Training Deaf, Blind, and Three-Legged Dogs

As a dog trainer, I never know who is going to call next. Every client, dog, and family are different. They have different needs, wants, and goals for their dog and household. Of course, there are some common complaints I hear quite often, but most of my job is being creative and making the humans’ lives with their dogs easier. The truth of the matter is most of the “behavioral issues” I see are just dogs being dogs. The dog is perfectly fine and happy. The people, however, have expectations of the dog and are therefore, unhappy when they aren’t met.

Thankfully, that is why I am here. I let the family know what the dog is doing, why he is doing it, and how we can manage the behavior. I teach the family how to compromise with their dog. For example, teaching him to chew on dog toys instead of shoes. However, among all these calls of different families and situations, every once in a while, I get a call from a family that has a deaf, blind, or three-legged dog. There are many other special cases I see on top of these, but these are the most common of the three.

They have been told things like, “Your dog cannot be clicker trained.” Thankfully this is false. We do need to be aware of a dog’s limitations, but that is every single dog we train.

Deaf dogs can be “clicker trained” per say. Instead of a clicker, we may use a flashlight, hand signal, or vibrating collar, instead of a clicker. I typically skip on the vibrating collars when possible because I do not think deaf or blind dogs should be practicing long range recalls off-leash. What if your dog decides not to listen to your cue and he cannot tell he is walking into oncoming traffic?

Of course, there are other uses, but recall is what most people are interested in the vibrating collar for. I just find it to be too dangerous and believe deaf or blind dogs should certainly be on leash when outside. I normally suggest practicing on a long leash or fenced area instead so, you can prepare for emergency situations, but I wouldn’t make a habit out of letting a deaf or blind dog off-leash in busy areas.

Blind dogs can make you forget they are blind sometimes because they have such a good sense of smell and hearing. They can be taught using food lures and your normal clicker.  You can turn your cues into different “touches” instead of words or hand signals as well for both blind and deaf dogs.

And even though I am asked often, three-legged or tripawd dogs can be trained the very same way as other dogs. Just make sure you stay within their physical limitations described by your vet.

All three of these very special case types are completely trainable, just like any other dog. Sure, we may have to modify a few details to help them understand, but they are easy changes to make. You can apply these changes to many training videos out there and be well on your way to training your dog!

Below I put together a list of resources for people with deaf, blind, or tripawd dogs:

Blind Dogs

Deaf Dogs

Tripawd Dogs