Things to Know About Blind Dogs, Living With a Blind Dog
Helpful Information For a Blind Pet and Some Blind Dog Training Tips
Credit: Personal Photo by Elizabeth Green
1. Try not to move furniture around in your house once it is in place to make your blind dog’s surroundings easier to navigate and, most importantly, more familiar to him or to her. Consistency is the key for blind dogs. My dog Marley learned the layout of my parent’s house in two visits and negotiates my house and their home amazingly well. Living with a blind dog and pets with disabilities can be quite remarkable and inspiring. Marley also has a wonderful spirit and temperament despite the fact that she is a blind dog.
2. If your dog is blind, ensure that their water and feed bowl remains in the same place every day so it’s easy for your pet to find his or her dishes.
3. Routines are also especially important to blind dogs. Marley’s favorite activities are to take her daily walks and to go for a ride in the car. She is adamant about being close to me and insists on following me, particularly if she hears keys jingling.
4. If your dog is blind, talk to your dog often. That will reassure him or her about where you are in the house, during your walks, etc. Dogs with this disability use and rely on their heightened hearing and other senses, like smell and touch, much more so than dogs do with good eye sight, as these dogs cannot see or benefit from the use of their own eyes for cues as to what is around them.
5. You may also need to keep visual tabs on your dog if he or she needs to go out. Marley will sometimes whimper or whine to be let out but often she will just walk to the door and sit down and wait to be let out without making any noise. I don’t always know this unless I look for where she is in the house.
6. Get support from other dog owners. Help, suggestions, tips and support are out there. There is a blind dog web ring as well as blind dog message boards devoted to pet owners living with blind dogs. Find and join the blind dogs group on Yahoo Groups.
7. You can find at least two books online on Amazon to help you. One book is entitled Living with Blind Dogs and the other is My Dog is Blind: But Lives Life to the Full!
8. Caring for a dog with any disability is overwhelming at times. This is natural. Blind dog training will help you and your beloved pet.
9. Know that your blind animal can still enjoy life if he or she has no eyesight. My dog Marley plays and has fun with tennis balls. I usually try to have several around to make finding them and playtime in general easier for her, but she is quite able to smell and find them on her own. Marley will throw the ball up with her mouth, too, find the ball and do this again and again. I enjoy watching her have a good time.
10. Get used to your dog feeling or touching his or her way around the house with his or her wet nose. They will also find their way around their home and their yard by cognitive mapping. This is the same trait that all dogs use to discover where they have previously buried a bone.
11. Cultivate extra patience with your beloved special needs pet. Dogs and pets with disabilities need special care and attention.
Credit: Personal photo taken by Elizabeth Green12. Take pictures, enjoy your blind pet and love him or her just as you would with a dog that has the full use of his or her eyes.
13. Separation anxiety in a dog may be more acute or pronounced with a blind dog. It is in my case. Your special needs pet may want to be with you constantly or be nearby more so than usual and they may sometimes act out when you leave them alone in the house. You will have to develop strategies to handle this. You might also try purchasing a Thundershirt (see link below in related articles) to ease your dog's anxiety and fear.
14. If your dog is blind, keep your dog on a short leash when you take him or her for a walk or else he or she will accidentally bang into a wall or a fence. Marley did just that when we went out for one of our very first walks. I was very naïve at that time and it felt awful to see her do this. I quickly learned what to do and what not to do as I began caring for a blind pet.
15. Be careful of opening drawers and doors. Dogs with no eyesight and low eyesight will have to learn how to navigate or map out the house. A blind pet may be underneath or behind you when you are walking around the house and they will have to learn where these potential hazards are in your house. Initially, you might cover a sharp coffee table edge with a blanket until your pet gets adjusted.
16. Training a blind dog will take extra time and patience. You are their eyes and their guide. They cannot judge distances, proximity or the speed of cars for instance.
17. Be patient with yourself as you will learn lessons and tips of what to do and how to do it better as you go along. You will probably make some mistakes.
18. Teach your dog a command for ‘slowly’ or ‘easy’ or ‘careful’. They may want to rush forward but their sense of direction is impaired, as is their sense of distance. Marley will often bump into the knees of someone new that she meets. Most people are very understanding and do not mind this.
19. If your dog has lot its eyesight, other helpful commands are ‘up’ and ‘down’ for curbs and stairs that you and your dog may encounter during your walks. Don’t let your blind or visually impaired dog trip or stumble on curbs or stairs at home.
20. Without their sight, dogs may react more aggressively than they normally would with other dogs as they cannot see who comes up to sniff them and they may be more easily startled or become more threatened around other dogs.
Credit: Personal photo of Marley my blind dog by E. Green
21. You will learn patience and compassion from your blind pet.
22. You will not love your blind dog any less than if he or she is sighted. You will be inspired and proud of your pet. Nor will blind dogs love you or wish to please you any less than a dog without this disability.
23. Adopt a special needs dog. There are blind dog rescue organizations. You will never regret it. If you adopt a blind pet, he or she may be the best dog you ever own.
24. Caring for a blind dog will be a challenge but you will also experience great joy with your blind dog. It will get easier for both you and your dog as time moves forward.
25. Recognize that there will be an adjustment period, when and if, your dog goes blind. This may be more difficult for your dog if he or she is older and if it happens the dog ages versus a dog that experiences blindness early in life or is blind from birth. (I don’t have any experience of an older dog going blind as Marley was blind when I adopted her).
26. Expect your blind pet to want to play with his or her canine or feline companions. Make sure, though, that there introductions are slow. Your blind pet may get easily annoyed with his or her dog or cat companions, too. My cat Mason will tease Marley and she has recently started to let him know that this is okay, to a point. They play well together and, at other times, not so well. They will work it out between themselves. If your dog is blind, he will likely step on your other dog or cat unintentionally from time to time. Bells on your other pet’s collars will help with this.
27. Know that if your dog is blind, that he or she can adapt and adapt well to this disability if he or she was not born blind. Your beloved pet will likely adapt more easily than you will.
28. Learn as much as you can about blindness in dogs and blind dog training. You will need this information and, perhaps, you can later pass along helpful tips to other friends or relatives who may one day experience what it is like to care for or have a blind pet in their life.
Please view these other articles for more pet-related tips:
- Ease Your Dog's Fears with a Thundershirt
- Feline Pine Cat Litter Trumps Other Cat Litter Brands
- Litter Boxes for Cats: A Review of the Feline Pine Self-Cleaning Litter Box
- Litter Box Furniture: A HomeZone Kitty Litter House Will Exceed Your Expectations
- A Pet Sitter's Guide - Do's and Don'ts for a Successful Pet Sitting Business