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How to Use Touch Training on Blind, Deaf Dogs
By Darlene Stott
Published: 03/10/2021, edited: 09/24/2021
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Dog training is an essential part of any canine’s life and teaching manners and useful commands are also crucial for a pet with special needs.
If you are a pet parent to a blind and deaf pooch, you’ll be aware of all that’s involved with making this wonderful dog’s life as normal as can be. And at the same time, you know that physically-challenged dogs need special attention.
Dog training can be a way to form an incredible bond between you and your favorite four-legger. This forever bond will also serve as a way to assure your dog they are safe and can always rely on you as they navigate their way through the world.
Safety is Number One
Your blind, deaf dog depends on you to be their eyes and their ears. Whether they were born that way and have a genetic anomaly (note: all dogs are blind and deaf until about 2 weeks after birth) or lost these senses later in life, patience and kindness are the keys to success.
Along with that, you will have to let your dog know they can count on you for everything. A dog who feels safe will have more confidence. This confidence will carry over to all aspects of life.
How to keep your blind, deaf dog safe:
- Help your curious pup map out the house while on a leash. They’ll learn the map and begin to feel comfortable as they move around day by day.
- Use baby gates to keep your pooch away from the stairs. If you plan to teach them to go up and down, place mats at the top and the bottom. Your dog will learn that the mat signifies where the stairs begin and end.
- Provide a safe space your dog can get used to staying when you are not home. A large gated area with a comfy and soft bed is ideal.
- Keep your dog on the leash when you are outside of your fenced backyard. Your pooch cannot see approaching cars, people, or other dogs. They cannot hear you call them, will be disoriented, and could get hurt.
- Don’t leave your dog unattended outside. Remember, they’ll be happier and knowing you are there with them. They will also be secure with you watching over them.
How to Use Touch Training on Blind, Deaf Dogs
Because your furry best friend cannot see hand signals or hear verbal cues, touch and smell are the ways you’ll communicate with them:
The type of touch you use with your special dog will be a light and gentle one. It’s important to establish a touch that your dog will recognize as confirmation that the training is going well.
Where to touch: The neck is a nice place for this as dogs enjoy being touched there and it’s easy for you to reach.
How to touch: Use the same type of touch in the same place as your signal. Choose between movements like a tap, short stroke, long stroke, or gentle hand placement.
Teach your dog that a gentle tap on the nose means food is here. Tap the nose and guide them to the food. Repeat the motion every time as you train and soon your dog will recognize the signal for food.
Of course, you may need to lead them to the kitchen for feeding. However, many dogs have a very precise internal clock. Once they know the mapping of the house as described below, your pup may make their way to the kitchen right at the exact time every day.
Delicious Aromas and Tastes
Scented cue: Along with gentle touch comes a scented cue. Train your dog using their favorite treats. In fact, it’s a good idea to reserve a high-quality, much-loved treat as a training tool. When your blind, deaf dog smells the specific scent, they’ll know it’s time for learning.
For example, train your dog to lie down using the scented cue. Place a treat in front of your clever canine’s nose. Let them nibble while you lower the treat. They should automatically follow it into position. Use whichever touch command you’d like to signify the “lie down” such as a long pat down the back. Remember to keep the touch command consistent.
More Touch and Smell
Train your dog to sit by touching them at the base of the tail as a training signal. A good touch cue is a gentle, double-tap. Lure your pooch into the sitting position by allowing them to smell and taste a treat as you raise it above their head. Their hind end should lower naturally. Train using the treat and double-tap over several weeks, until your pupster sits automatically after a double-tap.
Tips for keeping your dog used to using touch as a way of exploring:
- Feeding toys: Keep your dog mentally stimulated by using feeding toys to give them their meals. This will provide enrichment and help your dog to use their brain. Not only are they using their senses and touch to manipulate the food, but productivity is also necessary for a dog who cannot see or hear. You don’t want them lying around all day; boredom could lead to depression.
- Carpet road map: Foster independence by forging paths around the house with the use of carpets. As we mentioned with the stairs, the texture of carpets works as a road map of sorts, leading your dog to familiar places. A carpet can lead them to their favorite resting place, or to the patio door where they can feel or smell the fresh air. Making their way to your office where your dog can check on you while you are working gives exercise and independence.
- Feeling safe while exploring: Take your dog to the securely fenced backyard and allow them to explore under your watchful care. You can even run alongside them, leading them by a leash as a form of raising their heart rate.