Can the difference texture of platforms be use as cue for blind dog?

My blind Dachshund Nono and I challenged new thing and she showed me great result.

One day I read Mary Hunter’s blog post and she wrote about Michele Pouliot training presentation at Clicker Expo in Kentucky. I learned from it that Michele uses multiple platforms in her dog training, and came up with the idea that the difference texture of platforms might be used as cues or prompt to bring out desirable behavior for blind dog. And then I started working with Nono. During the next few days, she got the idea and behave rightly!

This video is the result of our training experiment.

Don’t give up training and enjoying with your blind dog. His/Her remaining abilities, your positive thoughts and positive training method can make up for his/her loss of vision!

I used only commonly-used training techniques in reward-based training method. If you’d like to teach this to your blind dog, see following tutorial.

How to teach


2 kind of mats
*Those have quite different type and feel of touch.
*Both of those and objects like those don’t use in daily life.

Step 1.

Use clicker and shaping to bring out each desirable behavior, “Stand on the mat” and “Lie down on the mat” on each mat. Use 1 mat at 1 session. Take enough time to rest between sessions.

Step 2.

Remove clicker and say release cue after giving him/her 3-5 treats in a row in order to teach him/her to keep the position, and repeat it enough.

To change feeding position to fit to each behavior can help to prevent your blind dog’s confusion and change in position. For example, in the case of lying down, put treats on between dog’s forepaws and in the case of standing, deliver treats to dog’s mouth.

To motivate your blind dog is the key to success. Don’t rush! Repeat sessions and spend enough time to make him/her want to do it. If your blind dog try to get on the mat quickly when you put the mat on the floor, you can go to the nest step.

Step 3.

Use 2 mats alternately at 1 session and do same thing as “Step 2”. If your blind dog chooses wrong behavior, you never use No Reward Maker but just wait. When he/she change position, say marker word and give treat. If he/she makes same mistakes 2 times in a row or doesn’t try to change his/her position, you should quit the session immediately and restart from “Step 1” after taking rest break. And you need to repeat more training sessions of the behavior that he/she didn’t choose.

Blind dogs need more time to understand what to do and to find out clue to achieve it. So don’t rush, don’t use No Reward Maker and help his/her success in each step! Don’t be afraid of going back to the previous step and restarting from first step because it needs for him/her to find out his own way and it’s very important time.

Step 4.

Use 2 mats in random order at 1 session and do same thing as “Step 2”.

Step 5.

2 mats put next to each other on the floor and do same thing as “Step 2”. If your blind dog doesn’t make a mistake, he/she completely understands what is cue. If he/she gets jump on the other mat after you say release cue, you can go the last step.

Last Step.

Give a treat after release cue. You put the mat on the floor, say nothing (To show your blind dog the mat’s presence by patting it is OK), say release cue when your blind dog behave rightly, and give a treat. Of course, also to mark and reward before release is OK if your blind dog can keep desirable position.

Let’s try! Have fun!

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  • Mary Hunter

    I love it!

    I’m happy that my post inspired you. I think this is a neat training exercise — using different mats or surfaces to cue different behaviors. Nono obviously learned exactly what you wanted. :)



    • miki

      I’m very happy to hear you love this. Nono and I could challenge a fun and interesting experiment thanks to you! I hope more animal owners will enjoy positive reinforcement training with their animals.
      Thank you so much!