There are many different health issues that may arise in your dog’s later years, or sometimes even in his early ones. This can mean your dog going blind, for any number of reasons, includingProgressive Retinal Atrophy or injury. You may also find a loving dog at a shelter that is blind and think, I want him, but how do I take care of a dog who can’t see me? Here are some tips that will help you to better care for your blind dog.
Always walk your blind dog on a leash, especially if you do not have a fenced in back yard. Until you know that your dog is sure of his surroundings, even in the back yard, take him out on the leash. Take it slow. Walk him inside the house at first, then in the areas of yard he knows, progressing as he gains confidence.
Attach a bell, such as a common sleigh-style bell, somewhere on your clothing as a signal to your dog that you are around. Make sure all humans and pets that are in your home and have the possibility of coming into contact with your dog, also have a bell on them. Wear the bell all the time. If you don’t have one available at some point, make sure you speak to your dog while walking around your home, just so he knows where you are.
Put a safety gate in any entryway that you need to keep your dog away from, especially the top and bottom of any staircases. If you live in an apartment or home where you have to go up stairs to get in, walk your dog on a short leash or by the collar, until he gets used to the stairs. You nail or glue pieces of rug down at the top and bottom of the stairs so he begins to associate the change in feeling under his feet, to the beginning and end of the staircases.
Use different scents, like perfumes, candles, or other air fresheners, around your home in areas that your dog could lose his place and get hurt. Scent doorways and entryways, also if you have any low racks or a dog door. Avoid using the scent too much and in too many places, as this will confuse your dog. Many of the fabric items in your home will have their own scent that your dog will be able to pick up without your help. Try not to use aerosol air freshener in your home too often, as it will overpower the scenting of areas you have done for your dog.
Always keep your dog’s things in the same spot, which he will consider the home base. His food and water dish, and his bed, should be near to each other and not moved. Your dog will be able to better learn the layout of the home, if he has a starting point. On that same note, you should not move your own furniture around in your home when you have a blind dog, as this will confuse him and present potential dangers. Make sure low corners of tables or entertainment centers are padded, so your dog does not hurt himself by walking into them.
If your dog did not know a lot of commands in the past, now would be the time to start teaching him! If need be, crawl around on the floor with your pup and give names to anything he could run into and get hurt. Help him figure out the layout of the home and yard in this way. Avoid picking up your dog to help him. This can be alarming to a dog that is blind, and he will want and need to be able to get around independently.
Remember that your dog is capable of learning to navigate his world whether he is blind or has perfect vision. Although you may feel bad, avoid doing too much for your pup or babying him. Watch for potential dangers around the home or outside and make sure you keep your dog from them. Encourage independence and talk to your dog often. Announce yourself when approaching before touching your dog, so as not to startle him.
Using these tips will greatly increase your blind dog’s ability to enjoy and live a full life, and will increase your ability to enjoy it with him! For further information, we recommend checking out books for owner’s with vision-impaired dogs, and asking your veterinarian if they know of any local trainers who have experience working with blind animals.