16 Tips for Working with Your Blind and Deaf Dog

Dear Fellow Dog Lovers,

I wrote this post is in response to a question from one of our My Doggy Genius fans, who asked for suggestions for working with her blind, deaf dog. Although having a deaf and blind dog poses special challenges, the loss of these two senses means capitalizing more on the other senses your dog does have. Here, I’ve listed 16 tips that I hope will be helpful for giving you and your deaf or blind dog a full and happy life:

Photo from "Paws to Adopt" Website

1. Give your dog a safe place in your home, and ensure that his or her belongings are always in the same place to minimize potential stress. For example, keeping your dog’s kennel, his favorite toy, food and water dishes, as well as a pee pad if necessary in a gated area can offer a safe and predictable retreat for your dog, especially if you have a lot of guests or a busy home.

2. You may want to get a doggy water fountain to help direct your dog to where his or her water dish is. Even if he can’t hear it, he will be able to sense the vibration of the running water.

3. Block off any stairs in your home using a baby gate.

4. When your dog is outside, ensure that you either keep your dog on a leash or in a fenced-in area. Letting your blind or deaf dog run loose is a recipe for danger, especially because a dog who cannot see or hear can easily become confused and overwhelmed by new smells and sounds.

5. Get your dog a special collar or bandana! A company named “Thankful Paws” makes collars and bandanas specifically for deaf and blind dogs. They are brightly colored and read “I am a blind (or deaf) dog,” so if your dog gets lost, people know that your dog has special needs and can take this into consideration when helping him or her. You can also purchase vibration collars for deaf dogs from Gun Dog Supply, which help you to communicate with your dog without sound.

6. HandicappedPets.com is a wonderful resource for a wide array of other specially designed pet products for dogs with special needs.

7. Vibration is your friend with a deaf and blind dog. For example, clapping loudly or stomping your foot will allow your dog to feel the vibration of the sound and find you again.

8. Some dogs, although mostly blind, can see bright lights. Observe your dog carefully to see if he or she seems to be drawn to bright light, and if so, you can use this to help guide your dog to you.

9. Touch is also a valuable communication tool for the deaf and blind dog. For example, if you want your dog to follow you, you can touch your dog’s chin gently so he can pick up your scent, and he will be able to follow you more easily.

10. For feeding time, simply touch your dog’s food bowl to his chin to help him to pick up the scent, and then place the bowl on the floor.

11. Use carpet runners to help guide your dog through commonly-trafficked areas of your home. If your dog still seems to get lost or confused in different areas of your home, using a unique, but subtle, scent in each room (achieved through a scented candle, air fresheners, or potpourri) can help your dog to distinguish between the different rooms.

12. Warn visitors that you have a deaf and blind dog, and let them know if you have specific routines (it’s much easier for visitors to adapt than to ask your dog to)!

13. Ensure that you remove objects around your home that may be dangerous for your dog. Anything with sharp edges, particularly at your dog’s eye level, can be particularly dangerous. It may be helpful (if not entertaining) to get down on all fours and ‘experience’ your home the way your dog does to help to eliminate any potential dangers.

14. Training a blind and deaf dog poses unique challenges. However, touching your dog in a specific way to communicate a command will help your dog to easily understand what you want him or her to do. For example, you can teach your dog to sit whenever they feel a quick, light-pressured touch on their lower back.

15. Before you take your blind and deaf dog out for walks, ensure that you have practiced clear communication and commands with your dog before leaving your house or yard.  When you feel confident that you can communicate clearly with your dog, start with a short walk the first few times, ensure that you always walk your dog on the same side, and stick to the same route each time if possible to help your dog to become more familiar with the area.

16. Play is a wonderful bonding experience for you and your deaf and blind dog! Interacting closely with your dog in a fun, positive way will help to deepen your dog’s trust in you and help your dog to come to see you as the source of all things fun and good. Particularly with a dog who is blind and deaf, t’s important to capitalize on your dog’s amazing sense of smell during play. For over 50 games and challenges you can play with your dog, be sure to check out our My Doggy Genius eBook and DVD series.

Although our first reaction is to feel sorry for a deaf or blind dog, the truth is that they really don’t know any difference and just need a little extra help from you to gain confidence to navigate their surroundings. Working with dogs who have special needs requires extra time and patience, but with these simple modifications, they can lead full, happy lives! For more information about how to work with and train a blind and deaf dog, visit “Paws to Adopt,” a website which offers a wealth of wonderful information on positively training your dog with these special needs.

With Much Love & Tail Wags,

Lori, Tango, & Sparky


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