When training your blind dog, remember the following:
- Simple verbal hints are best. Use simple verbal cues like “sit,” “down,” “lay,” etc.
- Consistently use cues. When learning linguistic cues, dogs who are able to see human faces or body language rely significantly on what they observe. Sometimes kids only react to our body language rather than actually learning the term. Because blind dogs lack that advantage, we must support them by giving clear, consistent cues each and every time.
- Think about utilizing a distinct sound. You can teach your dog new sounds for each exercise in addition to words or hand signals. The best whistle to use with a blind dog is a shepherd’s whistle, which can produce a variety of tones and sounds.
Training a blind dog doesn’t really differ much from training any other dog with a few minor tweaks. Your dog will pick up all the skills you are willing to teach him with time and effort. And I’m sure more than one person will be startled when they learn you’re teaching a blind dog when they witness your dog respond and develop via training!
How can I assist my blind canine?
You may observe the following signs of your dog’s declining vision:
Ask your veterinarian to recommend a veterinary ophthalmologist for a consultation if you notice these symptoms, advises Dr. Miller. According to Dr. Miller, vision loss brought on by diseases like cataracts or glaucoma can occasionally be stopped or reversed by medication or surgery.
According to her, if your senior dog doesn’t play around as much as they once did, it may be because they can no longer see as clearly.
According to Dr. Miller, a lot of the time, it can be tied to their vision. If you can restore or improve their vision, they’ll act like they’re much younger.
Don’t panic if a vet gives you a conclusive diagnosis of irreparable visual loss; your dog wouldn’t want you to. Given some time and help, your dog will learn to make up for their lack of vision by using their other senses, which are already very keen in our canine friends, such as hearing, smell, and touch.
Here are 18 suggestions for guiding your blind friend around the house and outside.
Is keeping a blind dog cruel?
A dog lives an average of 11 years. Small breeds often live the longest, up to 17 years, whereas giant breeds (those weighing more than 100 pounds) are deemed senior citizens at around 6 or 7. Larger dogs often live shorter lives because their joints and hearts are under more stress.
A senior dog requires more attention than just meals and toilet breaks. It’s actually a lot more complicated. What about an old dog that has lost his vision? Here are seven strategies to assist in caring for your cherished pet.
First, what causes a dog to go blind?
According to DogTime, dogs can become blind as a result of disease, heredity, cataracts, or severe injuries. Although cataracts are often found in elderly dogs, they can also develop in younger canines due to heredity. According to research by DogTime, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers are the breeds most prone to developing cataracts.
Fortunately, a dog growing blind won’t affect either the dog or the owner too much. The adjustment will take longer if the blindness happens suddenly, like after an injury, than if it happens gradually over time, like with cataracts.
Treat the dog like your companion and friend
It’s not necessary to put down your dog just because he has lost his vision and is becoming older. Unexpectedly, some people believe that keeping a blind dog is cruel, but nothing could be further from the truth. In general, dogs have far worse vision than people, thus becoming blind doesn’t actually have a big impact on them. As a result of their partial color blindness, inability to focus on close objects, and lack of fine detail perception, dogs’ blindness is tougher on you than it is for them.
Talk to your dog
To reassure your dog of your presence, talk to him frequently. Since dogs cannot understand whole words, one-word orders are preferred. Tell your dog to sit, come, or stay frequently to engage in conversation. Use a positive, upbeat tone as well. Remain upbeat and optimistic with dogs since they are always tuned into their owners.
Keep food bowls and bedding in one spot
Avoid moving near your dog’s eating or sleeping areas. Older, blind dogs appreciate routines and find solace in knowing where their food and bed are. Additionally, try to avoid frequently moving your own furniture because doing so could make your dog anxious or lead to an accident.
Make your house easy to navigate
Use gates to keep your dog out of potentially unsafe rooms and clean the halls of people and objects. If you have stairs, either block the stairs so the dog can’t climb them or assist her each time. Use stairs sparingly because they can be stressful for blind pets. Additionally, think about adding padding to table corners, sharp edges, and other potential injury-prone places.
Use the leash regularly
When a blind dog is restrained by a leash, they feel safe. Use the leash inside the house if your dog has suddenly become blind until it becomes accustomed to the area. In order to keep your dog from wandering into the street, you should always walk her on a leash.
Listen to your dog
The owner of a 7-year-old lab, Barbara, used to walk her dog far each night. The dog can only go for brief distances without becoming exhausted because he has become older significantly over the previous year and has begun to acquire cataracts. Barbara only strolls by a few homes before turning around, paying attention to her dog’s cues. While exercise is beneficial, it should be limited for senior dogs.
Keep your dog socialized
It won’t be a good idea to add a new pet at this time, but it’s still a good idea to keep your dog socialized. Remember that this only works for dogs that are generally healthy. Don’t feel pressured to socialize your dog if he tends to become agitated around other dogs. Ideas include visiting your neighborhood pet store (again, when you know it won’t be busy) or a calm dog park (or go when you know it won’t be busy).
Is training a blind puppy challenging?
In many respects, Orbit was much like the other puppies when he entered one of the programs I teach for puppies and their owners in Santa Cruz, California. He danced around gleefully, wanted to sniff the other dogs, and was overjoyed when treats were presented as rewards for particular actions. However, Orbit made one small adjustment. He would slowly spiral outward while making little circles close to his Melissa and Arielle.
Born blind, Havanese-mix Orbit was unable to visually survey his environment. Orbit was employing cognitive mapping, sounds, and fragrance in place of sight to understand what was going on around him. Dogs, like many other animals, have the capacity to create a mental map of their environment even when they are unable to see. They discover where things are and how to navigate safely through space exploration.
Due to retinal abnormalities and optic nerve coloboma, Orbit was born blind. Dogs who are born blind may be genetically predisposed to the condition or may have grown blind while still in the womb. Due to inherited problems, illnesses, traumas, and other changes in the eye as they age, dogs can potentially lose their sight later in life. Cataracts, glaucoma, gradual retinal atrophy, and suddenly acquired retinal degeneration are some of the most prevalent causes of vision problems (SARDS).
Dogs = Dogs, Sighted or Not
There is a misconception that blind dogs will be more likely to exhibit behavioral issues. But this is a myth in actuality. Dogs that are blind come first and afterwards are dogs. Some are joyful, while others are somber. Some are laid back while others are more susceptible to stress. While some enjoy playing, others enjoy cuddling. Many people enjoy going for walks, taking vehicle journeys, hanging out with friends, and having a good chew.
Puppies who are blind from birth can find life easier since they do not have to get used to a change. Their normal state is blindness. Although a dog who develops blindness later in life may require some time and assistance to adjust, most blind dogs do so well, probably in part because they already place a high value on their other senses.
Melissa adds that Orbit is a happy-go-lucky guy.
He has a positive outlook on life and is trusting. Melissa recalled that her family’s readiness for a puppy was the first thing they thought about when deciding whether to adopt Orbit. The difference between having a blind puppy and a seeing puppy was their second point of consideration.
What might a visible puppy not require that a blind puppy might? What exactly would change? Could we protect him? In some ways, according to Melissa, he has been simpler than the puppies she has fostered. For instance, he may not get into things as frequently as other puppies since he is blind and cannot see them. However, they have had to think differently in other ways.
Their sensitivity of background noise has been one of the major disparities. Orbit utilizes his hearing to navigate unfamiliar surroundings and keep tabs on Melissa. For instance, Melissa carries keys on her belt that jingle, providing him with a sound to help him navigate life. He might find it more difficult to follow her footsteps or the ring of the keys if there is traffic noise.
Melissa remembers visiting new places for socializing, such as a friend’s backyard and a downtown shopping district. Orbit found a symphony of sound in what Melissa saw as an usual level of noise, such as dogs barking in the background or automobiles passing by on the street nearby. The noises produced a confusing and overwhelming atmosphere.
“We discovered that we must transport him up grades. gradually raising the difficulty. But he enjoys traveling. He is incredibly cordial, sociable, and outgoing. If he weren’t permitted to go out and live life the way he does, I believe he would be sad. It only needs a minor modification. Melissa points out that it often takes Orbit three to four trips to map out and feel at home in a new location.
Introducing Orbit to canine socialization has also been a little different. The other dog’s social cues won’t be visible to him. Additionally, his cues may be a touch uncomfortable when he tries to provide them. “Melissa claims that while he does some good deeds, he does them in the wrong way. For instance, he might play bows to another dog while turning away from them or approach another dog to sniff them but run into their side instead. He needs the dogs he works with to be calm and patient.
A significant worry is also physical safety. For instance, the family has baby gates and guards on their staircase to prevent mishaps. Melissa needs to be extremely cautious when crossing the street because Orbit might run into bushes or utility poles.
Training Modifications for Blind Dogs
Teaching a blind dog is remarkably similar to working with a sighted dog when using techniques like lure and reward or reward-marker (clicker) training, though you may obviously rely more heavily on verbal cues (or touch cues for dogs that are both deaf and blind) than on hand signals or body language.
- It is possible to first lure, capture, or mould a new behavior. For instance, you may use a reward lure to encourage a “sit. You can record the dog orienting in response to a sound, like the dog’s name, or a touch, such a tap on the shoulder. These can be presented in a manner similar to how you might introduce a sighted dog to them.
- utilizing a reward indicator, such a clicker or the word “Yes, the dog has to hear the reward rather than see it to understand what behavior is being rewarded. A unique signal, such as a touch on the chest, might be employed as the reward marker for a dog who is both deaf and blind.
- As you would with a sighted dog, you can reward actions with food, praise, touch, play, or other enjoyable activities.
Orbit attended my puppy, starting, and intermediate life skills lessons, and he did exceptionally well in all of the tasks with only a few small adjustments.
We made sure that approaches were made gently and cautiously in puppy class, where the puppies interacted with each other, which is something that is really a fantastic concept for all puppies! We quickly learned that adding a verbal signal early on (instead of waiting until we had the behavior mastered) really sped up the training because he couldn’t read the initial body language clues when teaching impulse-control tasks like remain and leave it.
Using several cues with a blind dog can be quite beneficial for some behaviors, particularly orienting abilities like attention and recall, which goes against normal training recommendations. When Orbit is far away, Melissa will constantly call him, allowing him to follow the sound of her voice and locate her.
While most of us prefer to have our dogs walk on a leash with the leash relaxed, Orbit is guided around obstacles by Melissa using light leash tension. He was taught by her to obey leash pressure.
Additionally, you should think about teaching some cues that you might not require with a sighted dog while training a blind dog. Here are a few illustrations:
- You can use the command “careful!” to alert a dog to an object in front of him. This can be useful in unfamiliar situations or if something in an environment that the pup has already mapped has altered. There are many ways to teach a dog to halt in motion, but one straightforward one for a blind dog is to utilize a physical cue.
Keep your dog by your side on a leash. With your dog by your side, advance toward anything, such a piece of furniture. Say, “Be careful, and then stop your dog from moving forward by applying light pressure on the leash or by placing your palm on his chest. Click to acknowledge the stop. Then pat the object in front of your dog to encourage him to inspect it. Your dog will soon comprehend the cue with enough practice “Careful! indicates that one should slow down or stop and scan the area in front of them.
Assistive Devices for Blind Dogs
Although many blind dogs manage to get by with little to no assistance, there are few things that might be useful.
using carpets and mats. The tops and bottoms of stairs, doors, and other designated spaces in the home can all be marked with mats. They can aid a dog in becoming oriented to a shift in the landscape. Similarly, carpet runners can mark out pathways within a house, making it simpler for a dog to go around.
garden walks with markers. In bigger areas, using mulch, gravel, or another specific texture might make it easier for dogs to follow garden paths.
Sounds and smells. Some dogs may benefit from having their bedding, crates, and dog doors marked with aromas like lemon or vanilla. Some blind dogs may benefit from hearing sounds, such as the sound of rushing water in fountain-style water dishes. Scent-filled and noisy or crinkly toys may be beneficial.
Safety measures. For a dog with poor vision or no vision at all, safety features like baby gates at the top and bottom of steps, railing guards, and fencing around ponds and pools can be helpful.
Halos. Halos are objects that offer a circle-shaped bumper above a dog’s head and are typically fastened to a harness. The bumper will make contact with a wall or other object if a dog is moving toward it before the dog bumps into it, allowing the dog time to stop or alter their course.
echolocating equipment. These are quite recent and are sometimes referred to as sonar units. There are various kinds. If a dog approaches a solid surface, one collar gadget emits a warning beep. A dog can also use echolocation, which involves emitting ultrasonic noises, to assess how close or far something is.
- Go see. This signal can be used to let a dog know that anything or someone in front of him is okay for him to investigate. This could be started with a friend. When you lead your dog toward a buddy and exclaim, “Go look!” the friend will prod your dog to approach and say hi.
By placing a tiny box or platform in front of your dog, you can train it in another simple approach. Put a treat or several on the platform. Say, “Go see! After that, nudge your dog to climb up and investigate the box. Most dogs will realize after a few repetitions that “Go look! indicates that there is something intriguing and secure to investigate in front of them.
- Step forward and backward. Encourage your dog to investigate going up and down, on and off the step by using a single little step, a curb, or a training platform. Treats can be used to prompt or entice your dog. You can click and give your dog treats each time he exhibits the behavior when he is enjoying climbing up and down the step.
When he starts to rise and fall predictably, you can add the signal shortly before he exhibits the behavior. Declare, “Step up! just as he is about to stand up, then click and treat. Just before he is about to fall, exclaim, “Step down! Then click and treat.
Practice using various phases in a few different places. You can practice with two or more stairs if he has mastered it in various locations, and eventually add the cue “Stairs!” to indicate that there are several steps in front of you.
- Run (or Go). This is a wonderful cue to use when letting your dog know that it is okay for him to run, and it may be especially crucial for young or energetic dogs. You can test this out in your yard or similar secure outside space. Say “Go!” or “Run!” just before allowing your dog to run. Your dog will quickly come to identify the word with a roomy area devoid of hazards and restrictions.
- items’ names. You may want to think about teaching a blind dog the names of objects such certain furniture, toys, humans, or other animals. While many of us also do this with seeing dogs, we frequently rely more on pointing, petting, staring, and other nonverbal clues.
Making an association is a straightforward method for teaching the name of a person, animal, or thing. For instance, after saying someone’s name and having them speak to the dog in a pleasant tone, you can teach them their name. After several pairings, the dog is likely to hear the person’s name and look around to see whether they are around.
You can begin with objects by associating the name with frequent occurrences. Saying “Squeaky!” before using a certain squeaky toy will help your dog quickly connect the word with that specific object or action.