If you're reading this there's a good chance you've learned your beloved pet is blind, or at least losing some sight. I know how you feel. We've been through this with two dogs. One lost her sight suddenly from an injury. The other lost one eye at a time due to glaucoma.

I won't lie, there will be an adjustment period. But please know that your pet can still lead a full and enjoyable life. Not sure if you believe me? Read on for the four surprising truths that helped us learn to live with a blind dog.

1. Blindness Bothers You More Than Your Dog

Blindness in DogsCredit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/38287236@N06/Dogs have such good senses of hearing and smell that vision doesn't matter nearly as much to them. In fact, a surprising number of older dogs become nearly completely blind before their owners even realize there's an issue.

Why? Because your pet is using his nose and ears in ways we can only imagine.

For example, canines can smell a single drop of blood in more than a gallon of water. Their sense of smell is at least 100,000 times stronger than ours – some estimate “smelling” breeds like bloodhounds to be more than 10 million times better than us.

Our Cocker Spaniel is completely blind since his last bout with glaucoma (Glaucoma is common enough in Cocker Spaniels that you may want to read more about glaucoma in dogs.)  Guests are amazed at how well he navigates our home and yard. With his sense of smell he never has any problems finding us, our other dog, his food, or even the toybox.

2. Dogs Take Their Emotional Cues From You

Canine behaviorists know your behavior and emotions influence your pet. Think about it; when you're excited doesn't Rover get excited too? The same principle applies when you're nervous, hesitant, or worried.

If you treat your blind dog like a capable companion he or she will believe you. Obviously you're not going to turn him loose in the street or take undue risks – common sense prevails. But you can encourage him to trust himself in the home and yard, and to trust YOU to take care of him on walks and other outings.

Our Cocker Spaniel still loves his walks. We take him on flat sidewalks and give verbal cues (“step up” and “step down”) before we step off and onto curbs. We keep him on a leash, but when we get to the local park we let the leash out to the full 15 feet to let him sniff to his hearts' content. He trusts us not to let him wander into uneven ground or dangerous obstacles.

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Dean and Tyler "Patch Collar", Nylon Dog Collar with BLIND DOG Patches - Black - Size: Medium - Fits Neck 21-Inch to 26-Inch
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To make your walks easier it's a good idea to make it clear on your collar or harness that your dog is blind. You can coach people you meet in how to pet him without startling.

3. Your Pet Will Build a Mental 'Map' of Your Home

Blind dogs know how to navigate their day-to-day environment. We've owned two blind dogs in our lifetime. Our first dog spent two days circling the house, figuring out where everything was. She learned how to use the doggie door to get to the back yard. She even figured out the layout of the yard.

If you have a blind dog there are a few things you can do to help her learn. Remember what you've learned about her sense of smell and use it to help her. We spray a tiny bit of vanilla air freshener above the doggie door on the inside and outside of the door to help our dog find it. Many owners will also choose a particular smell to “mark” furniture legs or other hard objects, again to help the dog know where they are.

Also think about tactile clues on the floor. We've placed a rectangular area rug to lead from the tile-floored foyer to the laundry room (where the doggie door and water are). When our guy feels the rug underfoot he knows it's time to turn right and follow it if he wants his water or to go outside. We also tacked a carpet square onto the deck floor outside, just under the doggie door for the same reason. When he feels the carpet square he knows to “look” for the door in the wall of the house.

Blind Dog Playing Fetch

4. Life Can Still be Fun!

Life is more than walks and surviving getting around the house. There needs to be some fun, and blind dogs can still have it!  It's important to have appropriate toys for blind dogs available.


Try rolling WigglyGiggly balls if your dog is small. For stronger-jawed breeds look at the Talking Babble ball by PetQwerks. Your die-hard ball chaser won't be able to follow a ball in the air any more, but she can sure hear it roll across the floor.

Squeaky Toys

Our guy loves to play tug of war. He roots in the toy box for one of his squeaky toys and brings it to us to get us to play. If anything he asks to play more now that he is blind than he did when he could see.  

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If your dog is blind or beginning to lose his vision, take heart. He can lead a full and happy life in your home with only minor adjustments. There are some great resources available to help you through the process. I've listed several at the end of this article.

Blind Devotion: Enhancing the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired Dogs
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This is a terrific book about life with visual impairment. Well worth the read!