We asked our members and other blind dog owners to share tips on living with blind dogs. We heard some great ideas, and have shared them below.
Living with Blind Dogs
Environment & Surroundings
- Put jingling tags or bells on other dogs. That way your blind dog will know where they are.
- Owners can wear a jingling bell as well, so your blind dog can find you.
- Do not re arrange the furniture. Blind dogs learn the way the house is set out, and can have trouble getting around if it is changed.
- Use scented oils or perfumes to spray things that your blind dog could bump into.
- Blind Dogs have EXTREMELY heightened senses (especially smell and sound).
- Acclimating to a new home:
- Get down on your hands and knees, to your blind dog’s level, and look for things that could harm him. Sharp table edges, etc. can be hazards for your blind dog.
- When introducing blind dogs to a new space (new foster home or adoptive home) I scatter kibble throughout the house or space. The dogs search for the kibble but since they are using their nose and are moving slowly, they learn the space with less running into objects!
- Textures help:
- Textures seem to help some blind dogs. (Example: In the yard, we have rocks around the pool. When he feels the pebbles, he knows that he is getting close to the pool. When he feels the sidewalk instead of the grass, he knows that he is close to the door.)
- Feed your blind dog in the same place and try having rugs under the water bowls. When he/she feels the texture change, he/she will know where the water bowl is.
- Clicker training can be very helpful in training a blind dog. “It’s consistent, which is even more important with blind dogs than sighted ones. Plus it allows you to shape behavior in a fun way.”
- Teach your blind dog the “watch” command, for when things are in his way.
- “Step” is also a useful command, when there is a step in front of him.
- Having a sighted buddy really helps a LOT. A seeing companion (dog) for your blind dog can help show your blind dog the ropes.
- Keep in mind, a blind dog cannot read the body signals and the visual signs that dogs give each other all the time. Make sure to be very aware of this so that you can intervene if necessary before a fight or an altercation occurs.
Living with Blind AND Deaf Dogs
There is a big difference between dogs who are born deaf and blind and those that become blind an/or deaf later in life. Dogs who are born deaf and blind adjust to themselves from day one — they do not know anything different. Dogs who become blind and/or deaf later in life — it takes longer for them to adjust.
“Make feeding and potty times very routine. Put the food bowl in the same place, start the dog off in the same spot in the yard. Keep the dog in a limited space such as a crate, laundry room or bedroom when no one is home so that they are not trying to navigate large areas of the house alone. Be cautious and watchful in strange environments so that your dog does not get overwhelmed and stressed without you realizing it.”
“Vary the texture of the flooring, and make the most obvious change the ones that lead to the potty door & the water bowl (though my Karly can smell water, even distilled water!). I clap for “come” because Karly’s hearing is iffy especially when she’s in panic mode wondering where I am. I use “Karly, say hi!” to let her know someone wants to love on her. Sometimes she likes the person sometimes not but she’s ready, at least. I take her for walks where I expect there to be a variety of smells – bunny, squirrel, raccoon, deer, ducks, geese (yes, I live in doggy heaven!). You’d never know she’s blind when she’s tracking!”
“I have a blind and deaf miniature poodle and something very important is to study their movements and watch how they figure things out for themselves. A fenced yard is a must and landmarks outside are just as important to them and they do learn them. You become very in tune as to when they need you and when they can figure it out on their own. When I let my dog outside onto the deck he sometimes does not go straight and veers to the right running into the post. He knows this happens sometimes so he doesn’t go fast or hit it hard but he knows to move to the left to find the stairs. Sometimes he veers to the left and misses the stairs and this throws him because he tries to automatically veer to the left to find the stairs. I always keep an eye on him and can tell when he needs my help and when he does not and can figure it out for himself.”
“My dog nine year old went blind last year suddenly. I have a dog bed in my bed room~that is where he sleeps at night time but also it is his QUITE spot if the household or outside world is too much for him and he is getting stressed he can go in there lay down and have quite till he is ready to rejoin us. He has a little brother Jd whom is a cattle who has take the role of lead dog and takes care of him. When our blind dog is outside he is Maxxe’s eyes and helps to get around by leading him and if Maxx has a senior moment Jd is there to help him.”
“A fabulous person I have stumbled upon since Lilly (adopted blind AND deaf Shar Pei/Australian Cattle Dog) came into our lives, is Katrina Boldry. Until I discovered that retailers of service dog harnesses would not sell their products for pets, I had hoped to try to use a guide dog harness as a more stable/secure means of walking our girl, and I figured it was the original and best design for biofeedback between dog and handler. There is virtually nothing else out there that is even close to being so anatomically correct, comfortable, safe, and stable-even with consideration for ‘aftermarket modifications’. Then I found Katrina! She is a leather goods artisan in Colorado who is truly passionate about her craft, guarantees all of her products for life, and is more willing to customize and tailor her product line than anyone I have ever met. She is currently making a custom leather harness for Lilly that is based on her design for a service dog harness, modified to be street legal and blind dog friendly. To say that I am extremely excited to have something like this created for Lilly would be a gross understatement! She is a truly kind, patient person who genuinely cares that the piece she creates is a perfect fit for dog and handler. She might be a valuable resource for other pet parents who can’t find what they need for their furkids.”