The pup is a 13 week old male gsd in a non-shelter SPCA. Completely blind, permanently, probably congenital and with possible additional brain development problems. The foster mom is committed to placing him, though she's probably not the ideal place for him to be because she's got a number of other fosters (far too many). There's no other foster to move him too and euthanasia isn't a sellable solution. So I'm looking for training suggestions that will prepare him for placement and make that transition easier. Redwood shavings are being used as a substrate for housetraining and he's clicker conditioned and I've got her started on directional commands. Anybody got suggestions or experience training a blind-from-birth dog?
TIA,
Lynn K.
The pup is a 13 week old male gsd in a non-shelter SPCA. Completely blind, permanently, probably congenital and with ... he's clicker conditioned and I've got her started on directional commands. Anybody got suggestions or experience training a blind-from-birth dog?

I know a lady in MD - Baltimore I think - who has a blind from birth collie (I can't remember if I know her online from the newsgroups as well as collie-l). She's done a lot with Bonnie. Since she can't show her in AKC, she's done a lot of unusual activities - draft work, rally (adpt?), and weight pulling. She's done obedience matches but no organization will let a blind dog compete in a real show. She's said that many folks have no idea that Bonnie is blind. I've met Bonnie-the-Collie at a collie nationals and she was fine even in the middle of a big indoor show.
So Bonnie is an example of a blind from birth dog who did good. I know that her owner's training was a big part but I also suspect that Bonnie has a good solid temperament to start with: the kind that is not overly reactive and can rebound positively from surprises. So the question I have is what kind of basic temperament does this GSD pup have? Hopefully it's a decent one. I would socialize him like a regular pup with additional work on being touched all over (especially sudden touches) and sounds.

He needs to learn what to do (a plan of action) when he's surprised and what to do when he needs security and reassurance. His handler needs to be his seeing-eye-human and watch for him when going to new places. This is a big job and not something to take on casually - if his handler tells him it's OK to go forward and he falls into a hole, he won't have much confidence in her. I seem to recall that blind dogs are taught "up" to take stairs going up and "down" (or some other word) to indicate stairs going down.

And I think there's more to the stair guidance - something about how to tell the dog when it's reached the top or bottom. I also recall that the handler gives some sort of sound or word to inform the dog that something different is coming up (going from concrete to gravel or that he will step into a puddle or that he will brush against bushes).
Chris and her smoothies,
Pablo and Lucy the Silly Goose
Thanks, Chris. All of that is very helpful and exactly the kind of tips I was looking for. So far the pup seems happy, social and willing.

Lynn K.

He needs to learn
Thanks, Chris. All of that is very helpful and exactly the kind of tips I was looking for. So far the pup seems happy, social and willing.

I thought the information at blinddogs.com was extremely useful when I first brought Saber into the house. It is, however, oriented towards making your house/lifestyle navigable for a dog that can't see, rather than training a blind dog to be able to better get around.
I haven't read
http://www.petcarebooks.com/books/living blind.htm but other people with blind dogs recommend it pretty consistently.
Melinda Shore - Software longa, hardware brevis - (Email Removed)

Prouder than ever to be a member of the reality-based community
I haven't read http://www.petcarebooks.com/books/living blind.htm but other people with blind dogs recommend it pretty consistently.

I recall that I liked her book on epilepsy - I haven't cracked it in a couple of years.

Matt. Rocky's a Dog.