If your pup is born blind, this is an advantage in many regards, as they don’t develop quite the startle and fear response as a formerly sighted dog. A blind dog in the wild is a dead dog, and this is the first thing you must understand. The second thing is that a blind dog can do anything a sighted dog can do, except catch a frisbee on the fly.
If you find yourself with a blind pup, first understand that your view of the world is going to change. Your blind dog will teach you things you never thought possible. A dog born blind learns as she begins to crawl around (all puppies crawling around are blind at birth and for 3 weeks or so thereafter) and she compensates for bumping into things by developing her other senses. Your heart will break as she prances with a toy and BAM into the couch, the wall, the door, you. She will shake it off and continue her prancing, remembering that there is a couch, wall, door, mom at a particular place. She is developing her map. The map is the thing that enables these pups to exceed and excel. I am not sure how it works, but I am stunned by the accuracy. My blind pup has mapped two houses, two yards, and racing around willy-nilly chasing the cat (yes, she chases the cat at 100 mph) and never ever loses her map. She knows exactly where she is at every moment, despite running around furniture, rooms, moving objects. The map. My blind and deaf dog has it and when he gets fearful or very excited, he loses his map. You can visually tell when this happens. He doesn’t lose it often and when he does, I touch him softly and he relaxes and gets his bearings.
Blind Dog Safety
With any blind dog, the first thing you do is get on your hands and knees, crawl around with pup (this is extremely fun for them) and look for pokies and owies. Inside and out. Determine safe and unsafe areas in your house, place a pet gate at stairways and close off any area that is too dangerous for your blind pet, some folks pad hard corners and surfaces (I have never needed to, one good thump and that thing is mapped) and some folks get doggles to protect eyes (in my house, I would be the one wearing them, as my pups are airborne. Also, they can get them off in a skinny minute. You can also use a surgical e-collar or blind dog halo to work as a “bumper”. A lot of folks use scents to mark different areas, again, my pups don’t need it. Bell train your pup. Put her on short lead, sit on floor and teach her the come command as any sighted dog, only use a bell. Then when she hears the bell, she knows where you are. My pup would get “lost” in a room by herself and cry her eyes out. The bell became indispensable then. She could track the bell more easily than my voice. It’s also helpful in the park when she’s on long lead, to get her to come to you when she found a stinky in the grass, to keep her from doing what dogs will do.
Training a Blind Pet
Touch training is simple combined with basic obedience training, and you will charm judges at all silly pet trick contests. Different trainers will use different touch signals for each trick depending on the dog and their response rate. For GabrielDeafBlindPup a touch on the nose is sit, a pat on chest is down, a touch on head is up. AllicksBlindPup sits on touch on nose, down with touch on foreleg.
The benefits of hand signals and touch training go far beyond learning tricks. Touch training can also improve communication between a pet parent and their dog. Some parents will alert their dog location with a simple touch, or even gently blow on them to wake their dog from a nap with startling them.
Potty Training a Blind Dog
Housebreaking and potty training a blind pet is the same as a sighted dog. Maintaining a consistent and regular potty schedule is key. Get them out first and last thing of the day, same place each time, and after every single meal. A hearing blind pup will be ecstatic over the sound of your voice, so praise in a high, sing-song voice, using their name over and over. Sound is so important, so keep it soothing, upbeat, and fun.
Blind Dog Products
How to Help your Blind Dog
A blind dog needs something to tell him that he is approaching an obstacle. Blind people use a walking stick, other animals that are naturally blind use sound, whiskers, or some other form of early warning device. This hoop is a blind dog’s ‘walking stick.’
Blind Dog Halo
Pets who experience sudden vision loss and blindness can struggle with adjusting to a life without sight. They can quickly become disoriented, confused, and scared. The Blind Dog Halo is designed to help your pet to safely navigate and move with confidence, helping them to adjust to their vision loss. The halo’s hoop acts as a bumper to alert your blind pet of any nearby obstacles so they can safely get around. Pets wearing a halo not only become more confident but are more engaged and happier as they are better able to spend time and enjoy their family.
If you woke up tomorrow and couldn’t see, you would eventually adjust to being blind and learn where things are in your house. It would take time and lots of work and patience. Your pet too will learn where everything is and will adjust to your house and yard if given time. Here are some ideas that will help you and your pet adjust to its blindness sooner.
Steps to Helping your Blind Dog
- Your pet isn’t in pain and doesn’t need to be put to sleep just because it is blind.
- Don’t re-arrange your furniture if your pet is mostly indoors. If your pet is an outdoor pet, don’t plan major landscape projects.
- If you have a hot tub or pool, a cover or barrier is necessary because your pet could fall into the water, not find the sides and drown.
- Walk your dog on a leash. You are his eyes. Anticipate problems and steer clear. Keep talking to your dog. Your voice will guide him. If you have an outdoor pet and no fence, please check into an “invisible fence.”
- Feed your pet and keep its water dish in exactly the same place each and every day. This area will then become a site for reference if your pet becomes disoriented.
- Put your chair back under the table after meals. Things that are left out will cause your pet to bump and lead to disorientation.
- If your pet gets disoriented, take him/her to its bed or food bowl. This will be a land mark that will re-orient your pet.
- Until your pet learns about stairs, you will need to place a barrier to prevent him/her from falling down the stairs. The same is true for stair landings.
- Most clients remark that going up and down stairs is the most difficult of all things to “re-learn.” Be patient, your pet is trying to do its best.
Additional Resources for Blind Pets: