Animals are truly amazing at adapting to vision changes. Dogs can learn to interpret their surroundings despite impairment simply because the eyes are not their primary sensory organ. That doesn’t mean that a blind or visually impaired dog doesn’t need a little help from their human companion, though. In fact, taking care of a blind dog comes with its own specific set of safety and comfort requirements. We can assure you that each and every one of them is well worth the time and effort.
Sudden, Gradual, or Just Nature
Dogs can be blind from birth or suffer an age-related illness, like glaucoma, cataracts, retinal disease, or diabetes. They could also suffer a traumatic injury that results in the surgical removal of one or both eyes. Whatever the case may be, taking care of a blind dog has a bit of a learning curve.
Helping Create a Mental Map
Taking care of a blind dog hinges on keeping them safe and comfortable. Owner assistance is necessary for them to effectively navigate their space.
When their home is mapped out for them, they have an easier, injury-free time getting between points. Removing barriers or hazards teaches them to trust their environment (and their people) and builds confidence in spite of their limitations.
- Keep furniture and household items in the same places at all times. If you must rearrange things, only do so gradually while training your dog the new normal.
- Remove all obstacles in areas your dog travels often. Attach padding on places your dog frequently runs into.
- Install gates in hazardous areas or where you want to safely contain them when you’re not home.
- If they use a doggy door, be sure that the backyard is free of dangers. Fill any holes in the ground or fencing. Keep potty areas clean and accessible. Remove any sharp or dangerous objects. A strategically placed windchime or other noisemaker can help your blind dog find their way back inside the home.
- Keep your blind dog in another part of the house when you’re away to decrease the risk of them not being able to find their way back inside after using the doggie door.
- Limit time away from your blind pet. Be sure that someone can take them outside in your absence, or train them to use puppy pads in certain areas of the home.
- Observe behavior closely for any signs of stress or anxiety. Take measures to ensure their comfort and safety at all times.
Working Out Together
Taking care of a blind dog involves working with them every day to build on their strengths. Since they rely on their sense of smell, use scents to train them. Introduce new commands, such as “right,” “left,” “wait,” “go,” and other helpful directional warnings. Reward with praise and enthusiasm.
On-leash walks together can still be done safely, just be sure they are safe from traffic hazards and negative/unwanted interactions with strangers. Verbally communicate with your dog in order to control their experience.
Try a super fun game of hide and seek using your dog’s favorite-smelling treats. Again, remove hazards or obstacles beforehand and always call out to your dog so they can find you.