This is one of videos by Rolling Dog Farm which rescues and shelters disabled dogs and horses. We can learn about what the better help for dogs is from this video.
Blind dog Widget has trouble getting down from a chair. She wants to get down but her muzzle can’t reach ground surface, and she can’t know how high from the ground she is. It confuses her. What would you do if you were her owner?
Her guardian Steve chooses to encourage her. It’s really great choice!
Her body size can be picked up and carried easily. Everyone would like to rescue her because she is blind and in trouble. But Steve didn’t help Widget directly but gave her enough time to think and decide by herself, led her to take courage by encouraging her. As a result, she could overcome a difficulty for herself and this experience gives different benefits to her.
By this experience, she was able to understand the height of the chair and memorize it, and then she would get on and off it for herself. The experience of achieving her aim by her choice and courage helps to develop her self-confidence. And she would get to think that she is safe whenever Steve encourages her and be able to act with courage also in another difficult situation for her.
The two requirements for good help for dogs
- It is aimed that the dog can do by herself as much as possible
- It is an appropriate and minimum way at the time and in the situation
Of course, you should help your dog anytime she wants your help and asks you. But I want you to consider whether your help is “good help” and reduce it gradually. I recommend you to give your blind dog the opportunities to solve a problem by herself when you make sure that the situation in which she is and her challenging are safe. The experiences to overcome anxiety and achieve an aim lead to develop your dog’s self-confidence and self-control, and increase what she can do.
I introduce another great example.
My friend Tara told to me that her beautiful black Standard Poodle Zorro seemed to have trouble seeing and had gotten less able to go down stairs, and showed me his video.
Zorro turns to Tara anxiously more than once. He wants her to help him, and Tara helps him go down stairs with holding his harness. Zorro goes down automatically after few steps with Tara’s help.
From the look of Zorro’s behaviors in this video, I evaluated that Zorro can detect where the stairs starts, remember the shape of the stairs clearly but feels fear for only the first several steps and he will go down the stairs for himself in safety.
I encouraged that Tara doesn’t give Zorro a hand to step forward but walks down several steps first, encourages him calmly, waits for taking the fist step on his own, and praises or gives a reward for it.
Tara accepted my suggestion and tried it quickly. But in new way I suggested, Zorro left the stairs and walked away when Tara walked down a few steps first and turned to him. So Tara came up with the idea that she tries to change the her standing position from her training experiences with Zorro and solved the problem! Watch this video!
Wonderful! This is the consequence of Zorro’s courage and trust in Tara, and Tara’s idea and kindness. They are great team! wow! Great job, Tara and Zorro!
At first, Zorro was suspected of PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy) by their vet and Tara was very worried. But their ophthalmologist vet diagnosed that Zorro hasn’t had PRA by his eye check-up. Just his iris muscles might not have worked rightly but his eyes are fine!!! I’m so glad to hear that.
It’s up to you to increase what your dog can do
I want you to remember this: From the feeling to feel pity for your blind dog, you might unwittingly expand a helping hand to your dog too much, and it would prevent her from fulfilling her potential, and erase the opportunities to develop her self-confidence and self-control and increase what she can do.
Thank you Tara McLaughlin, CPDT-KA, CDBC (GoodDog! Training) and Zorro for your videos! I appreciate your corporation.