Committment: The chief caregiver/trainer must be committed to their dog and know that they are going to practice twice a day (approximately 15 minutes each session), five days (two days off) each week, for at least eight months. Caregivers enjoy working with their dogs and vice-versa. Make the sessions into fun times for both of you.
Communication: The chief caregiver/trainer must be tuned into their dog for the rest of the dog's life--similar to parents with their children. The chief caregiver/trainer must learn how to "talk to" and "read" their dog. Canines have a wonderful language, each voice unique--as is yours to them.
Goal Setting: The chief caregiver/trainer must be able to establish goals, be consistent and persistent. They must explore their own motives, be honest with themselves and dedicated.
Goal Evaluation: The chief caregiver/trainer must be able to review their goals to see if they are on target or not. If not, then why not? If goals are obtainable then keep going. Don't loose your sense of humor and don't give up. Take an alternate route if you must but continue onto your goal.
Rather than selecting any dog why not stack the deck for success and choose the dog that has the most qualities that it will need to learn its job? There is a testing process during which you should write down what you observed and your "gut" feelings. You are trying to find the best possible candidate. Remember that it is wrong to ask a dog to do something it cannot do, as opposed to will not do. Big difference. After testing several canines you will begin to see the differences in each dog. These dissimilarities and each dog's unique characteristics will become evident during the testing situation. Tests are not fool-proof; they have their limitations but they lead your thinking in the right direction. You are not going to find a dog that has all the traits you want in it. Some dogs you will like others your won't. Why? Further, an Alzheimer's dog needs "heart", a willingness to please. If a dog has just about everything going for it but does not have a willingness to please, it may not be the dog you want to work with.
"Sound awareness" training means exactly what it says--training the dog to listen for, be aware of, and identify one specific sound from all other sounds. Once the dog can identify this sound it will then be taught to "self-start"--to begin its job--and what its working pattern will be in order to complete the entire job. The dog's special sound occurs when the patient's feet hit the floor, which could develop into a wandering situation. The dog's work task begins with the dog always listening for its patient's feet to hit the floor. The dog has to know what to listen for and then when it hears that special sound to "self-start", going into action to first confirm wandering and then racing for the caregiver to alert them to the potential dangerous situation.
Statistics state that 70% of all Alzheimer's patients will eventually begin to wander. Wandering makes the caregiver's job much harder. However, with a specially trained canine, the caregiver has a help-mate, an ally. Your "sound awareness" training sessions are key to teaching your dog to become a successful Alzheimer's assistance dog--your partner--and molding both of you into one viable team.
Before you start your sound awareness training there are prerequisites you need to address.
1. Prepare your home for the dog's arrival.
2. Select a veterinarian and make an appointment.
3. Select two support groups: a dog friendly group and a dementia awareness group.
4. Familiarize your dog with your home and your routine.
5. Housebreak your dog.
6. Crate train your dog.
7. Select a surrogate patient.
8. Select a place in your home to train.
9. Keep a logbook.
Each of the above are important and must be completed before you even think about starting to train your dog. I want you to win in this undertaking and I know from experience how necessary it is to set yourself and your dog up to win. Just like in baseball, you can not make a scoring run unless you have touched all bases in sequence. The same is true now. You can not start by jumping into the middle of training and you have to complete things in a specified order. Otherwise, you will not have a happy, well-adjusted, working team (you and your dog) as the end result. By taking your time and accomplishing each part of the whole in logical sequence you will be successful in training your dog. You will be a working team.