Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dog Training and Dementia: A Difficult Combination

I mentioned in a previous post that one of our dogs, Mom's dog Morrie, has been causing serious issues in our house. Morrie fights with our other dog Bailey over everything, such as sleeping on the bed, food, and attention from people. He also does not listen so he runs out the front door and into the street and he will not come back to you when you call him. These things are problems because it is dangerous to have Morrie fighting with Bailey. Mom tried to break up a fight once and put her hand between the dogs and Morrie bit her when he was trying to get to Bailey. Anyone who is near the dogs when a fight breaks out could get bit. He could get hit by a car running out into the street, and overall this causes a lot of anxiety in the house for all of us.

So, we sent Morrie to a dog trainer and while he follows all of the commands from the trainer, back in his home where he thinks he owns everything, even the people, he will not listen. What we have to do is continually follow through on the command and never allow him to get away with not listening to us. This is fine with everyone in the house, except Mom.

With her dementia, she can not understand that training a dog does not mean you are being mean to them. Morrie has a remote collar and Mom does not like that we use it. When Morrie does not listen, Mom thinks it is mean that we just keep taking him back to the same spot and repeating the command over and over until he does it. She thinks this makes Morrie sad and she is very upset with the rest of us in the house for treating Morrie this way.

I am unsure if we can train Morrie in this environment because it is causing so much anxiety and upset for Mom which in turn makes the rest of us exasperated. Our life now revolves around the dog and Mom being upset about the dog.

While the training process makes sense to us and it absolutely works as long as you follow through on it, it does not make sense in Mom's brain. Due to her dementia, we can not make her understand. Right now what we are up against is discovering if we can train the dog and learn to ignore how upset it makes Mom. Mom would be devastated if we had to give Morrie away to another home, but if he can not be trained in this environment, that is what we will have to do.

The level of complication that dementia adds to everything is surprising, and you are never sure what will happen next. A perfect plan such as dog training, can be set off course.

My advice is, if you get a dog for someone with dementia, make sure the dog has been fully trained first.


Rev. Katie


  1. My mother has just moved in with my wife and me ---- and our 3 dogs and 2 cats. She has never wanted to live with animals, never allowing us to have pets as children, but so far, so good. She's especially fond of Buddy, our youngest who strayed up onto our porch as a 6 month old last Christmas.

    This is quite a journey, and it's really ramped up now that she's living her. Check out my blog "Two Old Broads and No Estrogen. I feel a kinship, what with the dementia and the UU connections. Thanks for this lifeline.

  2. Great tips, I'll be sure to keep them in mind especially when I train them again.

  3. It's really difficult to train a dog with a mild dementia. I suggest you still treat her right, bring her to the dog grooming in Long Island every week and let the vet cure her.