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.