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 blindpup, first understand that your view of the world is going to change. Your blindpup will teach you things you never thought possible. A born blind pup 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 blindpup 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 deafblindpup 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.
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. You want to babygate all stairways, 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 to work as a “bumper”. There is a product called the AngelVest, which I recommend, but I have never had to use one). 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.
Touch training is simple combined with basic obedience training, and you will charm judges at all silly pet trick contests. 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.
Housebreaking is the same as a sighted dog. Get them out first and last thing of the day, same place each time, and after every single meal. A hearing blindpup 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
Blind Dog Hoop Harness
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.’
Click here for directions on how to make one of your own!
To buy a ready-made halo for your dog, go to our Blind Dog Halo page!
How to Help your Blind Dog
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.
1. Your pet isn’t painful and doesn’t need to be put to sleep just because it is blind.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
5. 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.
6. Put your chair back under the table after meals. Things that are left out will cause your pet to bump and lead to disorientation.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.