by Sarah Gibbs, Loving Paws Client
Vision impaired? Hearing impaired? Oh my! I wouldn’t consider myself an experienced dog owner. I grew up with dogs as a child and I did have a dog of my own as an adult, but in all honesty I got lucky with Max, he’s a great dog. Then came Lilly. I saw Lilly on a rescue site online. It was clearly noted she was “blind”, who knew that was just the beginning. I was only going to foster Lilly but decided after a few weeks I couldn’t send her back to the rescue and I couldn’t let someone else take her. She had a home.
Lilly was a challenge from the start, she wouldn’t bond with me or Max, she would find a small space to curl up in and keep to herself. Training became difficult and overwhelming. Lilly and I attended a shy dog class, however she wasn’t just shy, she was just overwhelmed. Thanks to Laura and Jennifer and a lot of trial and error on my part, it became more manageable.
Having a pup who is damaged early on, and then add to that visually and hearing impaired challenges you to find creative ways to communicate and bond. Lilly is also a skinny little thing, enough that the vet seemed to think she was malnourished. She didn’t like soft treats, small treats, anything in your hand or for that matter anything in her bowl! We tried cat food, tuna, chicken and rice, peanut butter, butter, and a handful of other things. Her treat of choice, the milkbone!
There are so many challenges when it comes to training. Lilly likes to bite and walk circles around your feet when you walk (dangerous for the humans and her!). I tried whistles, banging pots, clapping hands, stomping on the floor, you name it, I tried it! Almost a year later, Lilly does respond to my whistle, although not all the time, so I chalk that up to stubborn puppy behavior! Her vision is questionable, she gets around fine, only running into things on occasion and usually just out of pure puppy joy while playing. The best and most beneficial training tool has been Max. He has guided Lilly through the backyard, through the house, and how to have proper behavior (she likes to steal toys and he gets the message across that isn’t fair!) Max leads the way when it’s time to go outside to potty, and he corrects her biting with a good natured bark. He has more effect on her than I have!
A few months ago Lilly and I had a moment. She jumped on the couch, sat next to me, licked me and let me actually pet her entire body without nipping at me, it was the first time I felt like she actually bonded with me as her human!I’m no dog expert, but if I can share any words of wisdom, here are mine:
- Training is key. You may have to try many many different methods or options, but keep trying, even if it’s unconventional!
- Find a support system, having people who are willing to help adds to the overall outcome.
- Know your dogs comfort zone. I learned Lilly is most comfortable at home in her known surroundings, taking her out of that takes her two steps back.
- Don’t push the dog to do what you think is expected, it’s their show!
- If you are considering an impaired dog, have a gentle, well adjusted dog who can help lead the way.
I imagine people are scared about taking on an impaired puppy or dog, I understand. There is a great reward though in knowing this poorly treated puppy could be saved and live another day! As the dog’s human, there are days that I locked myself in the bathroom to get away from the biting, cleaning up yet another potty accident, or just all around bad behavior, feeling as though I was at my wits end not knowing how to help Lilly or myself.
Of all my experience (which is less than a year) patience is the most important part. You may want to cry, you may actually cry, but know, that being patient with that broken soul and watching the progress is worth it!