Tips for Training Deaf Dogs

You Guys!

Today we have special guest Rendy Schuchat, owner and founder of Anything is Pawzible in Chicago, Il, to talk with us about training deaf dogs! I’ve admitted it before, and I’ll say it again: my best friend is a dog. While she isn’t deaf (although occasionally she acts like it), we wanted to have a little resource for anyone that was considering adopting a deaf dog. Also, modeling for us today will be Doodle (my best friend), because we don’t have any photos of deaf dogs being trained.

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Doodle, though not deaf, is ready to pose for our article!

Welcome, Rendy! Training deaf dogs seems like it might be more challenging than training a dog that can hear. Tell us, what is the most challenging part about training a deaf dog?

Actually, the most challenging part of training a deaf dog is teaching their owners how to shift gears from verbal to hand cues.  Dogs follow body language better than verbal, so attaching meaning to hand cues is what we start with even when the dog can hear!

Yes, I like to blame things on people, too. Are there any tasks that deaf dogs are better at than dogs that can hear?

Once you have their attention, deaf dogs can actually be less distracted because disruptions that an otherwise hearing dog might get distracted by are not present with deaf dogs (buses, kids screaming other dogs barking, etc.)

Training dogs takes quick action to let them know they’ve done something right. How do you immediately tell a deaf dog that they’ve done well if you can’t use a clicker or say “good?”

Before you can teach any dog (hearing or deaf) it is best to attach a “positive marker” that means that was what I wanted! With hearing dogs we use the word “yes!” With deaf dogs, I have used the thumbs up hand cue.  We show them the cue and then give them a treat and continue to repeat until the dog shows visible signs (ears alert, leaning forward, eyes brighten) that they are excited to see that thumbs up signal, which will eventually be tied to exercises we teach.

Perhaps you can walk us through a command. For instance, how do you train a deaf dog to come?

I would take a treat and jog slowly backwards drawing the dog towards me. As the dog began to follow, I would give the “thumbs up” sign and a treat would be given. I would repeat this and begin to shape hand [a] command by pulling the treat towards my chest shaping a hand cue that means “come,” making sure to stop and positively mark the behavior I was looking for. Eventually, we would fade the treat and ask for a sit to finish the exercise. Voila!

Doodle accepting a treat for "Down."

Doodle accepting a treat for “Down.”

Do you ever suggest that deaf dogs be allowed off-leash, either at a dog park or otherwise?

I am not a fan of off-leash unless the area is completely enclosed and safe, especially with a deaf dog. There are just too many distractions you would need to control for which takes individual practice with each of them. If a deaf dogs encounters something that they are uncertain or even frightened by and bolts or spooks, it would be very difficult to get their attention. Many people with deaf dogs will use a vibrating collar in place of their name. It isn’t meant to harm the dog, in fact, just the opposite. We teach the dog that the gentle buzz means “look at me” and something great will happen! These collars could be used in an off leash situation, but lots of rehearsal and practice is necessary before going off leash – and collars we may be relying on to get the dogs attention can fail.

Do you have to teach deaf dogs any special commands as part of their basic training that you wouldn’t otherwise need to teach a regular dog? What are the absolute musts you think a deaf dog must learn as part of basic obedience?

I honestly can’t think of anything a deaf dog must know that a hearing dog wouldn’t. Any command you can teach a hearing dog and deaf dog should learn and vice versa – no limitations!

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she's not deaf, but she looks really cool.

Doodle flying through agility. Again, she’s not deaf, but she looks really cool.

One more question: Besides the buzzing collar, how can you get a hyperactive deaf dog to pay attention to you? He obviously has to be looking at you in order to see the hand cues. Is that ever a problem with dogs that are a little more active or having trouble sitting still?

Hyperactive dogs in general (hearing or not) have a harder time paying attention.  Some of my clients have used a stomp on the floor in place of the collar. If the dog is engaging in a behavior that is undesirable, say jumping up on the counter, the stomp becomes the attention cue and when the dogs looks in your direction a “negative marker,” like a shaking a finger with a stern face, can convey the behavior needs to stop.

I use the stern face command a lot, myself. Thank you so much, Rendy, for helping us learn more about training deaf dogs!

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If you live in the Chicago area and would like to contact Rendy about dog training, you can reach her at her website at http://anythingspawsible.com

img_hs_rendy Rendy Schuchat, M.A. –  Owner/Founder and Head Dog Trainer at Anything Is PAWZible dog training in Chicago, Illinois. I bring my life-long love for animals together with proven positive dog training techniques that both you and your dog will enjoy. With over a decade of professional experience and a Masters Degree in Psychology as well as a Certification in Dog Obedience Instruction from Animal Behavior Training and Associates, I am committed to helping people build and strengthen their relationships with their dogs. I was voted one of the BEST/FAVORITE DOG TRAINERS in Chicago by Chicagoland Tails Reader’s Choice Awards multiple times.

 

 

 

 

Love,

Crepes!

**Edited by Alana Grelyak. No compensation was exchanged by any party for this post.**

Adopting A Blind Dog: What You Need To Know

You guys!

If you recall, I recently did an article with Tree House on what it’s like to adopt a blind kitty. Well, we couldn’t leave out our doggie friends! Today, we have with us Karen Belfi of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance to answer some of our questions about adopting and living with dogs who are vision impaired.

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Crepes: Welcome, Karen! Please tell me a bit about BlindDogRescue.org.  It seems that you don’t have a specific physical location, but that you are a network across the US and Canada. Is that correct?
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Karen Belfi: Yes. We have a series of foster homes throughout the US and Canada. Since we formed in August 2009, we have rescued over 300 blind and visually impaired dogs.
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C: Excellent! Some of the dogs that you have rescued aren’t completely blind but have impaired night vision or other difficulties. What are some of the other forms of blindness that one might encounter?
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KB: There are many causes of blindness. Cataracts and glaucoma are two common causes. PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy, starts off with night blindness, then the dog eventually loses all vision. Diabetes can cause blindness. Some dogs are born without eyes, or very small, malformed eyes. Injury can cause blindness as well.
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C: What is it like to care for a blind dog?
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KB: Really, they are like any other dog. They react differently to situations, depending on the individual dog. I have a dog with no eyes, Pete, whom I fostered for BDRA, and ended up adopting. He can adapt to anything! We moved a couple of weeks ago, and he learned the layout of the new house (and big yard) in a few hours. You can see him just walk the perimeter figuring things out. My other blind dog, Mabel, took longer to figure things out. It’s very individual. Most dogs adapt to blindness very well.
Blind dog "Malcolm" having a meet and greet.

Blind dog “Malcolm” having a meet and greet.

C: Are there any particular household dangers that someone caring for a blind dog should look out for, such as dangerous furniture, stairs, etc.?
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KB: Stairs, of course, are a concern until the dog learns where they are. Anything that can puncture the eye, like branches, are a concern, if the dog still has eyes. This is why ophthalmologists will sometimes recommend removing a dog’s eye(s) if they are blind.
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C: What is it like to take a blind dog out for a walk? Do you always need to take the same route?
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KB: Pete pulls like any other dog! He just plows right along as if he could see. We try to get our blind dogs and fosters used to different situations. We take them everywhere – into pet stores, into the city, to the park – to get them used to noises, smells, etc. We try to make them as independent and confident as possible.
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C: Do blind dogs like to explore their environments?
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KB: They do. Their noses tend to work VERY well, so they use them to explore and figure out where they are. We teach a couple basic commands to them. “Watch” is for when something is in their way. They learn to slow down and feel for what’s there. “Step” is for when there are stairs, a curb, etc. They start to slow down and feel for the step.
This doggie's rolling in the grass so far he's blurry!

This doggie’s rolling in the grass so fast he’s blurry! No camera could catch his awesome!

C: Can you teach a blind dog to play fetch using a sound toy, or is that not something you’d want to have a blind dog performing?
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KB: I have a rubber ball that has a bell in it. Pete loves to play fetch with it. We have also gotten some tennis balls with bells in them that the dogs love to play with. There are other noisy balls and toys they can use.
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C: Can you leave a blind dog unattended in the same way you would a sighted dog?
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KB: This would also depend on the individual dog. Does the dog know the area well? Is the dog a chewer? Will the dog get into things in your absence? Are stairs blocked off? Our dogs do fine left alone. They know exactly where the stairs are, and do not tend to get into things.
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C: Please walk us through how you would teach a blind dog to perform the basic command “sit.”
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KB: It’s really the same as any other dog. Tap their bottom, or hold the biscuit high above their nose to position them to sit, then treat.
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C: How can our readers assist BlindDogRescue.org if they’re interested in helping further? What do you need the most?
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KB: We ALWAYS need volunteers. Of course we always want foster homes, but if you can’t foster, we definitely need your help!
We need people to do lots of things-organize transports for fosters (you don’t have to drive to do this!), check adoption applications, contact shelters with blind dogs, attend local events, check volunteer applications, etc. Lots of things. If anyone wants to help, they can fill out the volunteer app on our website.
FACT: Children love blind dogs.

FACT: Children love blind dogs.

C: Is there anything you’d like to mention that I’ve forgotten?
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KB: I think the main thing to know about blind dogs is that they are all individual. Many people tend to assign character traits to a blind dog. “He’s scared of other dogs, because he is blind.” “He should have another dog with him, because he is blind.” Really, that depends on the dog. Some blind dogs are scared of other dogs. But, some sighted dogs are too. Ditto having another dog in the house. Some do better, some do better as an only dog. Each dog is so individual. They’re dogs first, blind second!
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That’s it, everyone! A wonderful thanks to Karen Belfi for her help with this piece. I hope this article opens your eyes to the awesomeness of blind dogs. If you’re considering adopting one, here are some more resources for you to look at:
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You see those photos above? That’s Malcolm. Tomorrow, we meet Malcolm, who just so happens to be looking for a home, no pun intended.
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Love,
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Crepes.
**photos provided by Margaret D. of BDRA – Thank you! **
PS. Last chance to enter The Honest Kitchen Quickies Valentine’s giveaway! Just leave a comment and let me know you want an entry! (and make sure I have your email there in case you win!)