WHAT on EARTH is our dog doing??
February 26, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

So here is the traditional routine: I get up in the morning or I come home from work. I get dressed or change out of work clothes. Here is what happens...

The dog, Bookie (rhymes with "spooky") comes into the bedroom. He sniffs the pants I am putting on. The smell tells him whether they are inside/stay home clothes (Yay! He jumps around and gets excited) or go out clothes (Shucks! He slinks away).

I usually stop by the restroom to use the bathroom and he follows me in there and waits. However, lately, he leaves the bedroom while I'm still dressing and goes into the bathroom and takes up his station as if I'm already on the toilet.

He stands there with his back to the bathroom door and seems surprised when I walk up behind him, as if he thought I was already in the bathroom.

He does this about one out of eight times or so now on a regular basis. I would think he was anticipating my move from the bedroom to the bath, but if so, why not every time and why is he surprised when I come into the bathroom? And if he is anticipating my move, why doesn't he stand waiting facing the bathroom door instead of the toilet?

Thanks much. I can't wait to hear what you think. Oh - he is 18ish but still mentally sharp AFAIK.
posted by michellenoel to Pets & Animals (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
No offense to your pup, but 18 is pretty damn old. I wouldn't doubt it is a bit of canine cognitive dysfunction, or dementia in layman's terms. Probably gets the routine mixed up every once in awhile.
posted by virginia_clemm at 3:55 PM on February 26, 2013 [8 favorites]

An 18 year old dog? Are you sure he's not blind, or heading that way?
posted by sanka at 3:56 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is my only threadsit reply, I promise: yes, he has lost some sight, but only for small things like dropping a treat in the air down to him. He misses that most of the time but his far sight seems to be just fine.
posted by michellenoel at 4:01 PM on February 26, 2013

I also vote for dementia and/or vision loss. 18 is very old for a dog, and if this is all you're noticing as far as mental decline, you are very lucky. My dog turned 16 last month and he has NO IDEA what's going on most of the time.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:05 PM on February 26, 2013

I would look at it like this. There are some behaviors we train for, and we know, typically, exactly what the four footer is going to do. However, those self directed behaviors, the ones that we didn't intentionally train for, come from some event, activity, or pup-cognition that we're not privy to... that's what you're observing...there's a reason, but you'll probably never know.

Such as, when my dog walks into a room, walks up to the wall, and stares at it for two or three minutes... I've no clue, but you can bet there's a reason for it.
posted by HuronBob at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, he faces the toilet when you're on it, right? So I think he's just doing what he always does, out of habit. Like the way my dogs run ahead of me and stand facing the counter where I fix their dinner, or facing the garage door waiting to go for a ride, or facing the front door waiting to go for a walk.

But also, 18 is super old. It would be very unusual not to have at least a little confusion at such an advanced age. Bookie looks really smart and adorable!
posted by HotToddy at 4:12 PM on February 26, 2013

Not an answer... but ADORABLE! (Also, after 18 years... has *your* routine changed? Does it take you longer than it used to to get to the bathroom? Maybe nothing's wrong with Bookie and something's changed with you...)
posted by one4themoment at 4:17 PM on February 26, 2013

This is not a thread sit. It is a thank you. I think you are all correct. He is 18 but the pic was from 10 years ago; he looks just the same now, though, with the addition of some grey hairs. We marvel at his good health. He still jumps up onto a footstool and then onto the foot of our bed where he sleeps. Here is a pic from when we first met him (stray dog) running the neighborhood. He became "ours" a few weeks later.

Thanks again!

No - routine has not changed.
posted by michellenoel at 4:22 PM on February 26, 2013

Dogs, once they have a routine, don't really need you to participate anymore except that they like you. He knows where you're going, he knows where he's going, but he's getting a little old and either his timing is a little off these days OR the two of you have done this so many time that he's on autopilot and you literally are scaring him when you go in the bathroom. He's all HOW DID I GET HERE I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER THE COMMUTE!

Happens to the best of us.

I have a dog who, if I vaguely reach for the general area where her favorite treats are (the only treats she'll go into her "crate" room for anymore), will haul ass so hard to go get in her spot that she will occasionally run face first into the baby gate in the hallway instead of waiting for me to open it.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:28 PM on February 26, 2013 [11 favorites]

Wow, he's super cute! And 18? I thought I read that wrong at first. Anyway, my vote is also for old age forgetfulness/confusion. My 17 year old cat does similar things, and the vet said it's very common when animals get elderly for them to space out and forget where they are/what's going on for a few seconds or a minute. I think Lyn Never has it: your dog might be going to the room on autopilot, waiting for you, then spacing out and forgetting that he is waiting for you. Hence being startled when you arrive.

My cat seems fine and happy otherwise, and it sounds like your dog is the same, so that's good!
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:35 PM on February 26, 2013

Like others have said it is most likely a touch of dementia, blindness and deafness that comes with old age. If you are worried about giving him a start you could try making more noise so it is easier for to keep track of where you are.
posted by wwax at 5:11 PM on February 26, 2013

When I was a kid, we adopted a retired guide dog. He was 13. He'd worked with the same person for ten years. My dad always says that Gaylord walked him instead of the other way around - there was no way that dog could just let himself be walked. Dogs get set in their ways pretty quickly, and old dogs...well, there is that saying about them and new tricks.
posted by linettasky at 7:01 PM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

My 16-year-old dog has so many "senior moments," it's hysterical, the poor thing. Only makes me love her more.

But seriously, it's like living with a delightfully confused, possibly stoned, roommate. "Dude, did you see that? Dude, where'd you go? Dude? Oh, there you are. Hey, are you gonna finish those Cheerios? Dude? Wow, I'm sleepy. Gonna rest here for a sec, OK?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:46 PM on February 26, 2013 [4 favorites]

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