Saturday, February 11, 2023

The Future of the White Dog Blog

I want to graciously thank all of you.  You have been following and reading the White Dog Blog for many years and sharing it with others to greatly improve the lives of our blind and/or deaf dogs and to educate about the impacts of breeding merle to merle.  You have helped Treasure and I to change the world - one heart and one blog post at a time.

The White Dog Blog is not disappearing - it is just changing.  If you haven't found us already, the blog has moved to my website where it can be more easily located and accessed by people looking for information about blind and/or deaf dogs and about the other training that I do through Your Inner Dog.

I invite you to check out the new continuing blog there.  I have totally new posts and information there, and I will be working my way through these original posts and updating them with new perspectives and information about how I approach things now.  The updated posts will appear on the website blog.  

For now, I will leave these original posts here, as there is a lot of great information in them.  As I get them updated and moved to the website, I will re-evaluate what will happen to this original blog.  But right now, you are super lucky, as there will now to TWO White Dog Blogs for you to enjoy.

For anyone who hasn't checked out my website lately, you'll notice a new look and new classes, programs and offerings.  I am expanding the ways in which I'm able to support people and dogs of all abilities. 

I hope to see you there!  You can also follow me on Facebook for even more tips and fun - (10) Your Inner Dog | Facebook

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Happy 10th Anniversary!

Treasure, the girl who started it all!

The White Dog Blog is officially TEN (10) years old today!  

I started this blog shortly after I adopted Treasure, my blind deaf double merle sheltie.  At that time, there was barely any information available to people about how to communicate and live with dogs that were both blind and deaf.  This blog became one of only a few resources.  The others offered only a page of information and gave some tips but nothing practical about daily life. 

If you'd like to read our very first blog post, you can find it here: That Poor Dog!

Only ten years ago, dogs that were born both blind and deaf were euthanized most of the time.  Rescues, shelters, and others had no idea that blind deaf dogs were capable of living and enjoying happy lives, or that they were trainable.  

We set out to disprove many myths and misunderstandings.  We provided a complete picture of what living with a blind deaf dog could be like.  And we started ripples of change - change in people's perspectives, change for a blind deaf dog's future, change in breeding practices.  

This blog started as a way to offer people accurate and positive information about rescuing, living with, and training blind deaf dogs.  It has become the go-to resource for people worldwide about double merles, blind, deaf and blind deaf dogs.  And while this has been the focus of the White Dog Blog, many others follow the blog for great information about dogs in general. 

Blind and/or deaf dogs are just like other dogs (they just can't see or hear) and positive teaching techniques, information about behavior, and living life in general with dogs, all applies to them as well.  There are many posts on the White Dog Blog that pertain to all dogs - no matter what breed, age, or their abilities.

The response to this blog has been tremendous and word continues to spread as more people adopt blind and/or deaf dogs and are looking for a resource to get them started on their journey.  My sincere appreciation to all who regularly refer others to the blog for current, accurate and positive information.  With your help, many more dogs with varying abilities will find loving, forever homes because their humans will know how and where to get started. 

The blog is now followed by dog rescues, shelters, foster homes, adoptive homes, breeders, dog walkers and sitters, trainers, groomers, veterinarians, behaviorists, potential adopters, those who live with and love dogs, and has a worldwide following.  

We have helped many dogs to find homes over the past 10 years, working with rescues, shelters, fosters, and most importantly, encouraging potential and new adopters.  The blog has led to two books being published about blind and/or deaf dogs.  And, the blog allows my dogs' many fans to keep up with their antics through updates and pictures. 

If you'd like an easy-to-use blog reference guide that will allow you to find topics of posts more easily, follow this link: Easy Blog Reference Guide.  

Thank you everyone for a great ten years!  

Happy Anniversary White Dog Blog!  

Friday, August 7, 2020

Using Enrichment Positively

Enrichment is a hot topic these days in the world of animals.  Zoos use enrichment to provide the animals in their care with activities to keep their minds and bodies busy during the day in ways that mimic behaviors they might do in the wild.  Shelters use enrichment to keep the animals in their care calmer and healthier while they are waiting for new homes.  

Those of us living with animals in our homes and on our farms also use enrichment to prevent boredom, reduce stress, and provide our animals with opportunities to use their minds and bodies throughout the day.

It's important to tailor enrichment to your individual animal. I see some very elaborate and exciting new enrichment ideas online, and this is great and shows much creativity. 

I also see many people who comment that their dogs aren't interested in enrichment activities.  Animals, like people, find different things interesting and engaging.  Not all dogs will enjoy solving complex puzzles for food.  Dogs have different preferences for how they approach and interact with their environment.  

Using enrichment to have a positive impact on our dog's health and well-being involves finding what our individual dog enjoys and is interested in.  Finding activities that we also enjoy is helpful, because the more we enjoy doing the activities with our dogs, or watching them participate, the more likely we are to give these opportunities to them!  

It's popular to give our dogs enrichment toys and games that involve food because many dogs are interested in food, and because it's easy for us to put some of our dog's food into a puzzle toy.  My own dogs enjoy food puzzle games and toys. There are many ways you can incorporate food into enrichment for your dog.  

While many dogs do enjoy food-related activities and games, many dogs will also find these very frustrating.  After a while of being frustrated, they may even give up, finding the puzzles we create to be too difficult.  It's important to take the time to teach your dog how to use various food puzzles and toys, and to keep them easy so your dog can be successful before increasing the challenge. 

Enrichment doesn't need to involve food.  It can be as easy as allowing your dog to choose to follow a scent in a new direction on your walk.  You can also provide various scents for your dog to explore in safe ways in the yard or house.  Some dogs enjoy watching things, listening to things, or feeling various textures and surfaces like water in a wading pool. 

The key is to offer your dog a variety of things to try and see which ones he really shows interest in.  

Enrichment should allow your dog to explore and choose to participate in activities that he enjoys in a relaxed way.  If your dog is getting frantic about a food puzzle toy, ask yourself if the toy is enriching your dog's experience or if your dog is getting frustrated.  

Enrichment is not meant to be difficult, although adding challenges in small increments can be very good for your dog's mental well-being.  Allow your dog to succeed in the activities and toys that you provide.  This builds confidence so your dog is more likely to participate next time, and helps your time together to be enjoyable.  

If you'd like more great enrichment ideas, you can check out my online class here and read more posts on this blog for great ideas!  These are suitable for dogs that are blind and/or deaf, or that are seeing and hearing.  Dogs of all abilities enjoy enrichment!  

**For more information about blind and/or deaf dogs, visit my website at  You will find articles, books, online classes and resources there to assist you!  To subscribe to this blog and receive emails as each new post is published, please scroll to the blog header at the top of the page and add your email address!**

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Useful Verbal Cues for Blind Dogs

A blind dog with useful hearing will appreciate you teaching and using verbal cues to help her navigate her environment safely and with as little stress as possible.  Keeping our blind dogs safe is a consideration that is always foremost in our minds.  How helpless we feel when we are across the room or yard and we see them about to crash into something they can't see.

Teaching your dog some safety words and words to describe what's happening around her can help make our job easier and can keep our dog safer.   Knowing what to expect will also help to alleviate anxiety and stress for the dog, which will decrease many unwanted behaviors.

Safety Words

Wait/Stop: This may be the word you'll use the most to prevent your dog from bumping into things and moving forward into dangerous situations.  There are a couple of ways to teach it.  You can use both in combination or choose what works best for you and your dog.

In day to day life, when you are close to your dog, say Wait and immediately use your hands to prevent your dog from moving forward.  As soon as she pauses, praise her and give her a treat.  Then give her an All Clear cue and allow her to move again.  It is important to say the word immediately before (not at the same time) as you stop your dog.  This allows her time to hear and recognize the word before you stop her.  Gradually you will need to physically stop her less and less as she starts to understand and respond to the Wait word.  With repetition, she will learn to stop when you say Wait, and to move when you say All Clear.

I also like to teach this with the dog on a leash and walking with me.  I practice Wait on walks and in all environments so I have peace of mind that when I really need it, my dog will respond quickly.  On a walk, I will cue Wait and then stop walking as I prevent my dog from moving forward.  Again, I praise and treat when she stops and I practice until she can stop on her own with just my verbal cue to Wait.  Continue to reinforce this behavior with praise, petting and treats to keep it strong.

Curb: This is a cue used to tell your dog to take a step down at a curb or a small step down.  You will have probably already used your Wait cue above to get your dog to stop at the edge of the curb.  Simply say the word Curb as you help lead your dog down the step, then praise and treat.  Your dog will learn this cue with practice and repetition.

Step up: Step Up is the cue used to tell my dog to step up onto the top of a curb or other step upwards.  After the Wait cue to tell my dog to stop at the bottom of the step, I will use the cue Step Up and then guide my dog up the step.  She will learn this with consistent practice and rewards.

Come to me: It's important for all dogs, including blind dogs, to learn to come to us immediately when we call.  This is safety at its finest - to be able to call our dog away from dangerous situations.  With a blind dog, we do need to keep in mind the environment we are calling our dog in.  If there are obstacles in the path back to us, it is likely that our dog will bump into them on her way to us.  This can actually be upsetting to the dog and she may begin to associate us calling her with bumping into things.  It's important to ensure that when we call our dog, the pathway is clear to get to us.  If it's not, it's better to try to get to our dog quickly instead.

Choose a word that you will only use for your dog to come to you quickly - Cookies, for example.  When you first start calling your dog, do it very close to her and give her lots of cookies.  Gradually move farther away from her so she learns to come towards you to get her cookies.  Keep in mind that your dog can't see where you are when you call.  She will hear your initial call, but then if you are quiet, she may not know where you are.  As you call a blind dog, continue to make a noise - clap, pat your leg, continue to talk, etc - so she can follow the sound and come right to you.

Words for Walks

Let's go: This cue will let your dog know that you're going to start walking and you want her to come along with you now.  She will learn it with repetition.  As you give the cue, it may be helpful to continue to talk to her or pat your leg to encourage her so she knows which direction you're moving.  Some people will wear a small bell which will provide ongoing sound for the dog to orient to while you're on walks.

Right/Left: These are helpful cues to let your dog know which way you'll be turning.  Give the cue before you actually turn and then help your dog to go in that direction.

Close to me: This cue will bring the dog in closer to you to make passing trees, hydrants, and other people easier.  You will need to guide your dog closer to you and may need to at first keep a shorter leash to keep her close to you.

Dog friend: Your blind dog won't be able to see other dogs approaching her.  Even if the dogs aren't going to meet, if you will be passing another dog, your dog will surely smell it.  I find it's handy to point out a Dog Friend as a dog is approaching or passing us, and then to keep talking happily and feed my dog many small treats.  This can prevent my dog from learning to pull towards other dogs as her attention will be on me for the treats, and it can prevent my dog from being startled by there suddenly being another dog smell in her space.

Say hello: You may meet people on your walk who want to stop and greet you and your dog.  Your dog will smell them but won't be able to see them reaching out a hand.  Most people reach out a hand to a dog for a sniff before they touch.  You can teach your dog to sniff for someone's hand on a cue Say Hello.  If your dog wants to greet the person, that can offer a chance for her to prepare herself for touch so she's not suddenly being touched by a stranger.

Day to Day Words

Petting/Touch: It's a courtesy to let a blind dog know before you touch or pet her.  She may or may not be aware that you're going to reach for her, and letting her know before you touch her will give her a moment to prepare herself.  She will be less likely to be startled.  This might be as simple as saying the dog's name first, or as elaborate as telling her which part of the body you're going to touch - ears, belly rub, etc.

Grooming: Dogs can tell the difference between pieces of grooming equipment and learn to associate them with how the tool is used.  Take the time when grooming your blind dog to tell them which tool you're going to use.  With consistent repetition, she will learn each of them by name.  How much nicer is it to your dog to know the brush is coming next, or the nail clippers, or the scissors, than to be surprised and startled with each one?

Elevator: Small dogs who are picked up will be very happy to have a cue that means, I'm going to pick you up now.  Not all dogs enjoy being picked up, although many tolerate it.  Knowing they will be picked up is going to be much nicer than suddenly being swooped up from the ground with no warning.  Blind dogs can't see you bending and see the body language associated with you picking them up.  Give them a verbal cue to let them know before you pick them up.

Sound words: There may be sounds that startle or scare your dog because they are sudden, loud or unusual.  Adding a cue word to tell your dog what the sound is can be helpful to helping her return to a state of calm.  Telling your dog that a noise is a motorcycle may not help her to know what a motorcycle is, but it will tell her by the matter of fact tone of your voice that it's not a big deal to stay upset about.  And the more you hear motorcycles, and name them for her, she will begin over time to recognize the word.  If you remain calm in the way you name the noises for her, you will be helping her not to be as upset by them.

Bedtime: Some blind dogs are challenged to know what behaviors we expect at certain times of the day. They are not seeing the visual cues of us getting ready for bed and they can remain active at night while we're trying to sleep.  There are many cues we can use to help our dog distinguish bedtime from daytime, and adding a verbal Night, Night cue can add to these.

**For more information about blind and/or deaf dogs, visit my website at  You will find articles, books, online classes and resources there to assist you!  To subscribe to this blog and receive emails as each new post is published, please scroll to the blog header at the top of the page and add your email address!**

Friday, May 8, 2020

Blind Dogs and Fear Aggression

Some dogs that are going blind begin showing behaviors like growling, snapping, or biting.  This is very disturbing to the dog's family.  Suddenly the dog they thought they knew is acting very uncharacteristically.

The dog may be snapping at family members or other animals in the home.  If these behaviors are not understood and dealt with in the proper ways, they can escalate.

There is a period of transition when a dog is losing or has lost her sight.  How long this transition lasts is dependent upon the individual situation.  There are some things we can do to help a blind dog adjust while also keeping everyone safe.

Realize the Reason

If you can imagine for a moment that your vision is deteriorating or has suddenly disappeared, I'm sure you would be feeling a bit scared and uncertain.  As your dog is becoming blind, her world is feeling scary and uncertain now too.

There is no one specific way of becoming blind, so it's difficult to know for sure what your dog is seeing or not seeing in most cases.  But we can be sure that your dog's way of experiencing the world is changing drastically.   What she once thought was normal and made sense to her no longer feels that way.

If she's in the process of losing her vision, she may still be able to see, but what she sees may no longer make sense to her.  What she sees may be blurry, distorted, or have large areas of darkness within her line of sight.  She may be able to see light and dark contrast, or she may not.  Bright light may be painful to her or completely white out anything she may still be able to see in the shade.  Her depth perception may be changing.  She may not know how far down a step is or how close something is to her.

Perhaps your dog has become blind very suddenly.  This would be similar to the power going out and you trying to navigate in complete darkness.  Most of us would run into things, stub our toe, be startled by someone else running into us, knock things off the table, etc.  It's very disorienting to suddenly be in darkness.

As you can imagine, these changes are confusing to your dog.  She's going to be scared and unsure about her surroundings and what's going on around her.

When dogs are not feeling safe and secure, they may begin to show behaviors that people often interpret as aggressive - growling, snapping, and biting.  Your dog is not being mean or bad if she shows these behaviors.  She's telling you in the only way she knows how that she is not feeling safe.  She has needs that aren't being met, and she's doing what she knows how to do to cope in that moment.

If your dog doesn't feel safe in her environment because she's perceiving it differently now that she's losing her sight, she will be on edge and more alert to everything going on around her.  While she's on edge, anything else that happens to her, or anyone who approaches her, may scare her even more and feel like a potential threat to her safety and well-being.

When you are feeling your way around that dark room when the electricity goes out and you hear a noise, you are going to be much more startled by it than you would be in the daylight.  Your senses are on higher alert as you are feeling your way around the room, so you will be more startled by noises or unexpected bumps than you would be if you were feeling secure in your environment.

When your dog is in her environment but things don't look right to her, she will be more easily startled as well.  When a dog is startled, she may feel unsafe and will attempt to keep whatever has startled her or feels threatening away from her.  She does this by growling - that is how a dog says "stay away."  When that threat keeps its distance or goes away, the dog feels safer.  A growl is her way of trying to feel safe by creating distance around her.

If the dog still doesn't feel safe, or if the threat continues to affect her, she will escalate her growl to a snap and perhaps a bite in the direction of the threat.  Again, she's trying to create safety for herself.  She's not trying to be mean.  She's protecting herself from something she doesn't feel good about.

Learn the Signs

Your dog will show certain behaviors when she is feeling unsure.  Learn the signs of uncertainty so you can help your dog before she feels that she needs to growl or snap.

You may notice your dog staying in one place a lot of the time.  This can be due to uncertainty.  She may be afraid to move because of the unknown (what she can no longer see).  She may not know what's in front of her or where she is in the room.  She may feel safer staying in one spot than venturing out to move around freely.  Some dogs look like they are sleeping a lot, but if you watch, you will see that they are awake.

You may notice her moving very slowly if she does move around.  This is a sign that while she is wanting to move around, she's still not feeling very safe in her environment.  She may avoid being touched or doing things that she used to like to do - going for a walk, playing, eating or drinking.  You might notice her turning her head or body away from you or from something you're trying to engage her with.

There are many good resources that can help you learn to recognize signs of stress and fear in dogs.  Some of these signs are very subtle, but they are important ways in which your dog is communicating with you.

When you notice the subtle signs that your dog is not feeling comfortable, you are in a position to do something to help her.  Helping her to feel safer when she's showing these little signs will build her trust in you, and hopefully prevent her from feeling she needs to protect herself by growling or biting.

How to Help

What your dog needs now more than anything is for you to create an environment and routine where she feels safe.  You may know that she's safe and there's nothing that can hurt her, but until she also feels safe within herself, that feeling of uncertainty and being on edge is not going to go away.  Look at things from her perspective as much as you can.  Help create that space where she truly feels safe, and she won't feel the need to protect herself anymore.

Keep your dog's space and routine as consistent as possible.  She will feel safer knowing where she is, where the furniture and other objects are, and what is coming up next in her day.  Begin to guide her gently to help her learn new ways of navigating her environment.

Some dogs prefer a smaller area to navigate as they transition to losing their sight.  This usually isn't forever, but blocking off a room or even part of a room for your dog may help her feel safer.  She will feel more contained and will only need to map out and experience a small area and not the whole house or yard all at once, which might feel overwhelming.

Dogs that can hear will appreciate being notified of things happening in their environment with verbal cues and sounds.  Speak when you come into the room and let her know when you are leaving the room.  This can be as simple as saying "Hello, Penny" when you enter the room, and "I'll be back" when you leave.

If your dog is also deaf, teach touch cues and just touch base with your dog when you enter the room and leave.  If your dog is unsure of being touched at this point, you can gently toss a treat to her so it lands near her and touches her lightly.  This will help her be aware of you being in her space.

Take time to condition your dog that touch and being surprised are good things.  If you've taught this previously, this is the perfect time to begin to practice it again as a refresher.  It's also a great time to teach your dog a cue that means you're going to touch her now.  Use a verbal cue for dogs that can hear.  It may be enough for you to ask her if she'd like to be pet now before you touch her, or your dog may prefer you adding a name for various body parts that you're going to touch - would you like a belly rub?  I'm going to wipe your feet now.  How about an ear rub?

This allows your dog time to prepare herself for your touch instead of your hand just plunking down on her body.  Knowing what's coming allows a dog to feel safer with what's going to happen.  Tell your dog throughout the day what you're about to do - put a leash on, fill the water bowl, etc.  She will learn through repetition.  Remember, she used to get this information by watching you.  But she can't see now, so you can give her this information in another way.

Many blind dogs don't like to be bumped into or awakened suddenly.  If there are other animals or young children in the home, closely supervise them.  Even if your dog has been fine with them in the past, remember that now she is losing the ability to gather information visually.  She won't see them approaching her, and it can be scary to be grabbed or bumped into suddenly if you don't know it's coming.

You can give your dog advance information cues to let her know that the baby is nearby or the cat is approaching her so she's not startled with them suddenly being close or touching her.  It's also important to give your dog alone time without interruptions when she can relax and sleep soundly.  Sleep is important to all of us.  It is important especially during this time of transition that you create a safe place for your dog to get uninterrupted sleep. 

Dogs that are deaf and are losing their sight can be given informational cues through touches on different parts of their bodies.  Take the time to condition touch as a good thing first.  If you try to add touch cues before your dog feels safe, you may trigger behaviors such as growling or snapping.  Always pay attention to your dog's body language and what she's communicating to you.  Don't be afraid to hire a positive reinforcement based trainer to help you through the transition if needed.

Some dogs are more startled and concerned about noises as they lose their sight.  Normally a dog would hear a noise and then look to see what it was and where it was coming from.  A dog hearing a noise but not knowing where it's coming from or what's happening can feel uneasy.  This can lead to feelings of anxiety.

Give your dog information about noises in her environment.  If you use the same words and a calm tone each time, she will begin to recognize that the noise is something that happens regularly and is not something that you're concerned about.  Calming music or a white noise machine can help to mask noises during the day or night that your dog may be concerned about.

Other Resources

Here are some other related resources you may find helpful:

Learning a New Way to Communicate 

Encouraging Play and Activity with Newly Blind Dogs

Conditioning Touch

Signs of Stress

Tips for Stress Reduction

**For more information about blind and/or deaf dogs, visit my website at  You will find articles, books, online classes and resources there to assist you!  To subscribe to this blog and receive emails as each new post is published, please scroll to the blog header above and add your email address!**

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Day in the Life ... Vinny

Most of Vinny's fans see him when he's in public - doing demos, therapy visits, or doing dog sports.  Today we're going to share with you the nitty gritty of his day to day life at home - what is it really like to live with a blind and deaf dog who doesn't know any better?  Who better to tell you, than Vinny himself?!

"Sometimes I sleep on the big bed with Mom, but other times I sleep in my dog bed on the floor.  I always try to keep Mom guessing, so there's really no pattern to my choice, although I do like to get on the big bed to cuddle most nights while Mom reads her book or writes.

When she starts to move around in the morning, I know it's time to get up!  I give her kisses and try to play with her, even when she wants to sleep more.  Sometimes I wait for her to let me know that my dog friends are not on the floor by the bed so I can jump off.  Usually I can tell by smelling, but sometimes it smells like they might still be there.  But if Mom tells me to jump off then I know the coast is clear.  It's rude to jump down on top of my dog friends, so I always try to be careful since I can't see them there.

Mom takes us outside to take care of our business.  I wait by the door until she opens it and we have a special way we go through together, so I don't hit my nose on the doorway.  At the top of the stairs, I pause for just a moment to find the top step. Then away I go!  Mom sometimes tries to slow me down if I'm too fast.  I've been known to try to jump down the stairs in my excitement - but Mom says this is a problem since I can't see just how far I have left to jump! 

When I walk (or run) on the stairs, I know exactly how many steps I have to go up or down in my house.  I do the steps many times every day.  Mom says I count them. 

Then it's playtime!  I bring my toys to Mom and convince her to play with me.  We have a little game, but it's never long enough since she has to get in the shower and get ready for work.  I try to get her to play just a little longer with me every day, but she always has to get ready.  I love my toys and playing with my Mom.  So, instead, while she gets ready, I play with my dog friends and we bark and wrestle and run into things.

Then we all get breakfast.  I enjoy eating from my food puzzle toys most of all.  I like to pick them up and toss them on the floor so all the food comes out!  Sometimes Mom will give me a box with my breakfast inside and let me tear it up.  That's fun too!

When Mom goes to work, I nap most of the day.  I have favorite toys and bones, and my dog friends, but mostly we nap or chew our bones and toys.

If Mom doesn't go to work, there are all sorts of fun things we may do.  It might be a grooming day - which is not usually my favorite, but I get treats and lots of fun playtime afterwards, so I put up with it.  We may have a fun class to go to where I can meet more of my friends and learn fun stuff.   We might go on a therapy visit to meet our friends there and help people smile.

If we go somewhere in the car, I know to put my front feet up and wait.  Mom will take off my leash and then boost me into the van the rest of the way.  She taught me not to jump all the way in, because often there is a crate door or some other obstacle in the way that I would hit my nose on.  She takes good care to look out for me.  I put my front feet in, and when she's ready and the path is clear, she boosts me in the rest of the way.

More playtime is always good!  I like to play tug games with Mom.  I shake my toys and I like toys that crinkle.  I can feel them crunch in my mouth when I play with them.  I also like to catch.  I give my Mom the toy and then I wait - paying attention to the sky.  I know my toy is going to come dropping out of the sky, so I pay attention so I can catch it when it does!  I'm pretty good at catching! 

And walks are fun too!  Sometimes I go on walks with my other dog friends.  Sometimes I go on walks on a long leash so I can run and smell all the amazing things that dogs love!  Mom might even hide some treats along our path for me to find.  I'm really good at smelling and finding them all!

We have training time when Mom and I practice our lessons.  There's always treats and playtime mixed in to these lessons.  Mom uses different touches to let me know what we're going to work on.  I pay close attention so I can remember which touch means which exercise.

There's always nap time in the day again somewhere - after all, I do need my beauty sleep.  Mom works on her computer sometimes and I sleep by her feet so I can easily tell when she's done and gets up to take a break.  I can feel her feet move, so I know I better get up.  She might be going to the treat cupboard, after all.

Speaking of snacks, Mom likes to have a snack when she is writing, and when I smell one of her snacks, I ask very politely if I may also have a bite of her snack.  I stick my nose up very close and take a big smell to make sure it's something that I might like.  Mom knows I won't try to take any.  Then if the smell passes my inspection, I sit politely next to her leg and ask her for a bit like Lassie would.  Because, I am a collie too, of course!  I place one paw very gently on her knee while I'm sitting and I wait.  Sure enough, here comes a little bite for me!

At bedtime, I usually climb into bed and cuddle with Mom until she's ready to go to sleep.  Then I will decide if I want to get down and go to my bed, or stay on the big bed.  I like to sleep very close and touching Mom so I can know that she's alright if I wake up during the night.  Sometimes I sleep so closely that she keeps rolling to the edge of the bed, and then she has to wake me up to move me over a bit.

I have a really good and active life.  Most days are not the same as the day before, which I think is something called enrichment.  Whatever it is, I like it!"

**For more information about blind and/or deaf dogs, visit my website at  You will find articles, books, online classes and resources there to assist you!  To subscribe to this blog and receive emails as each new post is published, please scroll to the blog header above and add your email address!**

Friday, March 20, 2020

Conquering the Jumper

Why do dogs jump up?

Chances are, you've all experienced it - either being jumped on by a dog, or having a dog that jumps up onto others!  Jumping up is a common dog-related behavior that is often misunderstood.

Dogs greet their dog friends and family happily and face-to-face contact is important to them and is part of their greeting ritual behavior.  Puppies especially greet adults by licking at their faces.

Our dogs jump up because they want to greet us and others.  But we are not normally down on the dog's level.  Our faces and hands are usually up above the dog's face height.  Dogs learn very quickly that jumping up allows them to reach our hands - which often pet them or play with them or hold good things!  And often, people are quick to reach to pet a cute puppy that is jumping up, thus reinforcing this behavior and encouraging it to happen again and again.

Why do dogs continue to jump?

Jumping up often escalates quickly into a dog's nails raking at skin and clothing, the dog mouthing at hands and arms excitedly, and even the dog slamming its body against the person harder and harder.

Many people give the advice to ignore a dog that is jumping up, saying the dog will stop if it gets no attention.  While I have seen this work in a few situations, in the majority of situations, I see the dog's behavior escalating as in the previous scenario.

A dog that is used to getting a reaction in some way when it jumps will quickly get frustrated as the person tries to ignore its behavior.  The frustration leads to the dog trying even harder to get a response from the person - mouthing, body slamming, raking with nails, etc.  The more frustrated the dog gets, the more aroused it gets, and the more intense the dog's behavior becomes.

If we try to ignore the dog's escalating behavior, at some point, we won't be able to ignore it anymore.  It will begin to become very uncomfortable, painful perhaps.  Then we finally react!  The dog has just learned that if he persists longer and harder, he can get a reaction from us/or the person he is jumping on.  This is really the exact opposite of the result we want.

What's reinforcing the dog's behavior?

In order for the dog to continue the jumping behavior, something must be reinforcing the behavior.  For each dog this might be different.

Is there that one person who seems to like the dog jumping up?  Who always pets and coos at the dog while it's front feet are up off the ground and says, oh don't worry about it?

Is there an opportunity for the dog to jump up on someone and snatch a toy or food from a person's hand?

Is the dog wanting attention and the only way to get attention is by getting scolded to stop jumping?  Or is the dog jumping and interpreting the person's flailing arms and pushing away as play?

If you think about the experience from the dog's perspective, you can probably figure out what its motivation is to continue jumping up.  As long as the behavior is being reinforced, even sometimes, that behavior will continue to stay strong.

How to change the behavior

Put a stop to any inadvertent reinforcement that happens when the dog jumps up.  Be sure that if the dog does jump, it receives no petting or playing or food or toys!  All great things happen when the dog has all four feet on the floor!

Don't ignore your dog when it has all four feet on the floor.  It's easy to ignore a dog that is doing what we want, but because this jumping has become a habit, it's important to catch your dog when it's doing what you want and reinforce a lot!  So anytime you notice your dog has four feet on the floor, take a moment to show the dog your approval!

Sometimes the reinforcement comes from within the dog himself.  Jumping can be a result of the dog becoming over-aroused.  An over-aroused dog is in reaction mode, not calm thinking mode.  He is acting out the way he feels, and this can cause a sense of relief within the dog, which he finds reinforcing.  Helping the dog to be able to feel calmer and stay under threshold can also help to lessen the jumping up behavior in this case. 

We want to make sure the dog's needs to greet us and to get attention from us are being met.  If its needs are not being met, the dog will continue to try to meet those needs, and this may mean continuing to jump up to try to get our attention.  So, what can we do to help prevent jumping and teach new greeting patterns?

What to do instead

Get on the dog's level.  Stoop down, get your hands at the dog's level.  Take a moment to greet your dog and encourage it to say hello into your hands - which are now at its level.  Remember that your dog is so happy to see you and wants to engage with you.  This is one of the great parts of having a dog, right? A dog who meets you at the door and loves the fact that you've come home!  Don't ignore this part of his day.

On a platform
Bring the dog to your level.  A raised platform or area will allow your dog to get higher up so it can greet you closer to your hands and face.  This is helpful if you're not able to get on the floor to say hello.  The dog can be encouraged to get onto a piece of furniture or its platform so it can be greeted in a more appropriate manner.  You can teach a cue for this so the dog knows to get onto the platform or area when asked.  You can even teach a specific behavior such as sitting or lying down once the dog gets up on it.  Remember to place your hands down to your dog's level to help prevent the jumping up.

Ask for other behaviors you appreciate more.  If your dog knows other behaviors, you can use these to redirect it before it jumps up.  For instance, a dog that is sitting can't also be jumping.  A dog doing a trick such as spin isn't going to be jumping on you at the same time.

Use a leash and harness to manage the dog's behavior.  A leash can be used to prevent your dog from jumping on guests until it settles down and isn't so excited.  In the same way, the dog can be asked to go wait on its bed or platform when guests come.  Once the dog has settled down, it may be appropriate to then allow a calmer greeting.

Keeping a container of treats near the door (or other areas that jumping occurs) can offer a distraction and also a reinforcer for keeping four feet on the floor.  Hold the treat at the dog's nose level or lower to prevent jumping.  If you raise your hand up with the treat in it, you will encourage the dog to jump up to get the treat.  Feed the dog low or even drop or scatter some treats on the floor.  Praise while the dog has four feet on the floor and is smelling for the treats.  Done consistently, this can encourage the dog to begin sniffing the floor when people enter, instead of jumping up.

Let the dog jump.  This always remains an option.  It is not up to me to tell you that your dog shouldn't be jumping.  Some people do enjoy having their dog
jump on them.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Just remember that if you allow or encourage jumping sometimes, your dog will most likely also jump when you don't want it to.  Dogs aren't great at telling the difference in contexts and being reinforced for jumping up is fun - so they will want to continue doing it.  It's not fair to encourage it sometimes and get mad at other times.

You can, however, teach your dog a special cue to jump up on you - so jumping up on you becomes like doing a trick.  And, then you will have a way to let your dog know when you want it to jump up.  When you don't want it to jump up, then you can give it a different cue, ask it to go to a platform, or use any number of the other options listed here.

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