Wednesday, October 6, 2010
When a person loses their sight, there are many avenues of assistance. But what do you do when it is your dog? Making some simple changes to your house can help your blind dog adjust easier. Experts suggest not moving furniture or rugs, as it can make it more difficult for your blind dog to maneuver around the home. Evaluate each room from your dog’s height and sight level for hidden dangers. Are there any cords dangling in the way that could trip up your dog? Check for sharp corners or objects at a level your dog may run into, and move or pad them to lessen the effect of an accident. To help a blind dog acclimate faster, walk them around the house and re-introduce them to their favorite rooms, areas for sleeping and eating, and anywhere else they will spend time.
When approaching your blind dog, talk to them softly so they don’t get startled. Do not approach your dog if they are sleeping or from behind, as this may frighten them. You can provide encouragement to your dog by talking to them often. If your blind dog has obedience training, a consistent use of their regular basic commands gives them normality.
Using textured floor runners for a path through the rooms your blind dog spends the most time in can help them find their way using their feet. For example, if they sleep in the kitchen, use a floor runner to go from their crate or bed to the outside door they use most often. Don’t change where you feed or water them, and don’t carry them to their food or up stairs, as this can confuse them. If you have stairs, think about installing a gate at the top to prevent tumbles. Try to keep the floors clear of any obstacles that may hinder your blind dog’s movement through the rooms.
Show your dog where the door to the outside is, and remind them how to get outside. Teach them to use a scratch pad or to ring a bell, and hang one by each door your dog leaves or enters the house from. Installing a pet door allows your dog to let themselves out if you are not available. However, you should only install a pet door if it exits to an enclosed area that is safe for your dog (e.g., fenced yard, dog kennel).
Using a harness and a shorter leash when walking gives you more control over your blind dog when outside your home. A shorter lead also allows you to keep your dog closer to you in situations that may be new or strange to them. Get your dog a safety vest that says “I can’t see” or some other visible identification to alert people that your dog is blind.
If you have other pets in the house, hanging bells from their collars lets your blind dog know they are present. Let visitors know your dog is blind and that they should be careful. Allow your dog to sniff the hand of your visitor prior to petting. If you live with two dogs, you may notice your blind dog following the lead of your sighted dog. Your sighted dog may respond to barks from your blind dog; he’s just checking up on him. You may also find that your blind dog barks more often. Each bark sound has a different meaning which you’ll eventually learn to understand, such as “I’m hungry,” “I have to go out” or “where are you?”
Your dog may have lost their sight, but they might still retain some of the independent ways they grew up with. Like humans, a dog’s other senses pick up the slack when they lose one. A dog’s ancestral instinct is an advantage when coping with blindness. A blind dog begins to use their sense of smell more to find that bone they “buried” under the couch, and it tells them when you’re preparing their dinner. A blind dog’s sense of hearing lets them know a family member has returned home and needs to be greeted. They use their sense of touch while learning the world they inhabit in a different manner.
Having patience, being consistent and loving, and giving lots of positive encouragement can help both you and your blind dog look at this new chapter like an adventure.
Photo by Richard Bartz, Munich
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently