Living with a Blind Dog

Blind dogs can live comfortably. Some sightles canines take quite a while to even recognize the full limitations of their handicap, since vision usually diminishes progressively and isn't a dog's primary sense.

To help your blind dog live happily, take these steps to provide a new map of her living space:

  • Attach short directional word or phrases (such as Sit, Down, Stay, and Come) to daily routines. Verbal cues reassure your dog and help him feel connected to your daily interactions. Your voice will both guide and reassure him.
  • Create landmarks for your dog, keeping daily objects, such as dog bowls and bedding, in the same place. In addition, avoid relocating furniture, TVs, or radios to prevent any disorientation that may result when the dog's mental map is disrupted.
  • Use carpet runners to create a "road" to familiar rooms.
  • Use different scents to map out locations or forbidden areas. For example, you can use scented oils or powders to cue your dog to avoid ledges or locate important places in a room. When you travel, these same scents can comfort and guide him in an otherwise unknown environment.
  • If your dog is distressed at not being able to find you, wear a familiar scent or clip a small bell to your wrist or belt loop.
  • Return objects to where they belong. Things that are left out are opportunities for collisions that may disorient your dog and lead to anxiety or fearfulness.
  • If your dog is an outdoor pet, don't plan major landscape projects.
  • If your dog is disoriented, lead him to a favorite anchoring spot, such as a familiar bed, and pet him calmly until he's settled down.
  • Going up and down stairs is difficult for blind dogs. Install carpeting and chaperone your dog until he feels confident: Hold his midsection gently as you support his weight and/or lead him up each step by luring him with a favorite treat.

The most important tool in dealing with a blind dog is the leash. Think of the leash as giving you the ability to hold your dog's hand. Your dog will feel more secure because he knows where you are. Leashing the dog can be helpful even in the house until he gets adjusted. The dog should certainly be walked on the leash because his owner is now his eyes.

Feeling socially isolated is a problem with blind dogs just as it is with deaf dogs. Most dogs seem reassured if they know where their owners are. A dog that has been free to roam the house may have to be confined at night. Securing your dog next to your bed at night or using a crate is an ideal solution.

Once the dog gets used to the routine and has a mental map of his world, he'll do fine. Many dogs happily go around their homes and live a happy life despite their blindness. In fact, many do it so well that visitors don't even notice that the dog is blind.

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