Blind dogs may find ways to adapt to being partially or fully blind on their own, but might also need help adjusting in a world where visual cues are one way of communicating and getting around. A blind dog can present a special challenge in training and daily living, but you can make life easier for them by using some tips to help them adjust and cope.
Alternative Senses Cues
Because a blind dog cannot respond to hand signals and other visual cues, focusing on the functional senses they do have and using those productively when training the dog is key. Using a consistent sound in training will let them know precisely what they need to do. Try using a clicker or rattle to guide, and some healthy, natural CANIDAE dog treats as a reward when they achieve each step in their training and to help them cope daily even after they have learned. Like any other dog, it may take some practice to help them understand and learn. Be patient.
Blind dogs can be taught to use sense of smell as a guide, but it’s a good idea to use that in a very specific way. Anything with a smell leaves trails of scent, and blind dogs do not have the added benefit of vision to sort out the mixed cues. If you use a scented cue, place the object at the spot or target you want the dog to focus on. Don’t move it around or toss it since the scent travels around in the air as well, which can confuse your dog.
Blind dogs can also use touch, smell and feeling with their muzzles, paws and bodies to determine where they are and what is around them. As they are learning to cope with blindness, you can help by guiding them to specific places and using a guide word for each thing, such as bed, food, step up or down.
In the beginning, think like you were blind too and learning to cope. Put yourself in their position and walk the house with the dog to see what they may need help with. Cover dangerous or sharp parts of furniture. Use a child gate on steps to keep them from falling down them. As they learn to cope without vision, they will map the house with their senses until they learn and are comfortable enough with their surroundings to get around easily. If you change things around in your home, guide the dog around to learn the new placement of things so they don’t get confused or injured.
Keep your commands and guide words simple, so the dog knows precisely what they need to do or not do and where they need to go or not go. Establish a specific command word that lets them know they are in danger and immediately stops them from an accident or injury.
Be consistent when you are guiding or training a blind dog. The consistency will give them a sense of security and help lessen any possible confusion. Repetition and consistency in training gives the dog structured guidelines. Once they associate certain sounds, verbal cues and smells with specific needs or requests, they will easily find their way around daily activities and your home. Be sure to include all family members or housemates in the training and learning the various commands and cues.
If you want to try a little experiment to give you an idea of how the world seems to a blind dog, turn off all the lights at night time and walk around the house in the dark. You will quickly learn what obstacles your dog may need help with to overcome.
Blind dogs can lead very normal lives. The added training you do as a responsible pet owner will make life more pleasant and easier for both of you. Love is blind!
Read more articles by Laurie Darroch