Expect an adjustment period after your dog goes blind. Consider the things your dog liked to do before and figure out ways to adapt them to his new “normal.” For example, if your dog liked to chase a ball, buy a ball with a bell so that he can still follow it as it rolls around. Use your imagination, and I’ll bet your best friend will be running around like nothing’s wrong in no time.
I remember the very moment my then 13 year old Basset Hound, Flapps, went blind – I was immediately thrust into the role of caring for a blind dog, and I didn’t even know it!
The below tips and tricks will help your dog adjust to his sudden blindness. And, always remember that your dog will pick up on your mood so stop being sad! Your dog needs you now and, you need him.
1. Always announce your presence when you enter a room so your blind dog will know you’re there.
And, never ever let anyone touch your dog before your dog realizes they’re there. This includes the children running up from all directions at the local pet store. Even the best mannered dog may give a nip if touched unexpectedly. Remember that you are your dog’s advocate and responsible for keeping him or her safe and also protecting the public.
2. Different textured doormats will help your blind dog figure out where he is.
Flapps actually taught me this tip on his trips around in a circle. As his circle enlarged, he would eventually run into a floor mat leading to the entrance of a door. Positioning different textured doormats in each door of the house gave him an easy clue where he was.
I bought doormats in grass texture, braided rugs, rattan – you name it, I had it. Color obviously didn’t matter but texture was key. Buy fluffy bath mats or spongy floor mats, buy long shag rugged mats, and tightly woven wools. Any type of doormat will do. And, if you’re moving to a new home, you’ll help your blind dog acclimate faster is you use the same rugs to lead into the same type of room in the new house.
A great way to get different textured rugs is to go to a carpet store and ask for carpet samples. Remember, look for textures – the more varied, the better.
3. Use different scents in different rooms to help clue a blind dog into his whereabouts.
I used room air fresheners in various scents to help Flapps understand where he was. Since dog noses are much more sensitive than ours, I’d suggest using very lightly scented room fresheners. In fact, even a drop of vanilla in a pan of water every third day was enough to help my dog locate the living room.
You can also buy jar candles and just leave them uncovered. There’s generally enough candle scent wafting through the air for a dog to locate and identify the room. I can 100% guarantee you that your blind dog will always be able to find the kitchen!
4. Your newly blind dog may refuse to climb steps.
Hot dogs to the rescue! One of the obstacles facing Flapps was climbing the steps. He simply wasn’t interested in figuring them out until I figured it out for him.
Knowing that the way to a Basset’s brain is through his stomach, I put teeny pieces of hot dogs on each step riser. He willingly went right up, gobbling the hot dogs at every step. I did the same to lead him down the stairs. After a few days, it was time to slowly fade the hot dogs.
I did this by putting hot dogs on every other step, and then every third step, every forth step, etc, until I was confident that he didn’t need them any longer. It took me about a week to get him confident in his ability to run up and down the steps just as he had done before.
Note: Make sure that you put some sort of throw rug or material on the very top step and again at the very bottom so your blind dog knows where he has reached the landing.
5. Your blind dog will still enjoy a nice walk outside.
You might be consumed with keeping your blind dog safe (which is a very normal feeling), but you must allow him to continue to enjoy the things he’s always loved. In our case, I had to figure out how to help Flapps deal with outdoor obstacles such as curbs, tree roots, rocks, etc. And, since Flapps legs were only 4” long (he was, after all, a Basset…), he could easily be hurt if he tripped.
I accidentally found the solution to this problem on a long walk through the woods one day. I found a beautiful long stick that I picked up on a whim to bring along on the walk. With Flapps walking beside me on my right, and holding the leash in my left hand, I placed the stick on Flapps right shoulder and sort of used it as a guide. I’d press in when I wanted to steer him towards me and let up to get him to go right – he almost immediately figured out that he should walk to the right until he felt the stick again. We ambled through many new paths and adventures this way.
6. Teach your dog a new command – “WATCH OUT”
Flapps knew the normal commands of “Stop”, “Wait”, etc, but I needed a command that would let him know he was in real danger of being hurt. That’s where “WATCH OUT” came into play. Unfortunately, for Flapps to associate the command with danger, I had to allow him to get slightly hurt (or stumble) the very second after I yelled it. So, I took to the curb where I thought I could help him understand this command with a minimum of damage.
As he approached the edge of the curb, I’d wait for the very last second to issue to command. It only took 3 tries until he got it. He came to understand that, when I said “WATCH OUT”, he was to immediately freeze and not move until I came to get him. This command worked beautifully and he was running off lead again through open fields that I had, of course, carefully scoured for obstacles.
7. Blind dog proof your yard.
Protect your blind dog by keeping your back yard safe. If this means adding a fence around a beautiful babbling pond you’ve built, do it. Flowerpots are fine to leave where they are as your blind dog will figure out how to walk around them. After storms or winds though, walk around the outside area where your blind dog will be and pick up any twigs or other potentially dangerous items.
8. Don’t move the furniture.
I hope you like the arrangement of your furniture because you can’t move it! A blind dog has a memory of the rooms he’s known and will almost immediately skirt an ottoman or walk past the edge of a bed. This won’t work, however, if you move the furniture around. If you must move the furniture, work with your dog to acclimate him to the new arrangement. He might be confused at first but, eventually, he’ll get it.
9. Purchase toys with scent and sound.
A ball with a bell will allow a blind dog to continue to practice his retrieval skills. Kongs are nice toys as you can stuff them with peanut butter and toss one in a room for your dog to wander upon.
10. You can leave a radio playing very softly by your dog’s bed to help him find it.
Remember, a blind dog’s hearing has increased to help him compensate for the loss of sight so, although you might be barely able to hear the radio, he will be able to zoom right in on it.
11. Increase your dogs appetite.
Your blind dog may, at first, exhibit signs of depression such as lack of appetite. Put your own sadness aside and go the extra mile to make his life more interesting. This is where a peanut butter stuffed bone can work wonders. Add in a bit of cheese to the middle and freeze it before giving it to him to prolong his pleasure.
Blind Dog Care and Training | The Battersea Way
With a bit of practice, you and your blind dog will go about life almost as normal. And, as you walk beside your blind friend, watch and learn from his actions. I bet you’ll learn a great lesson about overcoming obstacles and you’ll be a better person for it. I know I did, and I know I am.