If you have a cell phone and a dog, you don't need a medical alert service!
I wanted to share with you one of my more recent ideas - a simple way in which, with the investment of about three bucks and a bit of your time, your dog can become your emergency alert service providing most of what an alert service can provide...and some things it can't.
You've seen the "Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!" ads. Lots of companies will provide you with a little device you can wear and use to alert someone if you have a medical - or other - emergency. In return, they bill you so much per month for as long as you have the service. A friend of ours has one and it has been notable primarily for the false alarms she generates on a fairly regular basis by accidentally activating the alarm. It got me to thinking that there had to be a better way and one day I realized that there was - at least for those of us who have a dog. Please take a minute to watch my video, "Spoof to the Rescue", which dramatizes the concept. Then, if you follow this Instructable, I'll show you how to make the necessary phone holster for your dog and how to train your dog to become your own personal K9-1-1!
PLEASE NOTE: You are welcome to use the information in this Instructable to make a K9-1-1 holster for your personal use, but I wish to retain all rights to both concept and design - so you may not use this information commercially without my specific consent. Thank you for your cooperation.
2 dog harnesses - I got mine at the dollar store for a buck apiece.
1 case for your cell phone - also from the dollar store for a buck.
1 dog - not necessarily smart, but trainable.
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Step 1: Making the Phone Holster
This will vary depending on the harness you start with. The idea here was that I wanted the dog to have the phone strapped to his back where it wouldn't be in his way and wouldn't bother him at all. The phone case I bought had a belt clip on its back, which I expected - but which I also knew was not going to be sufficient for what I had in mind. I wanted to be sure the phone would stay centered on my dog's back and a belt clip wouldn't do that. I needed to be able to run a strap through the width of the phone case so that it would stay in place on the harness. Now all of this is going to depend on what sort of harness and what sort of phone case you're able to find, but you should easily be able to adapt these instructions to whatever you come up with.
The first thing I needed to do was to remove the belt clip from the back of the phone case. I did that by cutting the stitching with an Xacto knife. Next I had to run a harness strap through the back of the phone case to attach it to the harness. But it turned out the harness I bought was a bit too small for my dog. This actually wound up being a blessing, because I also needed the harness to have a strap running across the dog's back that was at least as long as the phone case was wide - and the harness didn't have that. But I realized that if I bought a second harness and scavenged it for a strap and the fastening clips, I could make a strap that would not only hold the phone case, but would also make the original harness big enough for my dog! Outstanding! The sequence of photos shows the process of making and fitting the cell phone holster:
Figure 1: Remove the belt clip from the cell phone case.
Figure 2: Cut a slit the width of the harness straps in each side of the cell phone case a bit above the midway point.
Figure 3: The harness should be - or should adjust to be - 5 to 8 inches too small for your dog.
Figure 4: Take the second harness and use an Xacto knife to remove the harness clips.
Figure 5: Salvage a piece of strap about ten inches long from the second harness.
Figure 6: Sew one half of the harness clip onto one end of the salvaged strap.
Figure 7: Feed the unsewn end of the salvaged strap through the slits you made in the cell phone case.
Figure 8: Measure how much too short your harness is for your dog. Sew the other half of the harness clip onto the second end of the salvaged strap so that the resulting strap is long enough to join the harness around your dog.
Figure 9: Center the cell phone case on the added strap and put a dab of glue where it will hold the strap inside the case so the case does not slide around on the strap.
Figure 10: Put the harness/holster on your dog, put your cell phone in the case, and you now have a K9-1-1! All that's left is to train your dog.
Step 2: Training Your Dog to Come to You
1. Choose a location for training as free from distractions as possible. Your dog needs to be focused on you and what he's learning.
2. Use a slide collar (Figure 11). A slide collar (also sometimes - unfortunately and erroneously - called a choke collar) is the gentlest and most effective way to train your dog - if used properly. In fact, most obedience clubs insist on using a slide collar when training. Never, ever drag or choke your dog with a slide collar. The collar is there to get his attention, not to hurt or punish him.
3. Use a 6 foot lead (Figure 12). the reel-in type leads are always a bad idea.
4. Have your dog sit and stay (Figure 13). If he has not yet learned these commands, recruit an assistant to keep your dog in place until he gets some experience.
5. Walk away from your dog the length of your lead, then turn to face him (Figure 14).
6. Give the "Come" command and SIMULTANEOUSLY give the lead a quick tug (Figure 15). Use the command and the tug only once.
7. As your dog comes toward you, gently but firmly pull in the lead until he is directly in front of you (Figure 16).
8. When he is in front of you, bend down and - gently and firmly - push his backside down until he sits (Figure 17). Do not give a "Sit" command: sitting when he arrives is part of the "come" behavior and he needs to learn that.
9. When he is sitting in front of you after successfully following your command, praise him enthusiastically and profusely (Figure 18).
10. Train for no more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time.
Some final notes on dog training gathered from 55 years of owning, loving and training our dogs:
You may not realize it, but if you have a dog, training is always going on. Either you are training your dog - or he is training you. Having your dog train you is almost always a bad idea, so if you have a dog, you should seriously consider taking over the training.
The initial objective of any dog training is not to teach your dog a particular trick or behavior - but to establish WHO IS IN CHARGE. Never forget that. Dogs are pack animals, and packs have a leader. Some dogs want to be the leader and some do not. But even dogs who want to be the leader will happily follow another leader (you) if you can demonstrate to the dog that (a) you are in charge, and (b) he benefits (treats, praise, walks, play time) from you being in charge. Once the dog has learned that you are the leader, all training becomes much easier.
The way to establish yourself as leader is through patience, repetition, determination and reward. NEVER punish your dog when you are training him. ALWAYS reward your dog when he does something right. The harshest physical punishment you should ever inflict on your dog should be no more than a rap on the muzzle with a couple of fingers accompanied by "No!". If you go more severe than that you have lost control - of yourself, not the dog.
Reward your dog with praise - not treats. Why? Two reasons: First, believe it or not, your dog would much rather have your enthusiastic praise than a treat any day, believe me. Second, you may not always have a treat in you pocket when your dog does something right, but you will always have praise available. Never say "Bad dog!" or punish your dog when he does something wrong in training. Simply try it again - and again - until he does it right - then praise him in a manner that shows him you're pleased with him. No matter how bad a training session has gone, try to do something at the end for which your dog can be praised. His memory is short, but he will remember how a session ended. If it ended on a positive note, he will look forward to the next session.
A K9-1-1 BONUS: When you have taught your dog to come on command, the next thing you should realize is that your dog does not speak English. Sounds rather obvious, but by that I mean that the word "Come!" means nothing to him in and of itself. He has simply learned that when he hears you make that sound it means you want him to come to you. Once you've realized that, you should also realize that you could train your dog to come to you by saying the word "Rutabaga" if you want. Or, you could train him to come to you when he hears pretty much any sound. I hope you've figured out where I'm going here. You can actually train your dog to come to you when he hears your phone ring. Using the same method I used in the video, you can teach your dog to respond to the ring of your phone rather than - or as well as - the word "Come". You'll need an assistant with another phone. Set up your training session just as outlined above, with the K9-1-1 harness on your dog. Have your assistant call your phone. The instant the phone rings, tug the leash and bring your dog to you (don't say "Come"). Praise him. A few sessions and he'll learn to come to you when the phone rings as well as when you say "Come".
The benefit here should be obvious. As long as your dog is around, you'll never again have to keep your phone constantly in your pocket (or wonder where you put it). Just keep your phone in the K9-1-1 holster. When it rings, your dog will gladly bring it to you, because he knows he'll get a "Good dog!" and a scratch behind the ears when he does. And that's a service no alert monitoring service can offer!
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