The author of this very informative primer and a major force in Karen Anderson's LWAR passed away on New Year's Eve, 2010. She leaves behind a legacy of love and care for her family and the world of rescue and the lethal whites.
Written by my cousin to a new member of LWAR-C. We will have to create a primer to hand out to new families.
Well, you'll find that, despite the 'challenges', a deaf and/or blind dog is truly like owning any other dog! First of all - they have no idea that they are 'challenged' - and probably aren't - we humans without challenges just see them as such! So they will be intent on being the normal dogs they believe themselves to be!
These are the areas you want to pay special attention to when owning a deaf and/or blind dog - of any age. Check them out - read EVERYthing you can get your hands on, and research, research, research - and then do some research! It's important for you as an owner and a friend and family of someone deaf and/or blind - two or four legged! The more you understand what you can't feel yourself - the more comfortable you are with those who DO know. And the more comfortable YOU are - the more comfort THEY will know in you. And that's important if you love them.
OK - here's some things we'll go over in this brief lesson on the deaf and/or blind pups:
10 THINGS YOUR DOG WANTS YOU TO LEARN:
1. FITNESS PROGRAM
2. MARK WITH AN 'X'
3. MAP QUESTING
4. PROTECTIVE GEAR
6. LEADER OF THE PACK
7. TRICKS OF THE TRADE
1. FITNESS PROGRAM: You've chosen to own an Australian Shepherd for some reason. Maybe it was their sweet face that attracted you. Or their beautiful coloring and markings. Or maybe it was that remarkable way that puppy had of 'picking you out' of the litter and giving you that look that cried out to your heart. Well - now that you've made your decision based on 'knowledge' - you might want to learn just what it is you've gotten yourself into!
You have chosen a 'working dog'. An Aussie is known as a 'working dog'. They are 'herders' by nature. And they LOVE to be kept BUSY! It is important to an Aussie that they have a job to do. They LOVE working! They have an energy level that can become a bit stressful when you're not used to it or able to keep up.
These dogs require exercise - and the more the better. Long walks are important - and a fenced in area in which they can do their running, pacing or periodic charging at nothing is helpful. But the long walks and other exercising is really important in keeping them happy and more easily 'contained'.
The Australian Shepherd is not a dog for everyone - and a blind and/or deaf one isn't either. But what you'll learn, by choosing a blind and/or deaf Aussie is that there's not a tremendous amount of difference between one that can see and one that can't. The characteristics are similar in those that can hear and those that can't. What you'll learn to understand is that if you learn about the breed - you'll be learning about the breed - regardless of the 'challenges' that may or may not have accompanied the pup. They're WORKING DOGS - all of them!
2. MARK WITH AN 'X': Have you ever been totally engrossed in something - reading or building a model or writing your next best seller - when someone has come up quietly behind you and YELLED right behind your head and you've jumped and jerked and felt like your heart was about to exit your body from your ears? Well - that's a startle that you wished you hadn't had - and that's just what your pup feels like when he or she is startled! NOT a good thing! A dog might respond with a bite - which can present problems for you and them alike.
To startle a blind and/or deaf dog can truly frighten them into defensive behavior, and can result in an unexpected, unwanted bite or two! You'll want to be sure that everyone who enters your house knows that your dog is blind and/or deaf. Put up a sign that not only warns people to be careful, but protects your pup from unwanted behavior from humans! It's also a good idea to 'mark' the dog when you're out and around others. Letting people know that "THIS DOG IS (BLIND AND/OR DEAF' is important and gives fair warning to people that pass by to not reach out and try to pet this dog without him or her knowing that there's someone approaching. One way to do this is by using apron (or vest) so others will know to not startle them. They sell these vests - or you can enjoy some real originality by creating your own! You can paint on them something to the extent of 'I'M BLIND, SO DON'T TOUCH' or 'DEAF DOG WALKING' or whatever you can come up with.
A deaf dog, a blind one, or a deaf/blind dog will usually have a keener sense of smell than the 'normal' pup. Sensory depravation usually does strengthen the other and remaining senses - whether it's people or animals we're referring to, it hardly matters. That keen sense of smell will allow for an earlier alert of oncoming people though - which is important to a pup with either loss.
3. MAP QUESTING: The blind dog will 'map' his/her surroundings. You can help them do that in a couple of ways. You can crawl around on all fours with them on lead and outline the perimeter of each room, the hallways, and the doorways. After that, (or instead of), you can take them for 'walks' around the entire place on leash. They will need to put their noses to the floor and sometimes in the air to get the scent of each room so they can remember by associating the smell with the particular place they find themselves. They will map and they'll do it fast! Give them more and more leash until they are leading YOU around the place! Their pace will pick up - and yes - they'll run into some things at times, but you'll be amazed at how often they don't run into a single thing - even at full speed!
4. PROTECTIVE GEAR: You've seen protective gear for all sorts of work and play. They sell protective coverings for the head, ears, eyes, teeth and hands. They even protect the skin! Well, a pup with a white coat and pink skin should have their skin protected also. They shouldn't be out in the sun for long periods of time or their skin will burn just like fair skinned people will burn. Watch out for the noses too! Pink noses invite sunburn! When you're going to be out in the sun, cover your pink-nosed pup's nose with sun block (they make them for DOGS too) so that their nose won't be painful and red after a fun-filled day!
They sell all sorts of protective coverings for animals - and there's some protective gear that an owner of a blind dog just shouldn't be without! To protect the eyes of a blind pup, there are things such as 'Doggles' - which not only protect the eyes from the light and heat of the sun - but also punctures from corners of coffee tables or the rose bush or just a protruding stray stick. They come in all colors and sizes and can make your pup look as 'hip' as the come! They will be the envy of their neighbors and friends - and you'll see others checking them out for their dogs who aren't blind at all!
A little less 'fad-following' yet very productive is the 'halo necklace'. This disk goes around the dog's neck and looks like the dog's got his head sticking out of a funnel! The disk surrounds the head and keeps the pups from getting close enough to anything to injure them. It's not nearly as fashionable as the Doggles - but it works and it's cheap and it can be made at home by some who are a bit more imaginative than I. They sell them for pups, who aren't only blind, but for those pups who get their ears docked, or for other injuries to the head and/or eye area.
5. STAIR-STEPPING: The blind dog needs to be taught to 'do stairs'. This can be accomplished in so many ways; the owners come up with all sorts of ways themselves since they best know their own dogs. Some will leash and walk slightly in front of but touching the pup with their legs as they descend each step. In time, the pup knows by their positioning with the owner just where each step is. Others have sat on each step - one at a time - and coaxed their pup down each step until they realize that these steps are NOT the 'aussie-eaters' pups sometimes think them to be! Either way - the dogs will eventually KNOW just how many steps there are to a set of stairs - they'll know before WE will because they HAVE to know.
There's always the old familiar 'stomping' too that helps the blind/deaf dog know just where you are. That's important when they're trying to find you. They'll depend on their noses, but they like to have an idea on which way to 'look' - so the stomping is a good thing. Steps are much the same way - the vibrations are important to the blind/deaf dog learning stairs. They will become accustomed to them though - and most will be able to maneuver the stairs all by themselves in time. But take the time it takes - each dog is different - just like humans - and they progress at different rates.
You'll find though that these dogs are brilliant!
They will amaze you...daily!
6. LEADER OF THE PACK: Nothing makes a pup happier than to take their human for a nice, long walk! You can make it easier for them by merely changing the type of leash and/or harness you are using. I find that there's nothing better than the Gentle Leader harness that comes under lots of different names and brands such as Easy Walker. It fits the dog with the d-ring in the front - at the chest - and keeps even the 'pulliest' dog from pulling on the lead. The dog can't help but 'heel' - and it makes for an enjoyable stroll that beats the heck out of that tugging and pulling and fighting that can all but ruin a relaxing walk.
The blind and/or deaf dog needs exercise just as much as the dog with sight and hearing. A nice, long walk is not only enjoyable for you, but for the pup as well. And a sensory deprived dog can enjoy the relaxation of a stroll with his or her favorite human like no other pup! Get the right equipment though before starting out. You'll want to take extra precaution that there's no way your blind/deaf dog can 'back out of' that harness is suddenly frightened. That means you should probably not use a collar - but a harness to hook your leash onto. A good harness will securely hold your pup in - without cutting into his skin - and will not allow for your pup to 'back out of' the harness. Check them out - try them out - and choose one that is the safest for your pet.
To get your pup used to the leash, try leading them around in the house first. You should fix the leash so that it stays on the right side of the dog's head - with it securely held on by your left hand. This keeps the pup on your left side. If you are using the Gentle Leader harness, that's easy enough to do. You can adjust the chest to fit the dog, and ensure the leash stays on the right side of your dog. But first and foremost - let your dog get accustomed to the leash and the harness before taking him or her out into the new sights and/or smells that walk might offer.
Newness is usually an excitable thing to a pup. A new smell/sight to a blind/deaf pup is good reason for excitability, and when your pup is excited - he or she is not going to concentrate on YOU as they should. This can lead to fear, sudden change in direction or pace, or rearing up and backing into a potential danger. Your dog should always be confident that YOU are in command and you are keeping THEM safe while on lead. They should be totally relaxed. Otherwise they aren't enjoying the walk and chances are great - neither are you.
7. TRICKS OF THE TRADE: There are those who train with food and those who train without food. This is an individual choice. Though more often than not, people probably train with food (or treats), I prefer to train for praise. It might take a little longer - but I feel that, in the long run, your pet responds entirely to your command - and not with condition that there's food to be had for doing as he or she is told. Prime example is Gabriel: the white wonder blind and deaf Aussie! Gabriel knew the command 'sit' was executed by touching (and slighting applying pressure to) his nose. And he is VERY quick to 'sit' upon command. IF you have a treat! No treat = No trick! He's adorably convincing too! But it's funny that he's smart enough to say to you - 'yeah, I know you want me to sit, but I'm not gonna do it without a treat - so there!’
We'll compare that philosophy with that of Buffy - my first real dog of my own (that my parents actually raised). Buffy was trained for praise - and not food...a suggestion lent me by an old neighborhood friend who trained Border Collies for shows all over the country. Guy Hilton told me to never use food as a training tool, but to use praise and affection instead. So Buffy was trained to do numerous things upon voice command - without treats. One day though, my brother decided to enter Buffy into a pet contest at our church. He knew she could win - she was brilliant! Their turn came up and he and Buffy took the stage. But Pat made the mistake of taking treats with him, and it didn't matter what command Pat issued Buffy, she was watching his hand that held the treats and didn't focus at all on the words he spoke. She didn't do a single trick that day, as I recall, but her head moved feverishly to every movement of his hand. To Buffy - there were tricks and then there were treats - and never the two met! Since Pat had treats - that meant it was TREAT TIME - not TRICK TIME.
Well, maybe a little mixture of Buffy with Gabriel would bring about the more normal response a dog might give to a command - touch, sign or verbal command. And though Gabriel has learned several tricks by touch commands - you'd better have a treat or two in hand before expecting him to 'play'. He's still proof that blind and deaf pups can and do learn as easily and quickly as any other dog out there! Once WE learn to communicate - they teach US what they are capable of...and Gabriel was capable of winning THIRD PLACE BEST PET TRICKS at a 2007 Pet Fling!
(Yes, I had treats that day!)
I should also add that Gabriel has learned some additional tricks besides just sitting. He also has learned 'lie down' (tap on his chest) and 'up' (tap on his head) AND he plays ball! He'll bring something to me and I'll take it - make him 'sit' (the one time he'll do it without food), and then tap the thing three times on the top of his head. (Three times is VERY important...not twice...not four times...THREE). Then I throw it down near him, he'll feel the vibration, and actually 'fetch'. He loves this little game!! And, believe me; he's proud as punch when he 'finds' the toy! He'll bring it back over and over and over again!
Now the funny side to this is...when I was teaching Gabe to 'lie down', his lab/mix 'sister' was lying on the sofa watching. Of course, I was using treats for this one. Ambrr, the lab (and the Nana Dog of this pack) suddenly flew off the sofa, slid to a stop on her belly right next to Gabriel and right in front of my 'treat hand'. She had learned the trick from across the room! So - treats or no treats? It's really up to you....and sometimes the dog!
For a blind only pup, it's a bit easier than with a deaf or a blind deaf pup. At least the human has to work less! You'll see that by teaching them the usual commands of 'sit', 'down', 'stay' and such - your life and the life of your dog will become calmer. You'll have more immediate control over the actions of the dog - which makes your dog happy. It takes the worry out of the pup that he or she is RESPONSIBLE for what goes on around him or her. Your pup will know that YOU have it all in control and all they have to do is relax and enjoy!
When you're working with a deaf pup, it's important to keep touching him or her to let the pup know that you're there and 'in control'. Whether or not you use treats to train, you've got to have your pup's attention. He or she will have to be able to focus. With a deaf dog and certainly a blind deaf dog - there is less distraction, so they might pick up on what you want out of them quicker! You will have to use whatever best works for your pup. You and your pup will become a team - and it will take team effort to make it all come together, so you'll have to get to know your pup and you'll have to always portray the fact that you are in command - you are ALPHA. Your pup will thank you for it...with or without a treat!
My suggestion is that you and your pup sign up for obedience school and take the classes right along side those 'normal' dogs and show them all just what you can do! Gabriel's sister Allicks - a blind but hearing Aussie - was the very first graduate from the Bluffton PetSmart Puppy School in Beaufort County , South Carolina ! She can do it all - and she wants to do more! She's blind, but I swear can hear and smell things miles away! And she's the perfect example of the WORKING AUSSIE - always ready to go - pacing and racing and READY!
High energy: they already have it - you'll need to acquire it!
EDUCATION, EDUCATION, and EDUCATION:
A good FIRST STEP toward EDUCATING... Take the advice of Michelle and sign Pepper up for some obedience classes. You can go to your neighborhood PetSmart and Pepper will not only learn and benefit, but you'll be showing a lot of people that 'handicapped' pups can learn just as fast (and faster sometimes) than other dogs. You will be saving lives - believe me - just being out there and visible to the rest of the world!!
A good SECOND STEP is to join LWARC - Lethal White Aussie Rescue Carolinas. The group is filled with owners of Lethal Whites. There is immeasurable knowledge and experience here that you can benefit from while you share your own experiences and questions with the rest of our members! Go to this site and hit JOIN and you're in!! I'll contact you again afterwards and get some other info from you that will help build our database: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Leth ... sieRescue/
You will also want to sign up with and join Blind-Deaf Dogs: a group of members with blind/deaf dogs and again - loads of experience to share! You'll find them here: http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/blind-deaf-dog
. Also - there's a group called Blind Dogs (http://www.blinddogs.net
) which will offer lots of resources and assistance. One great site where you'll find numerous areas of advice is: http://www.handicappedpets.com
. You can ask for answers to whatever issues and find the answers! You'll find that there are truly an unlimited number of sites out there Tim and they each are dedicated to the journey of the blind, the deaf, and the otherwise handicapped animal.
When we started out here, I told you that you had chosen a high-energy dog known as a 'working dog' in the 'herding' group. The Australian Shepherd, like the Border collie, is willing and ready and eager dogs who do whatever they can do to please us. They turn inside out when just hearing us utter their names! Their tails - whether long or docked - become another version of their smile, and they prance and strut their pride and capabilities and accomplishments!
You should get hold of everything you can on this breed of dog. Read whatever the internet offers, and then search for some more. Watch every video and pick out the Aussies in every dog show televised. Just recently as Aussie won Best in Show, which isn't seen but rarely since they haven't been out there on the show circuit nearly as long as their 'cousins' - the Border Collie. These highly intelligent dogs are making their progress through the ranks though, and are becoming more and more popular every day!
You can find them advertised and sold just about everywhere...which brings me to a very important aspect of EDUCATION - breeding practices!
Chances are good that you'll run into others whose Aussie is not your typical Australian Shepherd, but what is called in parts of the Aussie World as the 'Lethal White Aussie'; mostly white coat with just spots of coloring; pink or mostly pink nose, perhaps pink pearl eyes if intact at all, and most probably blind or deaf or both. This is the Lethal White Aussie. And this is all due to greed and/or ignorance of the human being - the "supreme animal" who has been grated charge over this planet. And it is through their irresponsible breeding practices that this genetic error produces the Lethal White - a usually culled-by-demand pup.
The fact that you have a Lethal White is luck - most of them are killed at birth or shortly thereafter.
EDUCATION 10.1 + 1/2
(THAT LITTLE BIT OF EXTRA)
Visit this site: http://www.magicalworldoflethalwhites.freeservers.com
and you'll learn FIRST HAND just what a Lethal White and their lives are all about! This site has been "designed, created and maintained" by two Lethals - Allicks and Gabriel. They try to educate everyone - young and old on the genetic defect that's behind the Lethal - and other safety tips worth reading about. You'll not only learn more about the Lethal - but more about what all they are capable of doing!!
Thanks for taking the chance on this pup, Tim. I think you'll learn that you have now given yourself and those around you an opportunity to experience the MAGIC that these dogs truly do offer! There's a lot to learn, but a whole lot more to enjoy! And there are lots more sites to visit too. We've got several listed on our LINKS page of LWARC, including our new forum that's now getting up and running! So you aren't in this alone - that you can be sure of! I'm anxious to see how you enjoy this new life!! JOIN LWARC - and I'll be talking to you again!