Training a blind dog

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Training a blind dog

This is a discussion on Training a blind dog within the Dog Training and Behavior forums, part of the Keeping and Caring for Dogs category; Newbie alert... my apology in advance if this gets too long... About a year ago I moved in with my boyfriend, who lives with a ...

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Old 08-04-2009, 12:57 PM
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Training a blind dog

Newbie alert... my apology in advance if this gets too long...

About a year ago I moved in with my boyfriend, who lives with a 5-year-old female bull mastiff. Nancy is a very sweet dog, smart as a whip, but went blind last fall from progressive retinal atrophy. Inside the house Nancy gets around fine as long as we don't move the furniture too much, and she responds quite well to many voice commands. However, she demands constant attention by nudging quite forcefully under our hands or elbows, sometimes causing us pain. I do understand that, given her condition, Nancy needs reassurance. So while that's an annoyance, it's not a big problem. Outside the house, a different story, as Nancy is quickly losing her social skills.

First, understand that my bf works long hours and has very little time to work with her. He has difficulty even finding time to help me bathe her as often as she needs it (she's been bathed once in the year I've been here). Second, Nancy is a very large dog, about 115 pounds, and it is difficult for me to work with her by myself. Much of the time it's all I can do to tend to her other physical needs - food, water, brushing, nail clipping. A few months ago, my bf and I tried taking Nancy for a walk, but as soon as we encountered strangers she panicked. This resulted in a great struggle that took both of us to control her. My bf hasn't offered to help me do this again.

So Nancy stays on a lead attached to the front porch when she's outside. There, she has developed the habit of "scared" barking - at walkers, cyclists, a leaf blowing down the street. Passersby have begun to complain that they've been startled by Nancy, as she can get quite agitated, and recommended she be tethered in the backyard, away from the street.

It's getting progressively worse, in spite of my feeble efforts at negative/positive reinforcement, such as water sprays and tugging on her leash when she barks, treats when she agrees to be quiet. I try to work with her every day, but it's impossible to be there every minute. And, because I'm not really a dog person, I'm nervous around her and she senses that. When she barks, my nerves crackle, because all I hear is aggression.

That said, I don't know how much longer I can cope. I want to recommend professional training, but I don't know how my bf would react to that because he doesn't have a lot of money. But I have to do something, because I don't want my bf to have to choose between me and his dog. Nancy's a sweet girl, but needs a LOT of training, which she's not getting, and I can't do it without help. I also can't let Nancy's behavior continue because I think I'm already a little afraid of her.

Should I take the chance, and recommend the professional training, knowing my bf is not likely to act on it? Or do I continue trying to encourage him to find time to help me train Nancy ourselves?
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Old 08-04-2009, 01:08 PM
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Newbie alert... my apology in advance if this gets too long...

About a year ago I moved in with my boyfriend, who lives with a 5-year-old female bull mastiff. Nancy is a very sweet dog, smart as a whip, but went blind last fall from progressive retinal atrophy. Inside the house Nancy gets around fine as long as we don't move the furniture too much, and she responds quite well to many voice commands. However, she demands constant attention by nudging quite forcefully under our hands or elbows, sometimes causing us pain. I do understand that, given her condition, Nancy needs reassurance. So while that's an annoyance, it's not a big problem. Outside the house, a different story, as Nancy is quickly losing her social skills.

First, understand that my bf works long hours and has very little time to work with her. He has difficulty even finding time to help me bathe her as often as she needs it (she's been bathed once in the year I've been here). Second, Nancy is a very large dog, about 115 pounds, and it is difficult for me to work with her by myself. Much of the time it's all I can do to tend to her other physical needs - food, water, brushing, nail clipping. A few months ago, my bf and I tried taking Nancy for a walk, but as soon as we encountered strangers she panicked. This resulted in a great struggle that took both of us to control her. My bf hasn't offered to help me do this again.

So Nancy stays on a lead attached to the front porch when she's outside. There, she has developed the habit of "scared" barking - at walkers, cyclists, a leaf blowing down the street. Passersby have begun to complain that they've been startled by Nancy, as she can get quite agitated, and recommended she be tethered in the backyard, away from the street.

It's getting progressively worse, in spite of my feeble efforts at negative/positive reinforcement, such as water sprays and tugging on her leash when she barks, treats when she agrees to be quiet. I try to work with her every day, but it's impossible to be there every minute. And, because I'm not really a dog person, I'm nervous around her and she senses that. When she barks, my nerves crackle, because all I hear is aggression.

That said, I don't know how much longer I can cope. I want to recommend professional training, but I don't know how my bf would react to that because he doesn't have a lot of money. But I have to do something, because I don't want my bf to have to choose between me and his dog. Nancy's a sweet girl, but needs a LOT of training, which she's not getting, and I can't do it without help. I also can't let Nancy's behavior continue because I think I'm already a little afraid of her.

Should I take the chance, and recommend the professional training, knowing my bf is not likely to act on it? Or do I continue trying to encourage him to find time to help me train Nancy ourselves?
Absolutely tell him he needs to get a professional trainer. This situation is more stressful on the dog than on you. She is the one who list her sight. As far as negative reinforcement, I would NOT do this anymore. She needs only positive reinforcement. When you do something so sudden such as spray her with water she is only going to get more scared and associate whatever is originally scaring her with additional fear of being sprayed suddenly by water. When you have her outside and a car is going by (or another fear of hers is getting her attention) get her attention with a happy voice and a treat. Take her attention off the object, since she is using hearing be right there for your voice (a happy tone remember) to be heard over the scary object. Hope this makes sense. If your bf refuses to hire a trainer he needs to reconsider ownership. This dog is now a special needs dog and needs extra work.
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:53 PM
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What pawz said..


My suggestions would also be to purchase a "no pull" harness. This will allow you to control her if she has a panic attack.

Just to say it again, I would not use corrections on this dog. She is reacting out of fear and needs slow reasurance that everything will be ok

google the words "dog reactivity" or "reactive dog" (I can't cut and paste on this computer sorry) this is what your dog is experiencing

She need slow desensitization to her triggers.

We're here if you have any other questions.



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Old 08-05-2009, 04:27 PM
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Thanks for the tips, folks. I do realize this is very stressful on Nancy, but options are limited. As I mentioned, my bf has very little time to devote to training, won't give her up, won't hire a professional, and I have no idea how to approach this.

Poor doggie. Thanks anyway.
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Old 08-05-2009, 04:42 PM
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Thanks for the tips, folks. I do realize this is very stressful on Nancy, but options are limited. As I mentioned, my bf has very little time to devote to training, won't give her up, won't hire a professional, and I have no idea how to approach this.

Poor doggie. Thanks anyway.

Ok honestly he HAS to do something. It is better for the dog to be trained by a professional trainer. If he refuses to do this then he needs to think of what is best for her. Doing none of the above options is neglect in my eyes. You need to be forward with your bf...the dog is also in your care it sounds, thus if you refuse to take charge you as well are neglecting the dog. I am not trying to be mean, but this to me is neglect. The dog is stressed and sounds scared when it comes to sounds and is scaring the neighborhood. This is not a good situation for anybody, especially the dog. Please, stand up to your bf and tell him he HAS to do SOMETHING. I am done ranting and raving on this now lol. Sorry for being so forward.
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Old 08-05-2009, 05:50 PM
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There are lots of bullmastiff rescues out there would would probably work with her.

Just a thought.



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