Tips for caring for blind dogs
How important is sight to our four-legged friends? Blind Dog Rescue UK states sight is the third most important sense for our dogs, with scent and hearing being more important and useful to our dogs. Dogs sniff and learn about their environment. Dogs are great listeners, telling us someone is walking to the front door before the doorbell rings. Sight isn’t as important as we think but there are still a few things we can do to lend a paw to our four legged friends who struggle with sight.
What can we do to make life easier for a blind dog? Well, we have to consider how we can make their environment safe - we have to ensure we provide them with information using their other remarkable senses. How can we do this?
- If you are welcoming a new four-legged friend into your home or moving house consider keeping them on a short lead while they learn and map out their new home. You are their eyes so make sure to let them know where everything is, like their bed, water bowl etc, and teach them various commands to help them navigate. Don’t worry, we’ll cover these commands later on!
- If your dog has recently lost their sight, try your best to stick to their routine, this will offer them comfort during the transition period.
- Once you’ve settled in your home try not to move furniture around frequently as once your dog has a map of where everything is it’s important to keep things consistent.
- If you have a house with stairs, consider using a baby gate or similar until your dog has mastered the stairs. Please use your own judgement, make sure your dog is confident before allowing them access to the stairs.
- You can also use carpet runners to help your dog navigate and make a walkway. This will help them stay safe and walk where no other objects are in the way.
- You can use dog safe scents to help your blind dog cement where certain areas are in the house. Please ask for veterinary guidance with this one, they will ensure the scents are dog safe. You can scent map many areas but consider which ones are most important - bed, doors going outside, eating area, stairs etc. You can book a positive reinforcement behaviourist to help and offer you support.
- Using wind chimes or bells can also help your dog identify where the garden door is.
- You can buy water fountains for pets and the sound of a water fountain may help your dog learn where his/her water is.
- Do you have other pets, a cat or maybe a multi dog household? You can get some bells that jingle and pop them on your other pet’s collars which will help your dog hear when they are near, making them more aware and less startled if they bump into their fur siblings.
- Remember to remove any objects that might be dangerous out of your dogs reach. If you have furniture with hard edges (coffee tables for example) try to cover the edges with something soft as this will prevent your blind dog from getting hurt.
- Doggy Goggles? Known as Doggles can help keep your dogs’ eyes safe when you are walking where there are low branches and bushes.
- For gardens use bark or similar to map out the perimeter of your garden and outbuildings to help your dog learn where everything is. Always ensure you put garden tools anyway or any other objects that may be dangerous to your dog to keep them safe.
Blind dogs will need to be taught some commands to help them navigate their surroundings. You can book behaviourists who use positive reinforcement for assistance if required. The following commands will be helpful to teach your blind dog with navigating his or her surroundings
- Stop - This is very important for safety. Once they learn to “stop” you will prevent them from walking into objects.
- Step up/down – Another very important command which will help your dog understand where steps are and if they are going up or down.
- Kerb – This is helpful when crossing roads, letting your dog know when to expect one.
- Right/Left/Up/Down – This will teach your dog which way you are going.
- Easy/Steady - These are helpful in teaching your dog when to slow down.
Remember that hearing your voice is reassuring, please chat to your dog (telling them what to expect and what’s coming) in a cheerful voice when possible. Knowing what to expect will help your dog adjust to life as a blind dog and will help calm them if they're anxious. Training sessions are fab for confidence building, while strengthening the bond and relationship we have with our dogs.
Blind dogs also need canine enrichment as it builds confidence and prevents boredom. Enrichment toys like a snuffle mat will allow them to sniff out tasty treats and provide hours worth of fun that also engages their other senses. You can find our full range of TASTY TREATS which are perfect for enrichment games here
We would love you to share your pictures of your gorgeous blind dog and any top tips you may have. Just tag us @poppyspicnic or use #poppyspicnic