Training any dog takes plenty of patience and time. With blind dogs, you will also need plenty of imagination because sound, touch, and smell are key with a dog that can’t see.
However, keep in mind that most blind dogs will be startled if touched when they are asleep or not expecting it. You can help your dog to get used to this by gently touching them and immediately giving them a treat. Most blind dogs soon learn that being surprised is not necessarily a bad thing!
Occasionally a dog might become aggressive when surprised, as a means of communicating that they are worried and need to be left alone in order to feel safe. If your dog reacts in this way or appears to become increasingly more startled when practising this, you should stop right away and contact a qualified behaviourist to support you reduce your dog’s anxiety.
Here are a few ‘hands-free’ ways to train your dog without touch:
- Use food to lure your dog into the behaviour you would like them to do. For example, to teach a sit you can put a treat near your dog’s nose so that they can sniff it, then slowly lift it over their head – their bottom will naturally go down as they follow the treat with their nose – as soon as it touches the floor you can reward them by giving them the treat.
- Teach your blind dog specific words that are instructions. With the ‘sit’ for example, as your dog’s bottom hits the floor when you’re luring them with the treat say “sit”. After several repetitions they will associate this physical action with the word ‘sit’ – you can now ask them to sit without having to use the treat to lure them, but you can still give it to them as a reward! You may want to teach them commands like: step up/down, this way, wait, forward etc.