Living with a blind dog can be a difficult but rewarding experience. No matter how concerned you are when your pet is diagnosed as blind or with seriously impaired vision, your dog’s blindness is going to be much harder on you than it is for your dog.
Are you the owner of a dog that has recently become blind, or have you adopted a blind or visually impaired dog?
A visually impaired or blind dog is really not a lot different than a sighted one. When a dog loses its sight it comes to rely on its other senses and often these senses will become even sharper over time.
A dog’s eye sight is just the third most important sense after smell and hearing. This is not intended to demean or downplay the seriousness of your dog losing its sight, but rather to assure you that blindness will be compensated for by your dog’s other primary senses.
Our tendency is to feel sad for our dog when blindness occurs, but what your dog needs at this time is for you to act as normal as possible because it will easily pick up on your feelings. Even though you’re feeling sadness for your dog, it’s important that you act as if nothing has changed. This will give your dog confidence in adjusting to a new way of life.
Try not to rearrange your furniture since your dog has grown accustomed to the layout of your home. As time progresses and you choose to make a few changes in your home, you can help your dog adjust to a new layout after it has adapted to being blind. If you have small children, be sure they don’t leave large toys or playthings lying around where your dog can trip over them.
If there are sharp corners on any of your furniture or cabinets, try padding them with bubble wrap or foam pipe insulation from the hardware store.
Until your dog gets used to moving around the house without its sight, you can use textured rugs to help your dog recognize certain areas of your house. Sample squares of carpet are inexpensive and can be placed in the doorway of every room to make it easier for your dog to find the opening.
If your dog uses a crate, turn the crate on its side and use a bungee cord to hold the door in an open position. That way your dog doesn’t need to worry whether the door is open or closed.
In the beginning you should avoid picking up a blind dog to take it to its food bowl to eat. This can be confusing and your dog needs to learn where things are on its own. Plastic place mats placed under the food and water bowls will let your dog know when it’s up close to the bowls.
Talk to your blind dog often to comfort and guide it with positive encouragement. Start teaching your dog new words like Stop, Step up, Step down, Easy, Careful, Danger, and right or left. Hearing your voice is very soothing, so talk to your blind dog often and let it know when you are walking out of a room by a soft pat and word of encouragement.
Be careful not to startle your pet when you approach it and instruct guests and small children to be cautious when walking up to the dog because it may snap at anyone who startles it when awakened from sleep or if approached from behind.
Instruct strangers to let your dog smell their hand before trying to pet it, and always use a leash when taking your dog outside. You can also buy bandanas imprinted with the words ‘I’m blind’ for your dog to wear when you go on walks. If your dog has always worn a collar on walks, you might want to try a harness. You’ll have more control if your dog recoils or yanks on the leash, and there will be less stress on its neck.
Establish a home base as your dog learns to memorize the location of everything in your house and around your yard. Your dog’s bed, crate, or food bowl makes a good home base, and in the event it becomes disoriented at any time, all it needs to do is find the home base and it will be able to start out again and find its way around the house.
Socialization is important for adult dogs who’ve recently become blind. Take your dog on visits to pet stores, dog parks, or any other places where it can socialize with other animals and people.
Many owners of blind dogs say their dog sometimes seems to be deaf as well as blind. What’s really happening is that your dog is just very involved in listening to everything going on around it and may not hear you when you first speak to it.
Some owners living with a blind dog feel sad, believing that their dog won’t be able to romp and play as it used to, but with patience and training, you can help your dog “see” again by using its other senses. What will be most important to your pet is to let it know every day that you love him or her and you will find yourself rewarded in return by all the love your dog has to give, which often is more than humans give to each other.