Desensitizing a Blind Dog so he doesn't Startle

To get a blind dog used to being touched unexpectedly, begin by walking up behind the dog when he isn't looking. Gently touch the dog, then immediately put a treat in the dog's mouth after he turns around. The dog quickly associates the treat with being touched.  This will keep him from startling and possibly snapping or biting. If your dog responds aggressively, do NOT give the treat.  Ignore the behavior and try again at a later time.  Eventually you'll get the right response and can give the treat. Over time the dog will learn it's OK when he's touched unexpectedly, and not have a fearful response. 

You'll want to teach your blind dog to wake easily in response to a gentle touch.  First place your hand in front of the sleeping dog's nose.  Let him smell you are near. Then lightly touch the dog on the shoulder or back - very lightly - barely touch a few hairs. Then gently pet the dog with a couple of fingers, and eventually your entire hand. Most dogs will awaken at some point and they open their eyes, see their owner's smiling face, and perhaps even get a treat they will associate being awakened with a gentle, positive experience.

Getting Your Blind Dog's Attention

Obviously, waving isn't going to work!  Your blind dog will be more sensitive to sound, and will hone in on your voice so use that to get his atttention and continue speaking so that he can follow the sound.  

If the dog is across a room, speak his name. If your dog is a more independent breed, unless he is separation anxious he may not CARE that you entered the room.  Even blind dogs can have "selective hearing".  If you really must get his attention - go get him.

Some dogs are born blind, while others lose their sight due to age or illness. Every dog, even blind ones, should know basic obedience commands, as it will help to keep them safe. Vision is only one of a dog's many acute senses, but it's one he was probably used to relying on! By teaching your dog a few commands you can give him the gift of confidence. Here are a few suggestions on training a blind dog:

  1. Try to always use a familiar area when training your dog. Without his sight he may become wary or frightened. You want him to feel as comfortable and secure as possible.
  2. Remove any objects that your dog could trip over. If possible, make a nice clear area that you can use for training.
  3. Try to keep the layout of your home consistent. Walk your dog around the home several times to help him learn whime things are. If you change the location of furniture, or add anything, repeat the process until he can confidently and independently make him way around him home.
  4. Use the SLOW command: Use this command when your dog is about to bump into something. Start by putting him on a leash. Begin walking. When you want him to slow down, say "Slow" and simultaneously apply a gentle pressure to the leash. Praise him and give him a treat right away when he slows down.
    Please Note: do not say "slow down", as this may confuse your dog into thinking you want him to "slow" as well as "down" (ie. lie down).
  5. The WAIT command should be taught after your dog has mastered "Slow". It's used when you come upon a potentially dangerous situation and you want your dog to temporarily stay where he is. For instance, you're about to cross a street or he's about to walk off a curb. Teaching this command is similar to the "Slow" command. Again, put your dog on a leash and begin walking. Apply a steady, gentle pressure to the leash while at the same time saying, "Wait". Reward your dog the instant he stops moving (he doesn't necessarily have to sit - he just needs to stop). Once he reliably responds to this command on leash, repeat the process while he's off leash. Walk beside him and when you say "Wait", he should stop. Praise him when he does. If he doesn't stop, say "Wait" while applying gentle steady pressure to him collar until he stops. Reward him for stopping.
    He will learn to trust you after a few times of bumping his nose.
  6. A "release word" is then used after you use the Wait command. This word tells your dog it's okay to starting moving again. It can be anything you want, ie. "Okay!", "Let's go!", etc. Say it in an upbeat, happy voice.
  7. The SIT command. This is a fairly easy thing to teach. Have a bunch of tasty little treats ready - make sure it's something your dog really loves! Then hold the treat right by your dog's nose. Say "Sit!" and gradually move the treat upwards (your dog's snout will tend to follow the treat). As your dog raises his nose, he'll naturally move into a sitting position. The instant he's sitting, praise him and give him the treat.

Where are you????

Make sure to let your blind dog know what you are doing and that you are leaving.  Many blind dogs develop separation anxiety because he woke up and you were gone.  If he's sleeping or in another room, make sure you talk to him, perhaps even use a certain word, so he knows you are leaving.  A blind dog that wakes up, or turns around and finds you gone, may become anxious.  A dog may become anxious enough to destroy the house looking for you! So always tell your dog when you are planning to leave with a comment like "see you later Fifi". A blind dog gives you a great excuse to talk to the dog!  After all he can't SEE what you're doing!


Blind dogs are often the best dogs.  If the Dog is counter surfing, getting into the trash or digging you can use a word for that - something more specific than just 'no' is best.  Of course, you probably should do this with ANY dog, not just blind ones.  However, with a blind dog you'll make sure you ALWAYS catch him in the act and then do the minimal correction necessary to get the point across.  Going overboard is not good with any dog, but particularly with a blind dog because he will be more likely to be confused as to what caused the correction.  It is infinitely better to use positive reinforcement as much as possible and keep negative corrections to a minimum.  A blind dog is more likely to become aggressive if he feels your corrections are confusing or unfair - so firm, but gentle corrections are even more important.

Other Pets

If your blind dog has always lived with other dogs, and his blindness is gradual there may be no adjustment necessary.  However, in a 'pack' situation or sudden blindness, you may have to be proactive in protecting the blind dog.  Also, some blind dogs in group situations can become aggressive due to fear.  Do everything you can to make your blind dog feel safe - even if that means keeping him separated from other household pets - especially when you can't supervise. Never let other dogs bully the blind dog.  Though dogs will often help their blind friend and you may find he has his OWN seeing eye dog!



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