Narcolepsy alert dogs


At the Assistance Dog Center T.A.R.S.Q.® we only train narcolepsy alert dogs who can actually warn of oncoming sleep attacks. Alert dogs react BEFORE the sleep attack occurs and alert the narcoleptic in good time!


Narcolepsy alert dogs are trained for people with cataplexy, so these assistance dogs are also called cataplexy alert dogs.

Narcolepsy alert dogs give a warning up to five minutes before a sleep attack. This allows the narcoleptic to sit or lie down, find a safe place or call a relative, so that they can avoid being injured.

A dog can't be taught the ability to alert before a life-threatening event becomes severe. Either it has the sensitivity to pick up on an oncoming event, or it doesn't. It is therefore of paramount importance to choose the right dog who possesses this innate ability. Not every dog can recognize an oncoming sleep attack.

A dog has to be born an alert dog - you can't make an alert dog!

Narcolepsy alert dogs have to want to notice an oncoming sleep attack a few minutes before it occurs, and to make their partner aware of it. A narcolepsy alert dog has to act on its own initiative, and not just give a warning when commanded to. This fact illustrates the uniqueness of alert dogs, and the difficulty in finding and training them. If a dog doesn't want to alert its partner to an oncoming sleep attack, it won't. If a dog doesn't have the ability to recognize a sleep attack before it happens, it will never gain the ability. Neither trainer nor partner can really influence the ability to reliably give a warning prior to a sleep attack. This depends on several factors, such as the ability of the dog and the bond it has. 


  • Tasks of a narcolepsy alert dog


The main task of a narcolepsy alert dog is to warn of a sleep attack before it occurs. The alert dog becomes aware of the sleep attack shortly before it occurs, and lets the partner know by prodding or laying out its paw. The way in which an alert dog warns of a sleep attack is innate and does not need to be taught. In training, the partner learns what action they should react to.

During training at the International Assistance Dog Center T.A.R.S.Q.®, a qualified assistance dog trainer will help the team to encourage reliable warnings and avoid mistakes, so that the partner can really rely on their alert dog in an emergency.

It is especially important to the International Assistance Dog Center that those who suffer from narcolepsy can rely on their dogs giving reliable warnings.

It can sometimes be helpful for a narcolepsy alert dog to learn additional duties which further the security and well-being of the narcolepsy sufferer. The dog can operate an emergency telephone in order to contact relatives. It is sometimes helpful for the dog to lick the partner's face during an attack, causing them to wake up again. After the attack, the dog can help by fetching medication or supporting its partner while they stand up. It can also be helpful for the dog to learn to give daily reminders about taking medication.

If the owner is often not woken up by the alarm clock ringing, because they are sleeping deeply due to medication for example, the dog can learn to wake them up when the alarm clock sounds.

If the partner suffers from extreme tiredness and lack of sleep, which can lead to depression and anxiety, the dog can learn to provide support by, for example, providing closeness.

If the client is overtaken by severe sleepiness when they are not at home, the dog can learn to lead its owner back home.

If the client experiences hypnagogic hallucinations, it can be an immediate help to them to see the dog next to them, making them realize that the hallucinations aren't real.


Preconditions for having a narcolepsy alert dog

  • You should have narcolepsy with cataplexy.
  • You should be ready to react to every warning the dog gives, and to praise the dog when it alerts. You should be willing to learn how the dog gives a warning.
  • You are willing and capable of developing and maintaining a connection with the narcolepsy alert dog. The narcolepsy alert dog must have the strongest bond with the migraine sufferer, so that it knows who it should watch. All other family members must limit their interactions with the dog, so that the dog's ability to reliably give warnings is not endangered.
  • You are with the narcolepsy alert dog 24 hours a day. You always remain close to the narcolepsy alert dog, so that it can help you in emergencies.
  • The narcolepsy alert dog is the only dog in the household, so that other dogs don't distract it from its work. Other animals such as cats do not present a problem.