Tips for Pet Parents

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 a Blind Dog

Interview with former BDRA President Karen Belfi

Environment & Surroundings
  • Put jingling tags or bells on other dogs so that your blind dog will know where they are.  People can wear a jingling bell as well, so your blind dog can find you.
  • Do not rearrange the furniture.  Blind dogs are able to "map" the layout of a home or yard.  Your dog can have trouble getting around if it is changed.
  • Use scented oils or perfumes to spray things that your blind dog could bump into.  Rub a scented candle on the corners of furniture and doors.  Blind Dogs have EXTREMELY heightened senses (especially smell and sound).
Articles about sight and smell connection in dogs:  
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, spaces under bookcases, etc. can be hazards for your blind dog.
  • When introducing blind dogs to a new space (new foster home or adoptive home) 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 object.
  • Use Textures 
    • Textures help some blind dogs.  For example, in the yard, put rocks around a pool or any other area that should be off limits.  When the dog feels the pebbles, he knows that he is getting too close.  Stepping from grass to a sidewalk alerts the dog that he is close to the door.  Feed your blind dog in the same place and put rugs under the food and water bowls. When he feels the texture change, he will know the location of the bowls.
Training Tools

A clicker can be very helpful in training a blind dog.  Be consistent, which is even more important with blind dogs than sighted ones.  It also allows you to shape behavior in a fun way. How to Clicker Train Your Dog

Voice Commands
Teach your blind dog the “watch” command, for when things are in his way.  “Step up” and "step down" is a useful command, when to help the dog navigate steps/curbs and stairs.  

Other Dogs
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. Make sure to be very aware of this so that you can intervene if necessary before a fight or an altercation occurs.

Other Resources
Living with Blind AND Deaf Dogs

There is a big difference between dogs who are born deaf and blind and those that become blind and/or deaf later in life.  Dogs who are born deaf and blind adjust to themselves from day one — they do not know anything different.  For 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 or dog feeder 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 to the ones that lead to the potty door & the water bowl. 

Blind Dog Parents Share Their Experiences

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 at least she is aware.  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 9 year-old dog Max went blind suddenly.  I have a dog bed in my bedroom ~ that is where he sleeps at night time but also it is his QUIET spot if the household or outside world is too much for him and he is getting stressed, he can go there and have quiet time until he is ready to rejoin us.  He has a little brother, JD, a cattle dog who has taken on the role of lead dog and takes care of Max.  When they are outside, JD is Max’s eyes and helps to get around by leading him.  If Max has a senior moment, JD is there to help him.

Lilly is my adopted blind AND deaf Shar Pei/Australian Cattle Dog.  I wanted 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 at Bold Lead Designs!  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.  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.  I am extremely excited to have something like this created for Lilly!  She is a kind, patient person who 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.