All of us have heard about, perhaps even know about, those Lassie type dogs that bound into reality in the nick of time to save a family member. I am also very aware that stories like these can be true. One of the hearing dogs I had trained did save her hearing impaired master. She was honored by receipt of hearing dog of the year, an International award. She sat calmly beside her master when they received their award. I watched while tears ran down my cheeks, I was so proud. Another dog, an Alzheimer's dog that I had trained self-started one night, alerting her mistress to the fact that the Alzheimer's patient was wandering and had turned on the gas stove leaving it unattended. If the dog had not alerted her mistress the home would have burned, perhaps the people and dog too. So, keep the fact in your mind when your dog is testing your patience, that you are training a very special canine, one that once trained will be capable of offering you loving surveillance, not to mention the myriad of therapeutic benefits. How does one put a price tag on that?
When I was holding down a job (well over 40 hours per week) I did not take vacations for many consecutive years. When I finally did take one I was astounded to personally find that it did make a difference in so many ways. Mainly I was refreshed and ready to go back. The same is true of your dogs, except they do not do well if you ship them by themselves to Hawaii for two weeks. Instead, make sure that you take time out of your daily schedule to do something with your dog. It is going to rejuvenate both of you. Dogs love to have their masters to themselves. It does not need to be for a long period but at least give it 15 minutes. You can do whatever you want together, but I caution you not to practice any obedience training. That would not be fair. This is down time for you both. Just enjoy each other, be in the moment. Sometimes, when I find that I am on overload status I simply take a break and seek my dog's company. Works every time. I distinctly hear my dog say "Thanks" and I answer "Ditto".
Just as you require down time during the day so does your canine partner. This is important for your dog too. Alzheimer's dogs, just like yourself, must submit themselves to the stress that dementia causes in the environment. Neither of you can get away from it unless you take a meaningful coffee break. You can grab your coffee cup and go into a sheltered area of the house by yourself. Your dog can escape out the dog door that leads to its own sheltered area, free of dementia where it can just be a dog. I always recommend that you need to be sure you have a fully enclosed, canine friendly area that is adjacent to the house with its own dog door usually installed in the people door. When you have this for your dog, it can let itself outside to let out energy, go to the bathroom, and just have some free down time away from its responsibilities and the overall stress of dementia. How wonderful that if you are in the middle of a chore you do not have to stop and let your dog outside, instead, the dog can let itself out. No hazzels. However, it does mean that you will have to make sure, on a daily basis, that this area is free of any harmful debris and that you are religiously picking up fecal material. Your dog thanks you.
Alzheimer's assistance dogs must be alert 24/7 since their work task is to help their chief caregiver control wandering in the patient. Dogs have extraordinary hearing and are generous in using that hearing for the benefit of keeping an Alzheimer's patient safe. Should the patient decide to get out of bed no matter what the reason, as soon as their feet hit the floor, that could become a wandering situation. Like us, dogs can not ascertain what the patient has in mind but they can be attentive always listening for their sound. They will self-start the minute they hear the feet hit the floor and go and check the patient to be sure it really is a potential wandering situation. In order for the dog to be good at its job it must have good hearing and listening skills, it has to be attentive to all of the sounds around it and pick out the correct sound that it has been trained to identify--feet hitting the floor. Further, it has to have retrieving instincts as well since the dog will be retrieving the caregiver to the patient after alerting the caregiver to the problem. But it all starts with the dog's ears. The dog's ears must always be listening and the dog must be paying attention.
An Alzheimer's dog must have enough energy to work 24/7. However, you do not want the dog to be so keyed up that it is a Tasmanian devil, or conversely too lethargic, always moving in slow motion. Neither extreme is good. Thankfully, you can temper a dog's energy level. Before you do anything have the dog checked by your veterinarian to make sure there is no physical reason for either extreme energy level. Correct any physical problems and then start training your dog in obedience. During obedience training you will cement the fact that you are boss, not your dog, and you will build a relationship. Obedience teaches manners, it instructs the dog on your expectations, your tolerance levels, your standards. Do not vacillate, remain consistent, and be astute for the canine that constantly tests the limits. You can teach your dog acceptable manners. Remember that the aloof and stubborn dog might turn out to be very sensitive, and that cute adorable canine might always be one step ahead of you. Respect your dog's feelings, don't be heavy handed in your reprimands. Do not squash your alpha dog's personality. Never manhandle, bully or physically force your dog into submission. That is unacceptable behavior from you. You are not there to intimidate, but rather to set limits and lovingly correct misbehavior. You want to reinforce your dog's good points and help restrain the negative ones. You can do this in a humane manner which will garner you your dog's respect and thus increase your dog's willingness to please.