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Dog – good idea or not?


Registered User
Aug 13, 2007
West Midlands
My wife, aged 54, who has early onset Alzheimer’s, would dearly love a smallish dog (terrier type). We had planned to have a dog when we retired but, like every other plan, it needs to be reconsidered in the light of this awful illness.

What I’m struggling with is whether the definite benefits of a dog in terms of companionship, interest and meaning will offset the added responsibility.

Although we are coping OK at present, I know that I face huge challenges caring for my wife in the future; will a dog eventually become a responsibility I do not need?

Any views?



Registered User
Nov 28, 2005
This is not easy to answer as we do not know how much stamina you have! A puppy could be hard work in the early years and if you are to rehome a mature dog, they too need lots of tlc in the early days.

IF you can cope with the hard work and time involved then you and your wife could benefit from the companionship.

We lost our lovely mature dog over a year ago. In some ways her lack of energy in the ageing process helped me to cope. She was just there to understand but in as soon as she needed more attention, plus my husband's demands on me, then it did become very very difficult.

Have you friends and family nearby to help with your pet when needed - with that sort of support you may be able to cope.

I am sure other views will be forthcoming.
Best wishes Jan


Registered User
Jul 31, 2007
Dear Stewart,
My husband was 58 when he was diagnoised with A.D.
I was going to get him a puppy for company, support etc. When I was at Carers Meeting at our local Branch and I heard how many of them had to get rid of the animals because of the 24/7 care the person with A.D. needed.
It was a something that I could not take on with the information that I was given, because it would be a family pet and not very good for my Grandchildren to know the dog had to go to another home because of their Grandfather's illness.
I wish you the very best with making a decision.


Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
near London
Hi Stewart,

Welcome to Talking Point!

You ask a great question - one that does need careful thought.

A puppy might be a bit disruptive at first, but whether that would be important will depend on the stage your wife is at. It might be a good thing to focus on.

Possibly more important is that a puppy will live for quite a few years and as has been said, may prove more than you can manage at a later stage.

I'm wondering whether a rescue dog might be an idea? It may be possible to find one of suitable size that has no behavioural problems and that would relish a good home.

We were cat people and cats don't require walking. Dogs do and that can be both a major benefit - but also a drawback if one simply cannot find the time.


Registered User
May 24, 2006
"dogs need walking"

Well actually not totally true of the smaller breeds

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ( as long as it has parentage from the smaller lines) if you have a reasonable garden and a square cat flap will prove a doting companion always happy to sit on a lap or curl up along side If you are able to go out with they love it but they are pretty amenable either way

Theres also even smaller dogs that do not need walking but some are boistrous and you need to do your homework

But as others have said its another commitment on top of caring for an AD patient


Registered User
Aug 29, 2006
SW Scotland
We bought a westie pup 2 1/2 years ago, and it was hard work training her. Also, puppies tend to snap at heels and trouser bottoms, and John got very irritated by this.

Once she's grown out of that stage, however, she became an absolute delight, and John loved to take her for walks.

Now John's in a NH, I've taken her in to see him a few times, and Skye makes a huge fuss of him, but John has no interest in her.

She's still a delight for me though, it's lovely to be welcomed home when I'm feeling depressed, and she makes me get up in the morning when I would be inclined to turn over and not bother. She also makes me go out for walks, which I would not otherwise do, considering the weather we've had.

So, definitely pros and cons, but I wouldn't be without her.


Registered User
Dec 28, 2005
It worked for us

My wife was diagnosed 4 years ago at 56.About a year later we got an 8 month old very active dog.She was and is totally besotted with this dog and he gives us both a lot of pleasure.However the caring partner does have extra work to do with a dog around but I think it is worth it.We usually walk together but this is starting to be an issue as my wife slows down.I can take the dog out early in the morning when my wife is still asleep and this is a magic time for me!!

On balance a success for us and if my wife ends up in a NH then my second best friend will ,hopefully,still be around.


Registered User
Mar 21, 2003
Hi Stewart,

Even if there is a lot to think about from the practical aspect in my opinion it will be a comfort to you both over the years. Nothing like distraction therapy. Animals, in my opinion, pick up well on changes and can become very close and protective for people who need care.

My only direct experience is in Dads care home. They've had a new resident who brought a 1 year Terrier into the home with her. She absolutely loves the dog and spends much of her time with the dog on her lap stroking and comforting. They have obviously connected. The other residents at the home have taken to the terrier too and he has become part of their little family, it really helps the home feel more like a home with a pet around - if you know what I mean.

The dog does like to growl at me for some reason, but only being protective when a relative stranger walks in the room. He probably senses that I'm and ex-paperboy.

I think a calm terrier type dog is probably a good choice as a large dog may need a lot more maintenance.

Best of luck and as always these are just me humble old opinions.
Kind Regards


Registered User
Mar 21, 2003

just to say I came across a few links that may interest you. They take you away from the main site and are a bit related. I found them very interesting.

Therapy Pets Prove Soothing to People with Alzheimer’s

Assistance Dogs for Alzheimer’s Patients

Caregivers May Turn to Dogs to Assist Alzheimer's Patients; Tests in Israel Show Positive Benefit
This article explains the importance of calm dogs.

Kind Regards


Registered User
Dec 5, 2007

just mirroring what others have said really. We already had a dog when my Mum developed Alzheimers at 56 (i had begged and begged for one for as long as i could rememeber - promised to look after it and then never did.... typical child i think?). In the early stages it was great as when Mum could no longer work it got her out and about, then she had to stop driving and it meant we could only walk the dog in the local park, but was still good for Mum. Since then Mum needed a full-time care while Dad was at work and the carer was (and still is) great-would happily go out with both Mum and the Dog. Things have become harder now as Mum can't walk properly or very far - the carer still goes out with them both and Mum is in a wheelchair. At the weekends, my Dad sets Mum up on an electric chair (shopmobility type thing) which he controls and off they go.
Mum definately loves the dog and still 'lights up' a little when she sees her but on the down side when she barks the noise really makes Mum jump, she gets agitated by it and tells her to shut up...!
As for Dad, he moans at times but i know that he loves getting out and walking her too. Its good when he can get out on his own and walk as it definately provides a 'time-out' for him.
not sure how this helps you.... just thought i would share our dog-related experience!!

hope all is well and good luck with everything

Suzanna (& Ellie the dog!):)


Registered User
Feb 23, 2007
My wife was diagnosed 2 years ago with Vascular Dementia at the age of 55.

We have had a dog since I became my wife's full time carer just over two years ago. We went to the Dog's Trust, who can advise you on the most suitable dog given your circumstances.

Unfortunately, the first dog we got, a beagle called Alfie, died suddenly last July. This devastated my wife (and me), but in less than a week we had returned to the Dogs Trust and came home with a 2 year old Jack Russell called Bobby. It may seem hasty, but my wife cried non-stop from Alfie dying until we got Bobby.

Even with the extra work needed to look after the dog, we would not be without him. His love and unquestioning loyalty puts to shame our friends who found my wife's condition too difficult to cope with. He seems to understand what is happening, and is always on hand when he is needed.


Registered User
Jan 29, 2008
Ashford, Kent
Strange I should stumble across this thread, because this is a question I only asked my husband yesterday.

With my mum dying 2 weeks back, I am scared stiff that dad will be so lonely that he will either start wandering, or just slip into depression. Am frightened it will all cause a sudden deterioration in his dementia.

I've bought trackers to keep tabs on him - but, think maybe a little dog might help. He wouldn't take a dog on a bus... so, I figure if he has a dog it will ensure that his walks are only local. Since the funeral Monday he has been up the cemetery 3 times a day most days.

We have 3 cats that might not take too kindly to it a dog, but their needs really are secondary to my dad's.

I have been looking at rescue dogs this evening, and think it could be a perfect solution for him (he used to have a little dog that he loved walking about 10 years ago).

I'll let you know how we get on if a dog joins our family.



Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
Beverley - don't take this the wrong way but as long as you're prepared to take point on dog ownership I think it might be a good thing. However, even if it spends all its time with your father, you will have to be the responsible one. Also, how is this going to work out with regard to going back to work and your father potentially going to day care?


Registered User
Jan 29, 2008
Ashford, Kent
Beverley - don't take this the wrong way but as long as you're prepared to take point on dog ownership I think it might be a good thing. However, even if it spends all its time with your father, you will have to be the responsible one. Also, how is this going to work out with regard to going back to work and your father potentially going to day care?
When (if) I return, I will be doing one day a week from home (my employer has agreed to that, and so will Paul my husband (his employer has agreed to that too). So, we only have 3 days a week to account for.

If Dad goes to day care it's a short session 10.30-3.00, and he is only pencilled in there one day a week for now. So, the dog would only be alone for a few hours a week.

We have a massive fenced garden, so the dog wouldn't be shut inside alone - BUT.. I do realise we have to think carefully before we jump into this.

I know ultimately we will be responsible for a dog, so any choice would have to be one that was carefully thought out.



Registered User
Mar 24, 2006
Co Durham
Hi Stewart

As a person with Dementia I have always wanted to get another dog as ours died a few years ago after my diagnosis. Although I am busy with the Society a lot, I think it would be a bad idea at present. But once I stop my volunteering I think I may get another. I would however think about whether to get a pup or a dog from a sanctuary, which we did on the last occassion. This dog, was house trained and he was an angel, but not all dogs are the same. I think stroking a dog is good for stress releif, so it has a lot going for it, depending on the family and health conditions. Dogs can be a good companion but can also be time consuming and tying.

Best wishes



Registered User
May 14, 2007
South East London/Surrey border
This is quite a tricky question I think. The benefits of dog ownership are huge and have already been mentioned. I have a 4 year old Westie who I love dearly and she is a great source of comfort when I'm having a tough time. She'll sit on my feet gently nudging me and desperately try to lick my tears if I'm feeling weepy. I can't imagine her not being here.

Now for the downside. We had Jessie as a pup before Peter was diagnosed. Even with his help then, the first 3 months were very hard. She needed lots of attention, training, socialising, toilet training every hour, walking etc. I think those first few weeks were just as hard as having a new baby! I had Peter to help at that time and he even took a week off work so she wasn't alone. I can't imagine coping with a puppy at the same time as caring for someone.

During the last year when Peter was at home, the bond between Jessie and him broke down. He didn't respond to her at the right time, had no awareness of her needs, would shout at her for nothing. I had to stop him taking her out and I wasn't happy leaving her with him. She became fearful of him which was horrible to see. Once when out walking with both of them, Peter suddenly wanted to go home. He wouldn't wait for Jessie to come to our call (chasing a squirrel) and he started jogging off. Had to decide whether to leave my dog or my husband. Obviously I went with Peter and luckily Jessie decided to follow us later but it was a scary moment.

Fitting dog care around part time working and numerous appointmnets for Peter was also tricky. I only managed some days with the help of very good doggy friends who Jessie knew well and was happy to spend the day with. The alternative would be 6 or 7 hours on her own which I feel is unacceptable.

I'm not trying to paint a black picture here - just that it is a very big decision to make. Taking on a dog for the rest of it's life is a responsibility. The rewards are fantastic though!

Only you know your own particular circumstances and what help you could call upon if needed. Best of luck with your decision making - please let us know what you decide to do.


P.S. Can thoroughly recommend Westies but they are notoriously wilful dogs. They like to think they are in charge the whole time!!


Registered User
Aug 13, 2007
West Midlands
Thanks everyone for your responses. It has been really helpful to get a better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of a dog in our particular situation. Also some of the practical pointers as to age, type and where to find a dog will be useful if we decide to go ahead.

Having given much thought to the responses I think that we will go ahead. I have also discussed it with our son and daughter who are in their twenties. They are supportive and my daughter may be able to give it a home in the, hopefully unlikely, worst case. Unfortunately they do not live close by though.

Thanks again for all your help!



Registered User
Feb 15, 2004
Good doggie decision!

Your thoughts about a dog in your lives have brought back some very happy memories of my Mum. Thank you for that.

Mum, very similar in age to your wife and also, coincidentally, living in your part of the world, was a real dog-lover but by the time her early onset was diagnosed the dog had long gone. Mum greatly enjoyed the company of their cat but longed to go out to the park with the dog. So that's what she and Dad did! She got to know many of the local dog-walkers and their pets and that seemed to be OK for her. They knew her too, but I suspect that was because of the doggie treats carried in her handbag. At least once Mum got confused over the ownership of a doggie pal and tried to take one home.

You sound as if you and your family have given the pro's and con's a great deal of thought. For what it's worth, I'd try the rescue dog route. Seeing what my sister is currently going through with her puppy/crocodile .....

Have fun and enjoy yourselves.


Registered User
Feb 15, 2008
greenhithe kent
i could not put a price on the happiness our dog brings to my husband, while alan has been getting slowly worse my dog has become very protective, he hates it whem i get cross he follows him everywhere, when alan went missing with him, alan had no road sence but he was found with the dog in his coat my dog was trying to tell me not to let him out alone because he always pulled back, just strocking him calms alan down, he helpa with the sundowning, because we have a reason to go for walks.i personally would not go for a puppy, because of your circumstances. this condition robs us of many of our plans at retirement, it may not be too late for this one to become real.:)