Help For Blind Dogs!
- and now -
Help For Blind Horses To!
How this all came about!
In the early 80's I was a frequent visitor to the Shining Rock area of North Carolina. In the 80's this was a very popular area for hikers and back packers. It's also an area that, at the time, had no noticeable light pollution. In the 70s and 80s light pollution from Cherokee and the resort areas of Tennessee was not a problem yet. I mention this because this area is prone to heavy overcast. When the moon is new there was essentially NO LIGHT! When it's that dark humans are obviously blind. I used to wonder if the animals moving around at night could see any better on those nights than humans could. One of the things I used to wonder about on those black, black nights was why nocturnal animals never seemed to fall off that area's many cliffs and drop-offs!
On one of my trips I happened to meet someone doing research on wildlife in the area using night vision. This researcher was kind enough to let me look through his night vision at the animals that were out moving around at night. I noticed something I thought pretty odd. At night the animals seemed to move around about as well as they would during the day. I didn't notice any hesitation, and yet I saw many move through areas where it might be easy for a human to fall in full daylight. Why weren't the bottoms of the cliffs littered with dead animals? I was aware that most animals probably have better vision than humans, but on a lightless night HOW WERE THEY MOVING AROUND SO CASUALLY? I came to the conclusion that they must be using existing sound in the environment to echo-locate in some way.
Years later I watched some coyotes moving around at night through a friends night vision. I saw the same thing. They moved almost as easily at night as they did during the day.
There was little difference on completely moonless overcast nights. The books I read said that canines do not echo-locate. I decided that the common references were wrong, but didn't think about it much for a long time...Until I saw my first blind Service Dog. I have been a Service Dog trainer since 2000. I wanted desperately to help that dog, but didn't know how. Some time later I was looking at my sister-in-law's blind Golden Retriever, Jordy when I had a small epiphany. The books said canines didn't echo-locate. They did not say they couldn't, only that they didn't. I also noticed that Jordy moved around much better in the parts of his environment with hard surfaces. In a carpeted room with soft furniture he just ran into everything. After some study on animal echo-location I decided that canines could echo-locate. They simply have no ability to make the specialized high frequency sounds used by animals like bats and dolphins to navigate and hunt! I decided to take a stab at the problem and, being an engineer, I set about designing an ultrasound transmitter suitable for canine use. I put the first prototype on Jordy in 2013. He seemed to take to the unit right away and showed no signs of wanting it removed. It took him just a few hours to begin using the unit and about 3 weeks to fully adapt to his new view of his environment. A patent was filed in mid 2014. Having the unit patented will guarantee that the project will be well enough financed to ensure availability of the unit to those that need it!
Jordy no longer runs into anything. That was the start of the BlindSight® project. A patent was filed in mid 2014 and it was decided to not reserve this technology for Service Dogs, but to make it available to the general public. Paul Propst
Update - In early January 2015 Jordy was equipped with a new unit with a new sealed transducer providing 4-7 times the resolution of previous units. Previously he was still uncertain about many outdoor objects and some large soft indoor surfaces, such as couches. Indoors his confidence was good with his BlindSight®. Outdoors he was less confident as he could be fooled by complex objects such as bushes and shrubs. After 2 weeks with the improved unit he is completely confident indoors and, so far, nothing outdoors has fooled him! All test animals will be equipped with the new BlindSight® with the new transducer by the end of February 2015. Pre-production prototypes are being updated to the new transducer and have been donated.
Please check out the videos on our website or on Youtube®! On our site 'User Videos and Pix"are available from the Here. Our "Support" videos are available HERE. On Youtube® use the keyword "jordycanid" to view both user and support videos!
What is involved in getting a dog to use BlindSight®
For a small dog see th is video
For a large dog see this video
For a horse or pony see this video
Attach a lead to the dog's normal collar and walk the dog around it's normal environment (indoors and outdoors) for about 1/2 an hour.
If the dog shows no signs of distress let the dog walk around freely if at all possible. The blind dog will take some time to adapt and to have some confidence in it's movements. This may vary greatly from dog to dog. Some dogs may need to be walked on lead for several days to acquire the experience to move more confidently without being led. Animals that have had more severe negative experiences while blind will take more time to adapt and gain confidence in their movements. While most animals will adapt very quickly, these animals will take more time to adapt and in some rare cases may not ever fully adapt to using the BlindSight® device. In testing, no animal reacted negatively to wearing the device. Patience is required!
NOTE: Make sure spare batteries are always on hand. Although the battery life is normally over a year, it is important to NEVER LET THE BATTERY COMPLETELY DISCHARGE. Failure to keep the unit powered could result in severe psychological trauma to your dog!
To actually "use" the unit requires no instruction, but relies on the dog's own instincts and adaptability as well as an evolutionary hold over so old no one knows where it came from! Good Luck!