People perform best when they feel good and are not coping with physical ailments. The same is true for your dog. Do not expect your dog to be at the top of its game if it does not feel well.
Know your dog’s habits and if it deviates, investigate.
If the hair coat is dull and loosing hair, get to a vet.
Brush the coat daily checking for fleas, wounds and odors. Check under arms, around the eyes, and genitalia where fleas reside.
Any dog “flop-butting” (scraping its rear end along the ground), or licking the anus more than usual? Could be a piece of fecal material stuck in the hair, impacted anal glands, or worms? If suspect, get to a vet.
Bathe your dog but not too often because you could damage the coat.
Trim your dog’s nails regularly. No animal should have to endure long nails.
Brush your dog’s teeth daily using toothpaste and its own toothbrush.
Runny eyes? Take a clean tissue, tear in half, moisten with water, gently wipe away excess matter. Don't use the same tissue on both eyes. It could spread an infection. Suspect foreign matter in eye? Get to a vet.
Know what your dog’s ears look, smell and feel like when they are healthy. Ears are critical to “sound awareness dogs.” If the ears(s) deviate get to a vet.
When in doubt get to a vet.
There are two support groups that will help you in your roles as chief caregiver and trainer.
1. A dog friendly support group
2. A dementia awareness support group
Set yourself up to win in your duel role as chief caregiver and canine trainer. It will be a comfort to you to have people in your life that are dog savvy and others that are aware of and knowledgeable about dementia. Knowing that you are not alone, that others are facing similar challenges is comforting, smart, and practical. Look into your own life and see the rich resources that are already there. Your veterinarian, dog trainers, animal shelters, friends who have dogs, your Church, your local Alzheimer's chapter, both public and professional individuals in your patient's life, friends, family members that are not in denial, doctors, nurses, caseworkers, your state's resources in aging, and day care centers for adults. These and many more resources are there for you. You should be taping into them. Seek them out and make contact.
Complicating Alzheimer's dog's work task is the fact that Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, with unexpected behaviors that create ongoing stress for the dog. Just like its human counterpart, the dog can stress out too. Without relief, the dog can become depressed, physically ill, and even not work up to its potential.
Relieve Stress for Your Dog With a Break Away from the Patient
You can help relieve stress for your dog simply by providing a safe, secured, fenced area adjacent to the house, complete with a dog door, for the canine to toilet, exercise, and take a break in, without the caregiver having to personally let the dog in/out. It keeps the dog's stress level at a minimum by granting the dog freedom to let off some energy and minimize aggravation caused by the dementia. You take coffee breaks; the dog needs time away to rejuvenate, too. The dog can decide when it needs to "get away"--go in/out by itself--not creating a hardship for the already overworked caregiver. Remember to keep this area clean, free of fecal matter and all dangerous material that could hurt the dog.
Take free time with your dog each day--only the two of you together.
Know and Understand the Unique Qualities of an Assistance Dog
Assistance dogs are specially trained, and when you're looking for their unique qualities, it's important to be able to know what you're looking for in that special animal.
A Self-Starting Dog
Usually dogs are trained to respond to a human voice--a person gives the dog a verbal command and the dog responds appropriately. However, Alzheimer's dogs must know when to go to work without the aid of a human command. Alzheimer's dogs are taught to recognize the sound of the patient getting up and their feet hitting the floor--an imminent wandering situation. The dogs learn all the sequential nine steps to succeed in their job of "wandering control". Alzheimer's dogs are self-starting dogs, going to work the minute they hear and identify their sound.
Working for More Than One Person
This is the first time anyone has asked an assistance dog to work for more than one person; one blind individual and one guide dog; one deaf person and one hearing dog. Alzheimer's dog must work with a minimum of one caregiver and one patient. The dog is one member of a triad not just the canine half of a two-way partnership. The triad is a three-pronged working unit consisting of caregiver, patient, and dog.
Unexpected Behaviors from the Patient
Complicating the Alzheimer's dog's work task is the progressive disease Alzheimer's, with unexpected behaviors that create ongoing stress for everyone, including the dog.
Dealing with Relief Caregivers
An Alzheimer's assistance dog must be trained to work with all of the patient's caregivers. It is important that all caregivers are educated to the dog's job and how they fit into the picture. They must exhibit uniform behavior, in order to give the dog the consistency needed to successfully perform its work. It's critical that everyone does and says the same thing.