How an Epileptic Can Train a Seizure Alert Dog

Updated on February 17, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Any dog can be trained as a seizure alert dog.
Any dog can be trained as a seizure alert dog. | Source

Why Do Seizure Alert Dogs Cost So Much?

Dogs able to warn their masters of an oncoming epileptic seizure are discussed in almost every site for those suffering from epilepsy. Many epileptics are afraid to even leave the house when alone, so the benefits of an early warning system are obvious.

These dogs undergo extensive training with strangers and to purchase one of these seizure alert dogs is very expensive; these dogs are not usually covered by insurance. Most of them are advertised in dog therapy sites for 10,000 to 15,000 dollars.

Some of the researchers who have looked into these dogs think that only certain highly trained dogs can do this, and the cost is justified because of that extensive training. For those epileptics lucky enough to have obtained one of these dogs they realize it is well worth the cost.

Is There A Less Expensive Option?

Others, epileptics like myself, do not believe that a dog has to be trained with strangers and purchased from a trainer.

Dogs that have not been professionally trained are not exposed to several different people having seizures every day so may become excited or not know enough to even warn the epileptic. Most dogs, however, are attuned to odd smells or unusual behaviors and will alert the person they are bonded to when something is strange. It is just up to the human to notice that his dog is acting unusual.

It is then up to the epileptic to learn and act on the warning.

Be sure to notice when your dog is trying to alert you to a seizure.
Be sure to notice when your dog is trying to alert you to a seizure. | Source

How to Train a Seizure Alert Dog

  • Bond with your new dog or puppy. Once you have brought home your seizure alert candidate, it is up to you to bond closely and make her sensitive to your condition. Read more about bonding to learn more tips.
  • Obedience training. Spending the time training your dog with positive techniques will help her bond to you and feel that you are part of her family. You need to teach her all of the basics.
  • Socialization. Try to take your dog everywhere with you, even when he has passed the sensitive socialization period. (At about 16 weeks of age.) When you go for a walk, take your dog. When you go to get a cup of coffee, take your dog. Do not forget that you should never take your dog to the store and lock him in a car.
  • Canine good citizen program. Ask your vet or local dog trainer if this program is available in your area. It is an AKC certification that will teach your dog to behave in public and allow him or her to spend more time with you.

As your new puppy or dog becomes used to your home let her spend as much time with you as possible. Forget those outdated dog dominance rules like “no sleeping in the bedroom”. Her job is sleeping in your bedroom! Her job is to alert you at any time of day or night. If you do not want to make your dog a part of your life, he or she will never develop into a seizure alert dog.

Allowing her to become part of your life will take some time, and I definitely cannot guarantee that your dog is going to alert on the first seizure. As your puppy ages and develops into an alert dog, she will warn you a few minutes or maybe a half of an hour before a seizure. She might paw at the ground, bark, circle around, or just stare at you and whine. Each dog will alert differently. It is up to you to learn to recognize the signs.

  • Never yell at your dog or abuse her if she is doing her job. If you scold a dog when he barks at a stranger at the door, the dog might eventually learn to stop barking at the door. The correct response is to let the dog bark once to alert you to the stranger, praise her, and then check on the person at the door. It is the same thing with a seizure alert dog. If she is acting strange, praise her.

(The first time my dog started acting oddly before one of my seizures I took her outside and closed the door! I was obviously not paying attention. After the seizure, I realized that she was doing her job and I needed to praise her.)

Where Can I Find a Seizure Alert Dog?

It does not matter where you get your candidate for a seizure alert dog.

To find a dog that is going to grow into his job I recommend you start out with evaluating a litter of puppies or some young dogs at the animal shelter using the puppy aptitude testing process developed by the Monks of New Skete. (You can also find details on how to evaluate a puppy in “Dog Training for Dummies” by Jack and Wendy Volhard. Anyone wanting to develop a seizure alert dog should read both books to gain general knowledge.)

Some of the articles on seizure alert dogs recommend that the dog not be too dominant or too submissive. A dominant dog may not even care about the epileptic, they argue, while a submissive dog may become too scared at an impending seizure. Find a young steady dog, one able to live with a family, neither too shy nor too outgoing.

It does not matter what breed she is, nor what sex. I do not think it matters if you get a “free to good home” puppy, a young shelter dog, or a line of expensive therapy Labradors developed by a breeder. (There is a great testimony in the comment section at the bottom of this page from a woman who trained her Maltese as a seizure alert dog. I have also heard of people using Min Pins and other breeds that most people would not expect to use.) Please do not get a puppy from a pet shop since most of them are not socialized early and will not be good candidates. No matter where you get your dog, of course, you need to remember her feeding and medical needs.

Will Any Dog Work?

Any epileptic willing to bond with a dog does not need to spend a lot of money. ANY DOG CAN WORK.

There are still a lot of medical professionals are researchers who deny the value of these dogs. They have no idea if the dog is acting oddly because of a sense of smell or if there is some sort of telepathic communication that they do not believe in.

It doesn’t really matter. I do believe that this is not a skill that can be taught but it is an ability that almost every dog has within herself.

It is up to you to reach inside and find that ability.

Even a small dog can be trained to alert for seizures.
Even a small dog can be trained to alert for seizures. | Source

Questions & Answers


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 6 days ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Jessica, that is a very hard question. I am not sure all dogs, even those adept at seizure detection, would be okay at warning an owner at night. If this were me I would want my dog sleeping in my room, but my wife has always told me about my night seizures because I never woke up to even respond to my dog.

      In your case a seizure response dog/emotional therapy dog might be better.

    • profile image

      Jessica 6 days ago

      My seizures usually happen in my sleep so how would I train a dog for that. I also have ptsd and anxiety and bad depression. What should i do?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 weeks ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Karen, my epilepsy is under control and I am a person who has epilepsy. I am also an epileptic. That does not define who I am.

    • profile image

      Karen Durant 2 weeks ago

      I am still reading this article but as a person with epilepsy, I am not an epileptic, we do not want to be defined by epilepsy.

    • profile image

      Ente 2 months ago

      I am an epilepsy expert at a Los Angeles medical school and we would like to study how seizure alert dogs actually predict the seizure. We believe it is due to a detection of a scent. We would like to study this scientifically and are looking for patients and their dog who would be willing to undergo painless/harmless studies to try to determine how the dog detects the seizure

      please email me at if you are interested

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Phil, anywhere is okay, but I do not recommend a pet shop since the puppy may have been stressed out at the puppy mill and have behavioral problems. Try an animal shelter, a breeder, or even a backyard breeder.

    • profile image

      Phil Gruber 4 months ago

      Do you have any recommendations on where to get a dog

    • profile image

      Jessica Rollins 5 months ago

      I was in a 10- month coma at 8 1/2 years old unexpected to come out. By the Grace of Jesus Christ He pulled me out of it having to regain my abilities to walk, talk, & cry. I got back into school w/ epilepsy results of the coma, grand mal seizures. In the past 30 years I've had to go through multiple medications to try to tame the seizures as much as I could, went through 20+brain surgeries, rove repeatedly how determined, stubborn, ornery & how much I rely, trust, believe, have a relationship with Jesus Christ I have. I got into weightlifting soon after getting back into school in 4th grade & been in it since, ran my own business, lived independently allow as well w/ roommates, all along w/ dogs & cats as my pets. I'm now 39, single, living in town w/ roommates & seizures, still unable to drive but I adopted my dog 6/3/17 as a pet working w/ him ever since. I've taught Bageera 50-60 tricks & ways of communicating & he loves to continue learning more. I've noticed him acting unusually anxious/ nervous 30-60 minutes before my seizures! I've started the process of certifying him as my seizure alert dog yet it's not as easy in Durango, CO.

      Any suggestions on how to get him certified as a seizure alert dog would be very appreciative!!!!! My apologies for the lengthiness of this comment.

    • profile image 6 months ago

      Can a shih tzu be trained as Seizure-Alert dog

    • profile image

      Barbara E 7 months ago

      Karen D. if your dog is afraid of your seizures maybe you can make note of its behavior prior to a seizure, that may be your warning.

    • profile image

      Sabrina 7 months ago

      My 18 yr old step daughter has had seizures since age of 5. I had a German Shepherd about 4 years ago that woild alert my husbamd and I if she was having a seizure. The dog was very very attached to me and he was very well trained by myself to find things such as sbakes and rats in a chicken house as well as watch the kids if i ran into the store. And was an amazing gaurd dog. All around an amzing dog. I kiss that dog dearly. He was never trained to alert us to her seizures. I had him before my husband and i got together he was 1 when i met my husband. My step daughter didnt live with us she only visited on holidays and summer vacations. So i am not really sure why he started alerting us but the very first one she had after we got together my dog Talon came and woke us up barking and led us to her room and started licking her face.

    • profile image

      Denise jackson 7 months ago

      I have seizures really bad and i have been having 4 to 5 at a time and i have lost alote of my memory i really need help getting a dog cause i split my head open at a job and lost my job after that and have no money to get a dog how would i go about it

    • profile image

      Lindsay Wann 8 months ago

      I have a one year old Morkie and I have him certified as my service dog but I want to know how me and my mom can train him to alert her when I am having a seizure or about to have one? I have traumatic brain injury from a bad car accident and am permanently disable...

    • profile image

      Beki 8 months ago

      I have a chihuahua. When I had my first seizure she had been my "girl" for several years. But I can tell you this, she wouldn't leave my side for weeks when I had several in a short period of time. No training was done, Dottie just knew something was wrong and she stuck with me and whined and licked my hands when they started coming on. She's my girl!

    • profile image

      Karen M Durant 10 months ago

      Thank you for this article, it gives me hope of training a seizure alert dog. I have epilepsy but do not want to be labeled an "Epileptic" . Is it possible to train an older dog who knows you but is afraid of your seizures?

    • profile image

      Susan WOLFSON 11 months ago

      This article says exactly what I been saying. Professional service dog trainers on FB don't want anyone to know and have criticized me for saying the same.

    • profile image

      Jandre 11 months ago

      Dr Mark

      You are saying what I was thinking. IT does not need to cost thousands of Dollars

      I live in MAdagascar, one of the poorest coutnries in the world. We would like to investigate the training of seizure dogs to help poor patients.

      May we discuss this with you?



    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 13 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Rae, I do not know if I am the right person to be answering that question, since at the beginning I ignored my own dog´s attempt to alert me! I would just tell your relative to be attentive since his dog is trying to alert him.

      Sounds like a great reason to let a dog sleep on the bed.

    • profile image

      Rae Munro 13 months ago

      We live in Scotland. A relative has developed Epilepsy following a couple of head injuries. He has a dog which is very close to him and seems to waken him up if he has a seizure in his sleep. are there any techniques to help him to understand when dog is trying to alert him?


    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 13 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Ashlee, it depends on the dog and how closely he is bonded with you. A well bonded dog will watch out for you all of the time, so even if the seizures are infrequent he will notice and alert you.

    • profile image

      Ashlee 13 months ago

      If I don't have seizures weekly or even monthly, would a seizure dog still work for me?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 13 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Liz, pick a little Aussie and bond with her, but I definitely do not recommend getting an outside organization to do this. The dog is going to learn who you are, the way the LUPUS is affecting you, and respond as you need her to. Sure, she can be an assistance dog too. I wish you all the best.

    • profile image

      Liz 13 months ago

      Just to start: I don't have epilepsy, but I do have epileptic-like seizures caused by LUPUS and Myastenia Gravia. I would like to train a miniture australian sheperd, since I have seizures weekly (or more) and there is just no living with this. I would train the dog myself, since I am a licenced trainer (in obedience, aggility, freestyle heelwork and competition work) altough I'm only 18. My question now is, should I ask for help from organisations who do this? I am an experienced trainer, but not with this and I wouldn't want to do anything wrong. Is there also a possibility to train a combo? Both seizure allert, response and assistance?

      Thanks allready

    • profile image

      Jill 13 months ago

      My daughter has nocturnal epilepsy so she has seizures just before or just after waking up. She is on medication , but still has occasional seizures. She has a beagle who she would like to train as an alert dog. My question is, since she is more likely to have a seizure if she is awoken, could an alert dog help her?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 14 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Elaine, if the dog alerts your son can he alert you? These dogs are usually alerting the epileptic because they have a bond with that person. Alerting a third party would be asking the dog to do something very different, not even sure how a dog could be trained in that way.

    • profile image

      Elaine 14 months ago

      Can alert dogs alert people other than their owner? My son's Dr. think he is having non-epileptic seizures. He does also have epileptic seizures. I thought if we could be around one of these dogs maybe the dog could sense the difference between the two. It is very frustrating because these "auras" are disruptive to our lives, especially my son's, for 5 years now since his accident and traumatic brain injury.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 15 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Aireal,as I pointed out in the article, any dog can work but not all dogs will work. If you bond closely to the dog she is going to whine to alert. You can train a dog to bark, but it is not necessarily going to help in this situation. Bonding is the most important thing.

    • profile image

      Aireal 15 months ago

      How can I get my puppy to start barking or whine to alert someone I'm having an episode? Will she just do it as she gets older and more used to them?

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 18 months ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Lizz, any breed will work. It is most important that the dog is keyed into your senses, and feels the need to be with you a lot, but according to some people not all dogs have this ability. I guess you have to get a dog, see how she does, and if she is not an alert dog be willing to rehome her and find another.

      As far as training a dog for every type of seizure? Probably, but the person has to be willing to accept the signs from the dog.

    • profile image

      Lizz 18 months ago

      I do not have epilepsy, but have something with simmular seizures (SLE) and I would like to train my dog to alert me before a seizure. I have an awfull lot of seizures and really could use an alert, since I am a teacher in training (for high schoolers).

      I was wondering wether there is a breed that is better in those things and how you best get your dog sertified.

      Also can you train a dog for every type of seizure?

      Sorry, if there are any mistakes in this comment (I'm not an native speaker)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Hi Emkatster, my dog is a seizure alert dog, but I have heard about response dogs too. Not sure about training, but if you buy a trained response dog there is no reason that he could not be trained to alert too. That, in my opinion, would be a lot more valuable since you could sit or lie down and be ready for it when it happens.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Emkatster profile image

      Kate Ginsberg 3 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      What about the seizure dogs that assist you after the seizure occurs? Supposedly these are Seizure Response dogs as opposed to alert dogs. I would like my daughter to have a dog that can turn her over to make sure she is getting an airway during a seizure, fetch her phone, etc. Her seizures occur mostly at night. As far as dogs sensing impending seizure activity, why would anyone find that difficult to believe. Dogs smell a lot of things we don't. Like cancer for example, I read more dogs detected tumors than CT's! Can't substantiate that as a fact as I did not research it sufficiently so it remains anecdotal. Just an example. BTW, did you hear the Pope now says dogs have souls? But I digress. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 3 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      b potter --thanks for that wonderful contribution. I was pleased to hear your history. Awesome Maltese!!

    • profile image

      b potter 3 years ago

      Apologies for the length of the above story, in that I couldn't finish it because I didn't know if there were a number of letters or word limit.

      My story can be verified by many people. In 2007 after learning my rights and Grace was well trained on a leash, etc. I went to the OC Animal Shelter. I gave them a copy of her graduation certificate from training school, a letter from my doctor stating reasons why I needed this dog to be "in service", brochures from the group I was in and a couple of other things. They gave me Service Dog tag with a number on it. (specific measurements were given to the place who made her vest). This dog saved my life. If not for her, I would have been stuck in bed having migraines every day. By now, upon her alerting me, I take my migraine medication and most times the pain never happens. If by chance it does, its never like it was. The same with the panic problem which can even occur at midnight.

      I would give my life for this dog. Because of her, I'm not afraid to go out because of migraines, or go home because one is "coming". This is an amazing little might dog who is still a shrimp. (of course she does many other things and even when her vest is off she alerts me at home of course). Our daughter is marrying soon. Family and friends will attend a relaxed wedding. Of course my dog will be in the front row, minus her vest because all family and attendees know about Grace. They've seen her work for me and have been amazed. She goes to any type of doctor appointment and just sits of a clean pad or on my lap. She's been on my lap for each dental appointment since the time she weighed less than a pound. She's always well mannered. Better than most children and adults. At restaurants, I bring a small pad and she lays down and never begs. Sometimes, she is slipped a treat to let her know she's being good and that I love her.

      Yes indeed, a Maltese Service Dog is very unusual. Grace is happy ad healthy. I personally believe she was born with her gifts. Apologies again for not having read your book but I plan on checking it out. I have thought of writing much, much more about Grace but as you can see, I'm not a writer. Thank you for your forum. B

    • profile image

      b potter 3 years ago

      I disagree in some was to the authors's comment. I HAVE had 5 major grand mals which were in 1999 as a result to a medication. They were violent, I had many stitches, broken ribs and teeth.

      However, with regards to there being about 15 to 20 % of dogs which DO have special senses, I believe this to be true.

      I will both agree and disagree with this author because.... I did get my dog from a pet store. I did keep her with me a all times from the moment I got her because she was very small. (I had never done this with 4 previous dogs I had loved and owned in my lifetime. One of them was a rescue and ironically did have epilepsy (which is why no one had wanted her. I had worked for the OC Epilepsy society and knew how to care for people with this and Never was wooried. Instead, we put her on meds and I used the situation to teach my 3 children about epilepsy. She was a wonderful dog we had for 10 years.

      Back to my puppy. So I kept her with me as I was bedridden with daily migraines. I don't know if she already was born with a special gift to sense something or not. She was highly intelligent and potty trained in a couple of hours at 11 weeks old. She was the average puppy who played with the kids but was always given back to me when they were done.

      One day when she was almost two and laying across the same bed as I, she walked over to me and "pawed" me on the shoulder and stared at me. I asked her the usual things in phrases I knew she knew such as, "do you have to go outside to go to the bathroom on the grass?"... nothing, she still stared at me. About a 1/2 hour later, I had a horrible migraine. (we're talking lightening bolts in the eyes). Taking the medicine for this I looked over at her while drinking the water.

      It must be noted, I have them on a daily basis at various times.

      She did the same thing the next day and the next. So we made a calendar of the time that warned me and the time I had the pain.

      But after one week I knew she had this gift. (I almost didn't buy her. I had seen her playing with her litter mate at the pet store but didn't want that breed. For 10 days, she was all I thought about and thought it odd that I couldn't get this little shrimp dog out of my mind because I had always had much larger dogs. Plus we already had a dog but didn't know why I'd had the urge to look for another one. After 10 days I went back to that store and she was the only dog I'd seen who was still there. It was only then, that I held her and don't write me but "had a gut feeling" about .. I didn't know what).

      After I knew what she could do, I didn't know what to do with the information. I looked on Dogster at a couple of dog's stories and saw a Service Dog and sent the owner a message that i admired what her large dog was able to do for her. I mentioned what my dog could do but didn't know what to do about it. She wrote me back and suggested that I join an online, monitored Service Dog support group that she was in. Which I did. I also took to to group training classes for regular dogs.

      This was in 2007. My dog has been the best Service Dog in the world and is never wrong. On a leash, she stops walking and gives me the stare and I know what's going to happen. She also knows before I have panic attacks and alerts in a different way.

      Now my husband is type 2 and for years she has been alerting him when his blood levels are off by licking him. This dog is remarkable and weighs 6.7 pounds. She is a Maltese! I have never heard of a dog of this breed doing such things. But then the talent is all in the brain.

    • Stayingstrong101 profile image

      Stayingstrong101 4 years ago

      I've had epilepsy for a very long time since I was nine, I've been on at least 7 or 8 different medications, none have worked until about 2 years ago when I was put on a study med with the current med that I was on then finally the tonic-clonics were slowing down but I was still having at least 50 peti-mals a day I was estatic then my parents got a new dog (It was my sisters dog but they kind of got dropped with her when she lost her house) the first time I met that dog she came up to me and just started licking me for no reason I hadden't called her nothing then she crawled onto the couch and put her head in my lap and soon after that we left and on the way home I had a Tonic-clonic seizure. (which is a Grand-mal if you are not sure what that is.) She had never been around anyone with epilepsy before so now my husbandband i desided to adopt her and train her to be my warning dog :-) oh MIMI ask your son's nerolgist if he can be put on VIMPAT I know it was the best medicine that happened in my life besides shilo maybe it will be for him too :-)

    • profile image

      mimi 4 years ago

      Hi everyone, new to all this, but found all this info interesting and brother, sister and six yr old son are epileptic and for year have wanted a seizure dog for my brother who suffers from the more severe , but now having my son I'm desperate, countless sleepless nights, my anxiety to even let him play alone, or heaven forbid go outside in the yard without husband & I started breeding dogs and I thought I really wish I could train one of these puppies for my son..well all in all these post helped my motivation..i will keep posting on my progress for I already have a puppy picked out for my son

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      My dog is the same way, and that is a great point. Some companies/foundations charge 10,000 dollars for these dogs, and most of them just understand how to do this.

    • profile image

      mystery person 5 years ago

      seizure detecting comes naturally to many dogs i own a dog and he can detect any seizures that i have at what ever time AND HE WAS NEVER TRAINED TO DO THAT!!!!!

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks for coming by digitalduck. I hope everyone in need uses this information because it can make a great difference in life quality.

    • digitalduck profile image

      digitalduck 5 years ago from Colorado

      Hi DrMark, I just wanted to introduce myself and let you know that I referenced dogs that can be trained to catch oncoming seizures in my very first hub I published yesterday. I noticed that you had an article in your hub regarding that same topic. Great article :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      That is an excellent story. I have a cousin with migranes and cats; she has never thought about a seizure alert dog (migraine alert dog?). I will need to pass that story along to her.

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 5 years ago

      A friend of mine has periodic migraines. These are debilitating for her for up to 3 days. She has medicine that helps, but, as with all pain medicines, it is most effective taken propholactically.

      She can go for several months without one and out of the blue will get one. There is no way for her to tell when to take her meds...

      Until now! She got a rescue dog that attuned itself to her headaches. "Tater" climbs up on her and licks her eyes before the owner even realizes she is about to embark on another torturous journey of a migraine.

      Now instead of being miserable for days, the owner is now able to miss only one day of work or perform limited duties and not be miserable.

      Love that story; it's one of my best ones. Glad you had a Hub where I could share it.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Thanks Michele!That shows that you were being perceptive as a lot of people do not even notice. Check out that link to the woman with the Min Pin, it is really nice to hear how any dog can do this service.

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      DrMark this is true. I have epilepsy. I have had surgery for epilepsy. I don't have as many seizures as I had before the surgery, but before the surgery my dogs would come to me and lay down next to me until my seizure was ended. They were not trained to do this, they did this on their own.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Unfortunately a lot of MDs don't believe in them either!

    • yeagerinvestments profile image

      yeagerinvestments 5 years ago from Wisconsin

      Interesting hub. I never knew there was such a thing as dogs trained to detect early warning signs of seizures.