How to Use Touch Cues and the Comfort Trainer Head Halter to Train a Blind and Deaf Dog to Heel
While the heel behavior is usually taught through the use of visual and verbal cues, a dog who is both deaf and blind cannot learn in this manner. As humans, we tend to rely on the use of visuals and especially verbal communication.
When one cannot see or hear the only senses left are touch, smell and taste. Therefore a trainer must use the senses available to teach any new behavior.
The use of touch will guide the dog forward, slow down, direction heading and turning. The use of scent will encourage the dog to follow the touch cue and the use of taste will reward the dog for responding to the touch and scent cues.
It is also helpful to use training tools that offer the means of comfortable guidance without the chance of causing pain.
The Comfort Trainer Head Halter is ideal for this situation as it guides the dog’s head, without any constriction, constant pressure or pain. A light leash is then attached to the ring below the chin and you are ready to begin.
As the dog will learn best through the use of a lure (scent), you will benefit from using a touch cue that can incorporate the scent cue at the same time. First decide on which side you wish your dog to learn to walk with you.
For example, the left side. In this case you will place a treat in your left hand, allow your dog to smell it and slide that hand along her face from back to front and take a couple steps forward as you allow your dog to keep her nose near your hand.
When your dog moves forward, let her know that she performed correctly by lightly touching the top of her head (to mark the moment she performed as you wished) and give her the treat.
Each time you repeat this, request more and more movement prior to touching the top of the dog’s head and rewarding. Within a short time your dog will be walking forward with you at least 20 steps.
However, we are now at a point in the training when the dog may move ahead of you or too far off course either right or left. After all, there may be new smells, or the ground may feel different and this requires investigation.
A dog who is both deaf and blind can get as easily distracted as a dog who can see and hear. Life is not a vacuum. You must utilize touch cues to return your dogs’ attention to you.
Also, don’t forget you have the use of the Comfort Trainer to help guide your dog. I stress the word, “guide” not restrain.
Restraint doesn’t teach a dog anything other than to do battle with you. Guidance, on the other hand, will teach your dog to respond to your touch cues so that eventually you might be able to rely mostly upon these instead of a training device.
Here’s some touch cue suggestions for guiding your dog before having to use the training device.
For forging ahead a little – touch the point of the shoulder. If the dog responds and slows down, touch the top of her head and give her the treat. If not go on to the next cue.
For forging ahead a lot – touch the dog’s hip as you gently pull downward on the Comfort Trainer and turn to the right. The moment your dog turns with you, repeat the heel cue of touching the side of the dog’s face with the hand holding the treat.
Your dog will smell the treat and likely turn with you. The moment the turn is complete, touch the top of the dog’s head and give her the treat. Repeat as necessary until the dog fully understands that when the hip is touched a turn is imminent.
For lagging – bring your hand under her chin, and rub it in a forward motion. This cue can also be used for the recall command. Essentially, it means move forward faster.
For getting behind you – touch the opposite side of the dog’s face, bring her attention back into the right direction. Lure her into position, touch her head and reward.
Through the use of these touch cues your dog will quickly understand to follow the touch guidance and rely very little on the use of the head halter.
However, it is always a good idea to have her wear her Comfort Trainer as every dog becomes distracted and the training tool will give you the means of keeping your dog near enough to allow you to use your touch cues.