetic alert dog.
(Although, Samantha will tell you that it's really the puppy that chooses her!)
The Process of Imprinting a Litter of Puppies:
So, how does a diabetic alert dog detect dangerous changes in blood sugar? It all starts with the imprinting process, which exposes a litter of puppies to the scents of high and low blood sugar while still breast-feeding with its mother! Gradually, puppies are then trained to associate these scents with rewards—like food!—and eventually to perform specific behaviors when the smells are detected.
As fully trained diabetic alert dogs, these behaviors indicate that their handler's blood sugar is either high or low. (Sometimes even alerting the person before a glucometer does!)
Related: How Do Service Dogs Help Children with Diabetes?
Follow Along with the Imprinting Process:
As our Social Media Intern, Samantha has started documenting the imprinting process through her work! Stay tuned with Project 2 Heal on social media to learn more about the imprinting process, as well as to see which puppy "chooses" to become Samantha's new diabetic alert dog.
PLUS, here's another look at how Samantha's current diabetic alert dog has made an impact in her life. Now that Moonpie is retiring, it's no wonder Samantha is excited to add a new member to Team Moonpie!
Follow Us on Social Media for More Puppies!
Training and Nurturing Puppies at Project 2 Heal:
At Project 2 Heal, we breed Labrador Retriever puppies for the purpose of donating these animals at 8 to 12 weeks of age to one of our partner organizations. From there, our puppies are trained extensively in service dog work and matched with an individual in need.
Our process begins with Early Neurological Stimulation, which are exercises conducted during the first two weeks of life—beginning at only 48 hours after birth!—that slightly stress the puppy's nervous system and allow them to become less reactive to novel stimuli as adults. This process includes the following:
Tactile stimulation: Stimulating puppy paws through touch or tickling.
Holding the head of the puppy erect.
Holding the head of the puppy pointed downward.
Supine position: Resting the puppy on its back in the palm of hands.
Thermal Stimulation: Placing feet of puppy on top of a cool, damp towel and allowing the puppy to move about.
Service Dog Scent Training:
Also occurring during the first 14 days, service dog training includes a process called early scent introduction. This training exposes dogs to smells it will encounter during working life. During this process, trainers pay close attention to the way puppies react to various smells. This helps identify which puppies may not be suited to work as a service dog.
Service Dog Clicker Training:
Championed by Karen Prior Academy, clicker training service dogs is a method that teaches puppies about associations. Puppies learn commands through a combination of rewards and clicking sounds. During service dog training, high-level tasks are broken into smaller tasks, after which puppies are rewarded with food and stimulated with sound from a handheld clicker.
Eventually food and clicking sounds are phased out so that puppies are able to execute tasks upon command.
Here's Your Chance to NAME One of Our Puppies!
Ever wanted to name and sponsor one of our puppies? Here's your chance! We're excited to announce Sabrina's Pup Club and Josie's Pup Club—two amazing opportunities to sponsor a future service dog! You'll follow along with your puppy's progress here at Project 2 Heal with video updates, PLUS receive professional portraits of your puppy AND their entire litter!
We have ONLY 9 PUPPIES left to NAME & SPONSOR! Sign up for a Pup Club TODAY!