How to Train a Blind Dog and What Other Things You Need to Know
Blind Dogs Can Make Wonderful Pets! Thank you to straydog.org for the photo
I got an interesting question today!
And with interesting questions comes my quest to educate other owners with the same problems!
I got a question from a new owner of a blind dog.
It seems this wonderful person went to the animal shelter and adopted a blind dog.
There Are Good People Left in the World!
I marvel at the goodness it takes in someone’s heart to adopt a dog that isn’t “perfect” and at the same time I am thankful to the shelter for their willingness to adopt out an “imperfect animal”.
Just because a dog is blind doesn’t mean it is any less loving nor does being blind mean the dog suffers from any behavior problems specific to his/her disability.
And, likewise being blind isn’t an excuse for bad behavior, this is just as important to remember; don’t create a monster!
All dogs need training and exercise whether they are deaf (for more on deaf dogs and their training click here) or blind or what we think of as a regular dog. Size and age also don’t matter, training is important at all stages for all dogs!
The question from the owner was how to g
o about training with a blind dog.
And, the nice thing about our system is that we use and recommend clicker and marker training (for more on getting started clicker training click here) and of course blind dogs can still hear the clicker.
They say that the other senses are stronger in people who are blind, and I am only assuming that the same would apply to blind animals. Dogs that are blind probably have a better sense of smell and hearing than a sighted dog.
So I am guessing that blind dogs would take to clicker training even faster than a sighted dog, not to mention there will be less distractions during the training process.
As long as you are consistent with your training your blind dog should acclimate very quickly to training of all sorts.
Marker and clicker training should also give him consistency and assurance in times of environmental changes and stress. If you train with positive reinforcement and make it fun you condition your dog that listening to you gives him assistance in times of stress.
The Life of a Blind Dog can Be Stressful
Let’s face it; the life of a blind dog can be stressful. Going new places and not being able to see your environment can be stressful for any animal. Having a training program that gives you confidence in those environments is crucial.
My dog from childhood went blind as she got older. It was difficult and sad for us to watch her lose her sight and struggle but it took her only a few short weeks to reorient and live life normally again. I was amazed at how well she did. Being blind in and of itself is not an excuse for euthanasia.
I would teach my blind dog to use his other senses and his nose to bring him confidence and pleasure by teaching him to track. Tracking is a joy to sighted dogs, I am guessing it would bring even more joy to a blind dog, provided you have taught him to be comfortable in new environments.
Other Things to Make Life More Simple
- Keep things in the same place! Make sure not to leave things down on the floor that may injure or scare your blind dog.
- Do not rearrange your furniture inside or outside unless you take lots of time to teach your dog the new floor plan.
- Make sure dangerous rooms (the garage) or stairways are blocked off so your dog doesn’t fall down stairs or get into things that might hurt him.
- Teach him leash manners so you can control him easily in his environment, your leash is his tether to your eyes, you are his guide person.
- Teach him to be confident in new environments, by first checking the environment and making sure it is safe and by using your clicker to help reassure him with his training.
- There are hoop harnesses that can help your dog not run into things with his face while in his environment; but it is important to train him to be comfortable in these harnesses for them to work effectively and not scare your dog and make problems worse. Find them at www.handicappedpets.com
- Keep his bed and food in the same place and don’t move them; these become landmarks if your pet gets disoriented.
- Don’t coddle him or carry him everywhere if he is small this will only stunt his confidence and make him rely on you in an unhealthy way.
- If he bumps his head and becomes disoriented quietly take him back to his food bowls or bed so that he can reorient himself.
If you had a blind child you would also want him or her to be confident and trust you, but not NEED you in all situations.
You can keep your dog safe and keep an eye on him from a distance without making him rely on you; because there will be times when he is alone and needs to have the skills to be comfortable in that position.
Think with your heart AND your brain and as always make it as fun as possible and open up the world to his senses!
I have been a professional dog trainer and pet sitter for over 20 years. I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, through the international Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers. I have trained and worked with police, Schutzhund and personal protection dogs. I trained Assistance Dogs in a men’s prison and ran my own nonprofit organization to take adult dogs from shelters and to train them to assist children and adults with disabilities, at no charge to my clients. My nonprofit organization and I were nominated for several awards of merit and even made the front page of the Denver Post. I was a veterinary technician for many years, where I learned about all aspects of health and preventative medicine. I have trained and worked with exotic animals and cheetahs. I introduced a temperament testing program in my local shelter and sat on the board of directors. I volunteered with my dog “Mr. Snitch” and helped local children learn to read. I have attained obedience titles and several blue ribbons. I am constantly in search of ways to continue my education and excellence when it comes to animals, their behavior and their health.