As a positive trainer specializing in behavior modification it is my job to figure out how best to do just that, modify behavior. With each dog being an individual it is often a challenge; much time is spent pondering on how best to attack a specific problem. As of late I have realized that my own Jessie has a serious road block, the gates of learning are closing. She has not completely shutdown and locked the gates but the learning curve is diminishing and leaving a very small gap to work in.
Dementia: severe impairment or loss of intellectual capacity and personality integration, due to the loss of or damage to neurons in the brain.
Jessie has dementia and it is getting worse. She mostly sleeps during the day and if she is up she is wandering mostly in circles. One of the wonderful and amazing things at this point is that she is still using the dog door when she needs it during the day although her very early morning usage is not as reliable.
Dementia is a horrible thing; both in humans and in dogs. Every once in a while we see a glimpse of our girl come out and it is an exciting moment. The other day I came home from the store; there she was at the front door and when I reached out for her she did not startle. She also was wagging her tail, obviously happy to see me which is something that we rarely see now; I'm assuming this is because her recognition ability is also poor.
Trying to get Jessie's attention let alone direct it is pretty much impossible. I am often left wondering what is going on if anything in that little head of hers. During her wandering she will often stop in my office and look up at me; at this point she slinks down and moves on as if she is sneaking away. When I scoop her up to join us she is uncomfortable and tries to exit without notice once again. It is a frustrating time.
Old behaviors have remained but newly instilled once long gone now. One of the newer behaviors which I had been most happy about was the one that she adapted only a couple of years ago. After eating she was to go to her bed; this helped in her wandering into someone else's food bowl area. She was unable to hear any growls or see warning signals which became dangerous. That "go to" bed behavior is now gone and she is left standing over her bowl as she finishes up not knowing where or what she should do.
Where we once had a wide open road ready for as much learning as we could throw at her; there is now a road block which I may or may not be able to get around.