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Walking a dog with dementia


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I wondered if I could ask for any advice on walking an elderly dog with dementia? I try to stick to fields mostly, but sometimes the following is unavoidable, and I'd really appreciate some advice/solidarity if anyone could help.

When walking on pavements with him, it turns into a bit of a (gentle) battle. He wants to walk in the road, go in people's gardens, walk along glued to my leg so I keep falling over him, walk very slowly and investigate absolutely everything on stretches where someone is waiting at the other end for us to pass, walk into things such as bushes I know he'll get stuck in and turn around when he sees something he doesn't like, such as kissing gates. I know none of this is his fault, but I feel like when we aren't able to walk in fields and these things are an issue, I spend the whole walk stopping him from doing what he wants to do, and sometimes I have to be quite forcible with him because he's a fairly big, strong dog. I also feel very conscious of the fact that it probably looks like I'm being mean to him to other people because I'm always having to direct him, whereas it's just because I know certain things he wants to do aren't safe for him / will annoy other people.

He still really enjoys his walks and I love him to death and will do anything for him – I'm just hoping to gain some tips from anyone else who has experienced this so I don't come back from each walk feeling so guilty.

He was always such a good boy on his lead before the dementia, so I think it's definitely that rather than stubbornness that's causing the issues.

Thanks so much in advance for your help.
Some things like walking on the road are just things you will need to keep being mean about, because it isn't safe. However, when you can, I'd let him do what he wants to do. It's his walk after all. So if he only wants a short walk with a lot of sniffing, thats fine. If he is glued to your leg, walk slowly so you don't fall over him; think of it as you keeping your feet in the best place, rather than him trying to walk where your feet aren't.

I have more experience in dementia in people than in dogs, and the other advice I can offer is that routine helps. The predictability of it means he knows what to expect and taking away the uncertainty will make him feel more relaxed and secure.

Depending on your dog, walking with another dog he knows might help too.
Hi Joanne, thanks so much for your advice. That's such a good point about being more aware of him and what he wants to do rather than thinking of it in terms of this is where I am and he should fit around that. I think I've been thinking too much about 'the walk' and getting from A to B, rather than about it being his chance to get out and interact with the world. I'll definitely try and focus on him more and let him guide the walk where safe. Thank you so much for the fresh perspective. I'm looking forward to our next walk now :) I'm going to keep his walks at the same time every day where possible too and try to stick to the same route every day from now on. I think you're definitely right about predictability being important for him. I always used to go for variety when he was younger to keep him excited, but lately I've definitely noticed he seems more confused on varied walks. Thanks so much for your wonderful advice!
Oh bless him, and bless you for being such an understanding owner. I lost my dog to dementia and know how hard it can be to see them decline... but how every moment together is so very much more precious xx

There's a thread here about dementia in dogs which you may or may not find useful: Canine cognitive dysfunction (dementia in dogs) Gabapentin really helped my dog, but his main symptom was anxiety and it sounds as if your lad is quite happy in his own little world.
I'm so sorry to hear about your dog, Judy. I'm so glad he had such a loving owner to look after him while he was going through that.

Thanks so much for the link to the thread and for your wonderful post there! That's all such interesting info. I'm really interested in Aktivait, and I think I'm going to give that a go.
Another non-invasive thing that might help, especially now the nights are getting longer, is a SAD lamp. They have a helpful, calming influence on people with dementia, particularly if they suffer from the condition known as sundowning; when they can become restless and agitated around dusk.

There's a selection here, but other suppliers sell them too. : sad lamp
Ooooh - that's really interesting. I'll definitely look into that. Thanks, Joanne :)
Can't really add much more to the wonderful advice already offered. My old boy, Jake, also had dementia... I used to drive him to a variety of different places just to allow him to wander around and sniff, until the day we got out of the van and he just stood looking very confused and unsure:(. So we stuck to what he knew, we'd walk to the end of our road and back and it could take half an hour sometimes(it's a pretty short road!), just letting him sniff and go at his own pace. But this is where he was comfortable so that is what we stuck with.
Good luck with your boy, it is a heart breaking condition but the one thing it does teach us is to slow down and go with the flow, just follow his lead...where safety allows of course!
If you'd like to share any pics of him, sure we'd all love that:)
Oh, bless Jake. I'm so glad he had you to take care of him.

That's definitely true about being more in the moment. The last couple of days have been almost meditative :) A real lesson to just enjoy the moment with him. He definitely seems happier closer to home and doing lots of sniffing :)
Just as an update, he passed away later in November from a brain tumour, so similar symptoms but different cause. I'm so grateful for the change of perspective that made my last walks with him amazing for both of us. Xxx
I'm sorry to hear that he has passed, but so pleased that your last days together were filled with happiness xxx
I am so sorry Sarah x I am pleased you had quality time together x
I'll add my condolences. I'm glad you both got some happier walks before he passed.
So sad for you but the good memories will help, and you did your very best for him.
I am so sorry to hear your news also...but so lovely that your last few walks were happy ones, for you both. xxx
Don't be a stranger - in time, and only if it helps, maybe you could share some memories.

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