Pet owners are often intimidated by handicaps in pets—sadly this is one reason many pets end up in shelters, condemned unless someone adopts them. Blindness is one defect that may intimidate you, but a blind dog isn’t all that difficult to care for since vision is not a dog’s primary sense anyway. Blindness is usually gradual and progressive as well, which can enable some adjustment time if your dog is starting to lose his eyesight. If you’re adopting a blind dog, or your dog has recently started losing eyesight, here are some tips for taking care of your dog.
Your dog will rely a lot on verbal cues and sounds. So if your dog is blind or going blind, start using phrases more often—not just when you’re giving a command to your pet, but also during everyday routines. This provides landmarks and makes your dog feel more grounded and connected. Don’t move items like food bowls around—keep them in the same place every day so that they are easier to find. Also avoid moving around objects or furniture that have nothing to do with your dog. Like you, your dog can feel disoriented if something is moved out of place, even if it’s something that isn’t used every day. Your dog has a mental map of his surroundings, so keep that map as consistent as possible.
Your dog relies heavily on smell, even if your dog isn’t blind. So for a blind dog, scents are more important than ever. You can use scents to help your dog navigate. Try placing scented candles, potpourri, oils or powders in specific areas of the room that are relevant to your dog. Your dog will learn to associate specific smells with areas and items of interest. So, for example, if you place a rose-scented candle on a table near your dog’s food bowl, he’ll seek out the rose scent to locate his food bowl. If your dog gets lost and confused, then you should take him to an area that is familiar and safe and pet him for a while until he feels centered and oriented again. You may also need to help your dog up steps.
A leash isn’t just helpful with a blind dog—it’s critical. Some owners even leash their dogs while indoors in their own homes for a while until the dog adjusts to the area. The main purpose of the leash is actually to reassure the dog. Dogs not only get nervous if they don’t know where they are, they also get nervous if they aren’t sure where their owners are. The leash is a direct line of contact. Likewise, you may want to regularly make noise as you go about your day to day tasks at home. If you are easy to locate, your dog will feel more anchored and secure. Most dogs adjust reasonably well to life with blindness, and are mostly concerned with being able to know where they are. Once your dog adjusts, odds are he’ll lead a happy life.