Special Needs Dogs Should Not be Intimidating
At one time, Otis the pit bull mix was sitting in a shelter awaiting his forever home. Three times, he thought he had found that home and three times he was returned.
Otis is not only part of the breed that is most likely to die in a shelter, Otis is also deaf.
Four years ago, Katy Riecks of Philadelphia found Otis on petfinder.com through the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society(PAWS) page.
As she related to petfinder.com, “I clicked on a link for a Pit Bull mix named Otis. As soon as I saw his picture, my heart stopped. I knew I had found my dog."
Otis’ time was up, he was scheduled to die the next day, but the shelter put a hold on Otis until Riecks and her boyfriend could meet him and take him home.
As is the case many times, Riecks not only saved Otis, he was able to return the favor. She developed Crohn’s Disease and has 11 surgeries. "Without Otis' companionship and care, I don't know where I'd be. His love, warm cuddles and kisses make life worth living,” Riecks told petfinder.
Riecks did not allow Otis’ special needs to get in the way of her instinct that Otis was the right dog for her, and Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter relations for petfinder.com says if you think you can handle a special needs dog, do not let it deter you.
Saunders has fostered three deaf dogs. “I always tell people it’s my own dogs that don’t listen,” says Saunders. “The deaf dogs listen just fine.”
Saunders even says there is a petfinder.com staffer who has a dog that is both blind and deaf.
“As with any other dog, it’s all about match making,” says Saunders. “If you find a dog that is disabled and you think the dog will fit into your lifestyle, don’t be intimidated by the disability. There is a real reward for being able to take in a dog with special needs if your lifestyle can accommodate it.”
Saunders says those things aren’t much more difficult than having a dog that doesn’t have special needs and gives these pointers:
- All dogs should be socialized and trained. Special needs dogs may just need a different form of training to accomplish the same goals.
- Use reward based clicker training to help the dog know when he should come to you using light signals (for deaf animals). Saunders says getting them to look at you so you can give hand signals or even use sign language is key. Once you teach them to look at you using a specific light signal, you can begin using hand signals or sign language.
- Using remote control vibration collars (not shock collars!) can be used instead of light signals to key them to look at you.
- For blind dogs, they use their sense of hearing and smell. Do not move furniture around often and when you do, introduce them to the new arrangement slowly. The same is true if you have to move.
- Tapping a cane can be used to help dogs learn where to walk in strange places. Teach them through positive reinforcement to follow your taps.
- Allow your dogs to help lead the way for any special needs dog. Your other dogs, if you have them will provide the lead they need most of the time and will often also sense the special needs dogs disability and help as well.
- Filed Under: Pet Adoption