Should people with epilepsy have untrained dogs as pets?

Need for people with epilepsy to own trained, rather than untrained dogs

source: Val Strong and Stephen W. Brown
Seizure (9) 2000
starts p427, 4 pages long

Dogs can bring major improvements to human wellbeing, and this includes people with epilepsy. Dogs can be trained to warn their owners of an approaching seizure, giving warnings from between 15 to 45 minutes before a seizure actually happens. These Seizure Alert Dogs are trained by a charity called SUPPORT DOGS. The dogs do need to be trained properly, however, and there can be problems if untrained dogs live with people who have epilepsy.

Untrained dogs may react in a variety of ways, based on survival strategies, involving flight, fight, freeze, or appeasement. Seizure Alert Dogs are trained to see human seizures as something positive, whereas untrained dogs are anxious and restless prior to a seizure. Owners often say their dogs run to tell another person when is seizure is due, but this is an escape response. Untrained dogs have also been recorded as becoming aggressive following their owners’ seizures, attacking their owners during a seizure, becoming agitated and fearful, running away, and even suffering seizures at the same time as the owner.

SUPPORT DOGS selects dogs for training, and has trained 20 of these dogs within six months. Their owners had less frequent seizures after the training was completed. These dogs can give greater independence to people who have epilepsy. A specialist in this sort of training is needed, since there are risks to the public, the owner, and the dog, if the dog is not trained properly.