Discipline. It’s a tricky word for many of us to swallow, especially when talking about our beloved pets. More specifically, when that pet is visually impaired. But, it requires compassion on another level. So, in this article, I’m going to teach you, step by step, how to train a blind dog.
The trick with training a blind dog is patience and consistency – but don’t worry; it isn’t as difficult as it may seem. You’ll need to set aside a few minutes each day and keep at it. This means three things, compassion, patience, and consistency. I will instill these components into your brain until the end of this article.
Before getting into the specifics of training a blind dog, let’s take a quick look at some essentials.
Blindness in Dogs
A dog that is blind in one eye has the potential to develop cataracts, which causes it to lose its vision entirely. Blindness in dogs can also be caused by glaucoma, trauma, obesity and diabetes. With this in mind, if you suspect your pet might be losing its vision (or maybe even already completely blind), get them checked out by a vet right away.
It’s easy to notice the signs of blindness in your dog. For example, they may start bumping into objects or struggle to see where they’re going when you take them on walks. Then it’s time to consider their proper training.
Do Different Breeds Have Differences in Blindness?
According to several studies, certain dog breeds are more prone to blindness than others. For example, Boston Terriers and Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to developing cataracts.
Do You Need Any Special Equipment for a Blind Dog?
Blind dogs benefit from having a harness that allows them a certain amount of freedom without being able to bump into obstacles and hurt themselves while taking walks outside. But, let’s face it; if your pet can’t see where they’re going, then you certainly shouldn’t just allow them to walk around as they please.
Suppose you’re planning on allowing your dog to go outside. In that case, you should consider investing in a specifically designed harness for blind dogs. It lets your dog move as any other pet would. While also providing enough protection and security. This way, they don’t hurt themselves and become injured (especially since blind dogs often end up bumping into things).
What’s important is that you train your pup not to pull on their leash – otherwise, they might injure their neck or end up choking themselves. If it seems like your dog is pulling excessively, I recommend talking to a vet. They might know if there is another reason for the behavior.
How Do You Get Your Blind Dog to Trust You?
As I mentioned initially, you need to be compassionate and exhibit patience. It’s especially true when you want your blind dog to trust you. Blind dogs (just like anyone else) respond better when they feel like an owner is being kind and caring towards them.
Instead of constantly shouting at your dog every time they bump into a wall or bring a shoe back from outside, try using phrases such as “Oh, look what you brought me!” or “Good boy/girl!” Often, just having a positive attitude can encourage your pet to be happy and comfortable in their skin.
In addition to trusting their owners, blind dogs also need to be taught how to trust other people and animals. This is something that should be slowly introduced over time as your dog becomes more comfortable with its surroundings.
You can begin by having friends and family members come over and give your dog a hug or even just pet them on the head. Doing this will help them become used to new people and feel safe and loved.
It’s important to remember that each blind dog is different, so what works for one might not work for another. With that in mind, use these tips as an essential guide to training your blind pup.
Remember – patience and consistency are crucial.
Learn About Cognitive Mapping
Cognitive mapping is the ability that some animals, especially dogs, use to find their way around an area without prior knowledge. This means that they’re able to remember specific details about an environment and how it’s laid out, so they can adequately navigate themselves through it.
When training a blind dog, you should consider putting up cues around your home (or wherever they spend most of their time). These help them learn where things are located and make finding objects more accessible.
For example, suppose your living room has a couch in one corner with a coffee table in front of it. In that case, you could put something slightly elevated on top of the table (like a coaster), so your dog knows where to find it. After a while, your pup will start associating the objects with their specific locations and use them accordingly to help get around.
Scent Mapping is Also Helpful
You can also use scents (precisely, an essential oil like lemon and thyme) and place them at specific locations to help your dog find their way. For example, you could put the scent on a door so they know which room is behind it.
This works well in larger homes with multiple rooms or places for food, bedding and so forth. It would help if you started by simply letting your blind dog sniff it before placing it in a particular area. Then, where you want them to go – this will become their new familiar smell. They’ll be able to follow it using their sense of smell instead of sight.
Using Smell to Guide Your Blind Dog
You mustn’t just rely on scent mapping to help your dog get around. Using cues in your home is essential because if you aren’t there for a while, then they might not know how to get across town without getting lost or confused somewhere along the way.
Another example would be when taking them on walks. Most blind dogs are restricted from off-leash activities because they can quickly lose track of where they are. This means potentially putting them in harm’s way (cars are also an issue). Even if you have a big backyard with plenty of room for running around – it still isn’t safe to let them roam free without any boundaries.
Does Socialization Play a Role in Training Blind Dogs?
Yes! Socializing blind dogs is just as important as teaching them how to navigate an area. It would help if you socialized your pup because you want them to get along with others at a young age. Because if not, they may react harshly as soon as they come across any new human or animal. Then this behavior will continue into adulthood (and even into their older years).
Senior Blind Dogs and Their Special Care Needs
When a normal dog steps into its senior years, they also need assistance. You can then have an idea of how much more assistance your blind senior dog will need. For example, senior dogs have difficulty balancing themselves on slippery surfaces. The best solution for this is using paw-protectors with anti-slip grip pads, which provide heel pads to protect their ankles while walking, reducing the risk of injury. You can find many more essential products for your blind dog on Loobani.
Now that you know enough about taking care of your blind pup let’s begin the training essentials.
How to Train a Blind Dog: The Essentials
Fundamental Differences Between Training a Blind Dog and a Normal Dog
There are a few critical differences in training a blind dog in basic terms.
Firstly, you’ll need to increase the time you spend on basic obedience training – this is crucial for a visually impaired dog.
Secondly, always keep your commands simple and easy to understand. Your blind dog might not know what you’re asking them to do (it makes the most sense to dogs from their owner’s expressions visually).
Another difference is that you’ll need to be very aware of your dog’s surroundings at all times and keep them away from any potential hazards.
Finally, always use positive reinforcement when training your dog – blindness can be a scary and confusing experience for them. Make sure they know that good things happen when they follow your commands.
Now that we’ve got the basics down let’s move on to specific exercises to do with your blind dog.
Exercise 1: ‘Come’ Command
Training your dog basic commands can be started with the ‘come’ command. When teaching this command to a blind dog, it’s important to remember that they may not be able to see you from a distance or even know which direction you’re coming from.
To help them learn this command properly, start with indoors. It’s much easier for them to sense the direction of your voice inside than the outdoors, where there is noise.
Once your dog knows the ‘come’ command indoors, start practicing it outdoors.
For this purpose, take your cute little pup to an open space (like a park) and begin by calling their name from nearby. As soon as they come to you, give them a treat and lots of praise. Repeat this exercise until they come to you every time you call their name while increasing the distance a bit every time. Again, make sure to keep treats on hand to reward them for obeying your commands.
Exercise 2: ‘Down’ Command
The ‘down’ command is also imperative, as it can help keep your dog safe in potentially dangerous situations.
To teach this command, start by getting your dog into a sitting position. Once they’re sitting, put one hand under their chin and use the other hand to push down on their back and say the word ‘down.’
As soon as your dog lies down, give them a treat and lots of praise. Repeat this process until they perform it correctly every time – but make sure to familiarize them with both of your hands (in case one hand is unavailable).
Exercise 3: The Right Way to Pick Up Your Blind Dog
When picking up a blind dog, always use two hands under their belly or chest. If you pick them up by holding onto their back legs, they could fall over and injure themselves.
To pick them up, use two hands (and lift slowly) and bring them in close to your body so that they’re secure. Now let’s go over some basic instructions for how to guide your dog.
How to Guide a Blind Dog
You can use the three primary techniques when guiding a blind dog – using your voice, using touch, and using a walking stick.
Each technique has some pros and cons, so it’s important to understand which one will work best in each situation.
Using Your Voice
The voice is the most basic way to guide your dog, and it’s also the least intrusive. To use your voice as a guide, simply talk to your dog clearly and concisely, telling them which way to go. Make sure to keep your tone upbeat – blindness can be scary for dogs, so they need to know that this is a good thing.
Another effective way to guide your blind dog is by using touch. It’s great for when you need to guide them away from something dangerous. Or when in an open space with no apparent paths or roads—placing your hand on their back and moving it gently in the direction you want them to go works well.
Using A Walking Stick
A third option is using a walking stick (or cane). If you’re interested in this option, make sure that the cane makes a noise whenever it strikes the ground (by placing coins into one end of it). You can then simply tap your way forward with it as you walk and never lose track of where you are again.
The most critical part of training your blind dog is obedience training.
The best way to train a dog is basic obedience training. For your pup to learn basic obedience, they need to be able to focus on you and build trust and a relationship with you.
In addition to domestic obedience training, I also recommend teaching basic commands such as sit, down and stay. Start off by teaching one command at a time – before moving on to the next one. Try to limit distractions during this process so that your pet can concentrate on what it is you’re trying to teach them.
How long does it take to obedience train a puppy?
It’s going to vary from dog to dog based on their breed. For example, a Rottweiler will take longer to obedience train than a Jack Russell Terrier.
What does obedience training consist of? It’s the combination of everything you have been doing with them regularly. There’s no separate routine for obedience training a puppy. However, with a blind dog, you can consider separating their routine for basic puppy training and blind dog obedience training.
Suppose you think you can’t handle the obedience training while also saving the dog obedience cost. In that case, it’s best to partner up with a friend or relative who is also going through the same cycle. Still, professional dog obedience training courses can do wonders for your blind pup.
An important lesson you will need to teach your blind dog is housebreaking. It’s crucial that they learn where it is appropriate to relieve themselves and where it is not.
You can try several methods to housebreaking your pup – but I always find crate training to be the most successful. By placing your dog in a confined space (such as a crate) when you’re unable to keep an eye on them, you’re preventing them from having accidents in the house.
When your dog does eliminate outside, make sure to praise them so that they know they did the right thing. But, again, professional dog housebreaking services can take care of it for you well.
As you can see, training a blind dog isn’t that hard – it just requires some patience and the right teaching approach. By using touch, voice and canes to guide your dog in the right direction, you’ll soon have them walking around like they’ve lived there all their lives. Be sure to also obedience train your dog, so they know how to behave in public and around other people and animals. But more importantly, build a strong relationship with your dog first. A relation where trust and compassion have real values. Because a visually impaired human can let you know what it feels like not to be able to see. But your cute little pup can’t.