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Can a dog be mentally challenged?

I've wondered about whether a dog can be "slow" and have questioned vets on this matter. The simple answer is yes.

When Rocki was born, our breeder told us she had come just come into the room. She ran over to Rocki when she noticed the placenta was covering his face and he was unable to breath. She removed it and began giving the little guy mouth-to-mouth until he started to breathe.

Now we know in humans that babies who lose oxygen during the birthing process often have some form of disability (yes...I know...not politically correct!) but the amount of time spent without oxygen will determine the severity of the disability.

In our case, we don't know how long Rocki was without oxygen. What we do know is that he did not and does not pick up on things the way his brother does.

For example, if I caught our oldest peeing on the floor, I'd raise my voice, say "no" sternly, and he would put his head down and promptly shimmy to his kennel which was the "time out" area. With Rocki, if I went through the same process, his response was to wag his tail and excitedly jump up for a hug. Our oldest was toilet trained within three weeks. Rocki is almost a year old and still has accidents on the floor. Thank god it's linoleum and not hardwood!

I've taught our oldest a number of commands, from the usual "sit", "stay", "lie down" and "come" to the unusual like "where's your toy?" (and he'll promptly run back outside to retrieve it and bring it in the house), "Is Grandma coming to visit?" (where he'll jump up and down and run to the front door and wait) and "get to your house" (which is the kennel if he's bad...but he knows when he's been bad and goes there on his own most of the time!)

Rocki doesn't understand much. He knows where the food and water is, where the beds are, and how to attack his bigger brother. He gets that he has to poop outside, but peeing is another matter. Peeing, to him, is a free-for-all event that occurs whenever he feels like it and wherever he may be. Raising my voice doesn't work. I caught him one day lifting his leg on the carpet and spanked his bum while yelling "no". His response was to wag his tail, jump up and down happily and run to the treat cabinet in expectation of a reward.

There are many other examples, but I think you get the point. We love our little guy and would never trade him for the world, but some days it can be a real challenge dealing with his inability to comprehend.


Cindy said…
Thanks for this article. He sounds just like my Chihuahua. I stumbled upon your article while searching to see if he could be mentally challenged. I can't believe the similarities in my Charlie and your Rocki. I don't know about how his birth was, but I know he isn't "normal". But we love him anyway.
Anonymous said…
Thank you for the article also!! I have a Boston Terrier who is about the same. I "adopted" her and she was very tiny, still is. She has had a few seizures also. She doesn't understand come, she backs up, then turns around and backs toward you. We absolutely can not let her outside without her leash, she doesn't know to come back. She also has a problem with house training, she may go on the pee pad once in awhile. She wants to be held like a baby all the time. I just love her though. I am glad other people have pets with the same challenges.
Anonymous said…
My shi-tzu is mentally challenged....if you walk up to him he rolls on his back....he loves to be held..the only thing he understands is sit....up up for a bone.....and potty...we tried to teach him to shake and when you put your hand out he rolls on his back.....or he runs and dives under the bed....he is 5 yrs old.

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