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Willow Celiac/Gluten Detection Service Dog

August 24, 2013.

This is the day I picked Willow up from her breeder. She is 10 weeks old. I weighed 101 lbs in this picture and was still very sick.

Willow JH ribbon 1.PNG

Best Birthday Gift Ever
Willow Kai Chicka Gami-CGC,JH,TKN

Willow was purchased as a birthday gift on August 24, 2013, to be trained as a gluten detection dog for myself after a near death experience with Refractory Celiac, which spiraled out of control into seven autoimmune diseases including connective tissue disease, fibromyalgia and autoimmune hepatitis.


Willow began her training on August 28, 2013, starting with obedience. I began consulting with other trainers in the beginning, as gluten detection had not yet been trained. I do not feel that any trainer should train their own dog without a consult from another trainer to oversee the process, as emotions with personal dogs can cloud judgement in some areas. Four trainers in total oversaw Willow’s training in one aspect or another, yet I always remained her primary trainer. For a time I had co-owned another business, which I left in February 2015 and turned that business over to another trainer, in order to start Willow Service Dogs, L.L.C. on my own. I no longer have any association with my former business.


At the point of creating Willow Service Dogs, L.L.C., Willow’s training was changed from force-based aversive training methods to science-based positive reinforcement and classical conditioning methods. Her obedience had to be completely re-trained with positive reinforcement, eliminating the use of a prong collar in order to build a trusting relationship, something that is absolutely essential for the service dog and handler team. Aversive training methods and tools force the dog to work out of fear of correction, whereas positive reinforcement builds the bonds of trust and respect with the dog. I will never again use aversive training on my dogs. Willow has responded to positive reinforcement faster than any other method and is more confident in her skills.


Since I began Willow Service Dogs, L.L.C., Willow’s obedience advanced and hold  AKC CGC (Canine Good Sitizens) Title.  Additionally, her tasks now include mobility work: counter balance, picking up dropped objects, retrieving items by name (phone, remote, water, keys, and meds). She has also learned to close doors and turn lights on and off. For fun, she has learned several dog tricks (pivot, jumping through hoops, flipping her heal) all requiring rear end awareness training earning her AKC TKN (Trick Novice Title)Willow also began hunting and has earned an AKC Junior Hunter (JH) title.


Today, we are always looking for new things for her to learn as she loves to work and is happiest when she is learning new things. Currently we are working on orbit and hope to find time to earn a dock diving title this summer.

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