Life skills for dogs with all their senses mostly include manners around other dogs and people and some emergency skills, such an emergency stop, rock solid recall, and an even more rock solid leave it. Blind and deaf dogs need these skills too, but they also need a bunch of other skills to flourish at home and out and about.
If you have a dog born blind or deaf, you need to include these life lessons with all the other necessary socialisation to ensure you get a well-adjusted adult dog. If, on the other hand, you have a dog going deaf or blind, either as a result of old age or a medical condition, it’s important to start teaching these skills as soon as possible.
Training during this transition phase helps your dog better cope with the loss of their sight or hearing. Instead of being confused by their changing senses, they have learnt coping mechanisms that enable them to continue with their normal activities, including walks, games, and play.
Life skills your dog needs
The first thing your special needs dog needs to learn is how to pay attention to you. They need to do this when you ask for it, and when you don’t ask for it. This is helpful when you’re walking your dogs, as they come back to check in with you every now and then. The more they do this, the easier it will be to get them out of trouble and keep them safe.
A good recall (come when called) is also essential. How to train a blind dog to come when called is obviously going to be very different to how to train a deaf dog the same behaviour.
Blind dogs need a verbal cue, but they also need to learn how to orientate towards you so they zero in on you if they’ve wandered off on an off-lead walk. A great way to teach this is to play hide and seek.
Deaf dogs need a physical cue. Sign language is fantastic for this. Many people use formal sign language, South African sign language, for example. But you can use any hand signals that make sense to you. Just remember that when you’re teaching dogs sign language you and everyone in your family needs to use signs consistently, otherwise your deaf dog is going to get very confused.
When working with a blind dog, you need to include a careful cue to let them know they’re coming up to something best avoided, like a rock, a hole, and a pole. Careful can tell them to slow down when they’re running full tilt and when to jog left or right.
Teaching step up and step down is also valuable when you’re out walking a blind dog. This is helpful for curbs and stairs, as well as navigating rocky paths out in the mountains.
Helpful accessories for blind and deaf dogs
Teaching a deaf dog or blind dog life skills is one of the biggest favours you can do for them. Like all teaching and training, however, it takes time. Sandy will do all the foundation work for you. After a brief handover to bring you up to speed, your only responsibility is to have fun with your dog.
Contact Sandy to book an appointment and begin your dog’s life skills lessons.
Sandy is a qualified dog trainer and behaviourist with a soft spot for special needs dogs.