Training Tips for a Blind Dog

by Steph Mahrle

Hank is a recent client of mine. He is a six-year-old Frenchie. Hank is going blind. The process has been frustrating and confusing to Hank, as well as his owners. When Hank is overstimulated, he reacts in his state of frustration, and confusion by barking, and biting. When his owners reached out for training Hank was biting his partner Teddy whenever Teddy ran excitedly around their apartment. I spoke with his owners about how to make Hank's life slightly less stressful as he loses more, and more of his sight. Here are the training tips I can share with you that I shared with my clients.

  1. Avoid moving your furniture around frequently. When you do move your furniture, put the leash on your dog and lead the dog around your home so that through scent the dog recognizes the new location of your furniture. 
  2. Use scent to help your dog differentiate which room they are in. For example, the living room might have a vanilla scented candle or wall plugin, while the bedroom you use lavender scent. Be creative but consistent with each room’s scent.
  3. Train your dog the “place” command. Dogs relax when they are on command. They recognize their place in your home by knowing just where they belong resting on their dog bed, the dog will be less likely to involve themselves in bad behavior. 
  4. If you move to a new home which has stairs, and your visually impaired dog is unwilling to walk up or down the staircase, you’ll need to set up a training exercise for your dog to become acclimated to where the staircase is and how to best tackle the obstacle. Obtain an essential oil like lavender or vanilla. If you are asking your dog to walk up the staircase, place a fan at the top of the stair case. Add a few drops of the scented oil to a dish and place the dish behind the fan so the scent is carried by the air down the staircase toward the dog’s nose. The dog will recognize the difference in elevation based upon where the scent is being carried. If you are asking the dog to walk downstairs place the fan at the base of the staircase, allowing the scent to be carried upward. 
  5. You don’t have to go overboard with the scents. Dogs have a phenomenal sense of smell. It has been estimated that a dog can smell one drop of urine in thirteen gallons of water. -So a little dab will do ya. :)

With much of dog training, the reoccurring theme here is predictability. Predictable environments are soothing for dogs, especially dogs with a visual, or auditory impairment. These tips might not even scratch the surface of assisting you with resolving your blind dog's issues. If that is true for you, I encourage you to reach out to a local balanced dog trainer, that can help you to create a routine of calm structure for both you and your dog.