Besides unconditional love & support, it is important as primary care giver that you learn how to care & communicate with your blind and/or deaf dog. Here are a few steps to make your vision and hearing impaired dog's life much easier and help you transition to be your dogs eyes & ears.
Some tips for working with blind dogs include:
1. Don't do any unnecessary re-decorating or rearranging. Its important that your home be a safe haven and familiar territory. So, try to avoid moving furniture or household belonging in the home or yard. As long, as your dog knows what to expect at every turn or maneuver inside and outside the home they won't have a huge problem with mobility.
2. Doggy Proof your home to prevent injuries. Place baby gates at the top and bottom of stairs to prevent the dog from trying to use the stairs without supervision.
3. Don't play Hide & Seek with food and water bowl. Dogs love routine, so always keep water and food dishes in the same location.
4. Leash them up. Always keep the dog on a leash when outside of familiar settings. Just because your dog has an vision impairment does not mean the urge to chase is gone. Blind dogs may still try to chase other animals that they can smell, which can be dangerous & deadly if they venture into roads & on coming traffic.
5. Let them sniff first & hear your sweet voice. With a loss of sight, hearing & sense of smell is heightened and this will be how your blind dog will relate to the world. Allow a blind dog to hear and smell you before you pet them. They may naturally be more startled if someone simply touches them, so try to give the dog enough time to be aware of your presence before petting. Talk to the dog as you approach to help them understand that you are there.
6. Be slow to punish & anger but quick to be patient & loving. Never punish a blind dog for accidents in the house. He or she may have become disoriented looking for the doggy door or may simply be aging and loosing control of his or her bladder or bowels. Doggy diapers or more frequent trips out to the yard are usually all that is required.
7. Help build their confidence. Although your dog has a physical handicap does not mean that he or she is incapable of living a normal life. Treat your dog as normal as possible. Building their confidence is key and ensure him or her of your unconditional love and that they can still do things. It is important that your blind dog knows that he or she is the same dog in your eyes, even with their vision impairment. For a blind pup it can be the basis for what type of personality they will developed.
8. The Little Engine that Could. Coax, encourage and praise them to do the same things they did before. However, understand and still praise them if they "can't".
9. Mark their territory with scents. Be creative with different safe scents to mark areas for your blind pup so they can distinguish between different rooms in in the home. Use all natural flavored extracts, hanging a car air freshener or potpourri sachet on a door.
10. Use textured materials to guide the way. Throw rugs, decorative pillows, indoor/outdoor carpeting, wind chimes, cedar chips, decorative bricks or blocks can help guide them along their way inside and outside.
11. Purchase a tabletop fountain to quench your dog's thirst. A tabletop fountain is a great alternative to a water bowl, if your thirsty blind pup is having a hard time finding his way. The sound of running water helps to orient, find his water bowl and know his surroundings.
12. Be a vocal coach. Be very vocal with your dog, this will keep him or her out of harms way.
Working with dogs that are deaf:
1. Safety first, so leash up! Always keep the dog on a leash when outside of a fenced area. Deaf dogs cannot hear your voice, traffic, or any noises to alert them to danger.
***Go the extra mile with your dogs collar and consider engraving “I’m deaf” on your dog’s tag so that other dog walkers & pedestrians will know his or her special needs. This is will also help passer-byers if your dog becomes lost & disoriented.
2. Learn canine sign language. Start adapting & pairing hand signs, with facial expressions & voice commands as soon as hearing loss is noted. Basic hand signs for sit, come and down are usually all that is required. Sit can be a stop motion of the palm at the chest, down can be a downward motion of the hand from the chest to the waist and come can be a sideways arching motion from straight out in towards the chest.
3. Let your dog greet you first before petting. Always be sure a deaf dog can see and smell you before you pet it to prevent it from snapping or startling from you.
**Alert friends, family, newcomers, and any strangers you might encounter on walks who want to pet your dog, that he is deaf and to approach him from UNDER his chin palm up and let him smell their hand first.
4. Alert Neighbors of dogs impairment. Be sure your neighbors know your dog is deaf; tell them you never let him out alone. If they spot your dog wandering unattended, instruct them how to react (phone you, approach the dog and so on).
5. Fence in your yard. Invite friendly canine playmates over to socialize, rather than letting your dog off-leash at a park.
6. Teach young children a hand signal for greeting the dog. Although the dog might not need such a formal salutation, teaching kids to pause and sign, “Hello,____!” will result in a gentler approach by both parties.
7. Provide a doggy safe haven out of foot traffic. Set up food, bedding & water stations outside of family traffic patterns.
8. Develop a “visible doorbell”. This will inform your dog that guests are about to enter the house: flash a hall light or stomp your feet before you open the door.
9. Get their attention. Use a small key chain flashlight to catch get his attention through eyesight, stomp on the floor with your foot to create a vibration, or wave your arms in front of him for movement. Light, vibration, and movement is what your deaf dog will respond to.
10. Don't startle. You should never surprise a dog, even if his hearing is perfect. If your deaf dog is catching up on her beauty sleep, but needs to be awaken & your attention touch her gently on the shoulder or back. Use the same spot every time. Gently touch with your hand, but never pat her on the head because this might be interpreted as threatening.
11. Be a gentle giant! Be gentle and VERY patient with your deaf dog. During the training process praise, reward with treats & positive reinforcement. Remember your deaf dog can still see the expression on your face so smile when you are pleased with him.
Blindness & deafness doesn't have to mean that life is over for your dog. With a few simple life changes and adjustments your dog can live a productive, active, healthy and happy life.
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