I got a deaf and blind dog, help!
Adopting or taking in a new dog can be stressful in itself, but adding on that your new dog is deaf and blind can truly be frightening!
The first thing I want to remind you is that your dog or puppy is a dog/puppy first and foremost. Sometimes people focus so much on the fact that their puppy is deafblind that they forget about normal puppy things!
I want to use this blog post to highlight my methodology and practices for when a new deafblind dog comes in my home, and how I advise my clients to do the same. This will primarily geared towards puppies, but I can assure you that adult dogs are treated nearly identical!
So the first thing to think about and consider is confinement. Your new pup is deaf and blind so having them wander through your house aimlessly is not really advisable.
For me, I set up an xpen with a crate inside (pictured below)
I love this set up for new dogs of all ages! Basically what I have here is a play area (the open space with toys) and a sleep area (the crate). The puppy I have currently is 6 months old, but if he were younger, I would divide the open play area in half and provide a potty area by adding some pee pass or a potty patch.
*Don’t worry, I promise this won’t mess up house training! Providing a potty area is still teaching your puppy to leave it’s bed or play area and go to the appropriate place to go potty instead of just stopping and going where they please.*
So for me, the new dog is going to spend a lot of time in here initially. I fill it with fun toys, awesome chew bones, and I’ll randomly come over and just “make it rain” with food as a surprise! Your dogs ability to relax without you is SO important, and providing a safe place for this to happen is crucial. If I’m not directly engaging/training/supervising, my new pup will hang out in its pen with something awesome that only happens in there!
Now, there’s the question of what you should teach your pup first. For me, I teach all new deaf and blind dogs two things right off the bat. Honestly, if it’s the only two tactile cues that you teach your dog, you could survive ok!
First and foremost, I teach a marker.
A marker cue is extremely important. You can use it for your dog when teaching them anything, or when they’re doing anything you like. For example, if your puppy is running around and being crazy, and then they lay down, mark that behavior and reward it!
**Remember that your marker cue should ALWAYS follow with food**
Below is a video of what I use for a marker cue.
If I have to describe it, I would say it’s like a lobster claw! So to teach this to the new pup, you’re going to give the touch cue and then give a treat. Your dog doesn’t have to be doing anything, just give that touch cue and then give a treat!
This opens up so much communication between you and your dog. Like I said, if you don’t teach them any other touch cues, this one will definitely help you in the long run.
(photo of the new guy, Bumper!)
The second thing I teach to my new dog is what we call an interrupter cue. This is exactly as it sounds, we’re teaching them a cue that means, “hey stop that and orient to me!”
Below is a video of me introducing it to Bumper!
You can see that Bumper is really interested in the mat on the floor so this gives me the perfect opportunity to introduce this.
So what I do is use two fingers and I will tap the dog twice on the side. This instinctually will make the dog go “hey what’s that” and turn to investigate. The moment they turn, you reward them!
When you first begin teaching this, you’ll want to start in a low distraction environment and build up the difficulty over time.
You‘ll notice a few times that Bumper turns to the opposite direction than the side that I tapped, but since this is so new for him, I’m still rewarding it because he did stop sniffing and responded!
The interrupter cue can be used in SO many circumstances once it’s understood by your dog. You can use it to help with cat chasing, control play with other dogs, prevent chewing on unwanted objects, and more!
If you’re the new owner of a deaf and blind dog, please just take a breath and remember that disabilities are only what you make them. Your dog is a dog first, then the breed or mix of breeds, and only then, deaf and blind! Enjoy your new dog and help them succeed and be confident!
As always, if you’re in need of help with training, I’m always available for remote lessons through www.thumbsuptraining.com