Whatever a dog's abilities may be, they develop ways of communicating that are all their own. Perhaps they toss their empty food bowl when it's time to ask for more, or maybe they can tell you what they want with nothing more than a glance... you know.. the 'stare'.. If you are weltrained humom, you know what they want..:)
Body language says it all. Owning a blind dog can be a hugely rewarding experience.
Whether a dog is born blind or has lost their sight through age, illness or accident, they are amazingly adaptive to life without sight.
How Dogs React to Blindness
If you have ever owned more than one dog, or if you have known several dogs, you’ve probably realized that they each have personalities of their own. Like humans, dogs are individuals, and as such they respond to hardship and stress in a variety of ways. The following factors may contribute to how well (or poorly) a dog responds to the onset of blindness:
* The dog’s age — is he young and enthusiastic, or is he having to make this adjustment after spending most of his life as a sighted dog
* General health — is he fit and capable of learning new skills, or does he have health problems that will be compounded by blindness
* The onset of blindness– was it sudden or was the onset gradual such that the dog was able to compensate as the blindness progressed
* Previous training experiences — is your dog used to having you communicate and “work” with him, or has he usually “been on his own” as a fringe family member
* His “position” in the pack and his basic personality — is he a confident, dominant dog, a worried, submissive dog, or somewhere in between
The age, health and personalities of other dogs in the household
* And the personalities and dedication of the dog’s family — how much are you able, and do you desire, to “work” with him
In general, dogs that go blind gradually, young in life and are not the pack leaders make a faster and easier adjustment to blindness. Older, frail, dominant dogs, and those that lose their vision suddenly, can sometimes experience more difficulty.
Reaction to blindness
Dogs react to blindness differently. Some owners witness severe depression in their dogs. Some owners report aggressive behavior changes. And yet, other owners report that they never even suspected that their dogs went blind because nothing changed. Some dogs remain totally unfazed by the situation.
Typical behaviors a dog may display include depression, fear, aggression, and dependence.
Some dogs also exhibit an increased tendency toward dependency. These dogs become increasingly hesitant to perform tasks for themselves. They may be barely willing to walk across a room, let alone attempt a flight of stairs. In these situations, the owner finds himself doing more and more for the dog.
Both blind and sighted dogs can become masters at manipulating their people. “Dependency” is a state which, unknowingly, can be rewarded by the owner. For many of us, our pets awaken our maternal, caring instincts. It is normal to want to help our blind animals.
So while it is important to recognize handicaps the blind dog might have, it is equally important not to allow your dog to become dependent upon you.
Let's take a look at a few tips that can help
Speak to your blind dog in your normal, cheery voice.
Your voice is very soothing for your pet. Be sure to talk to your dog (often) and let him know when you are approaching and before you touch him. Your voice plus walking with a "heavy" foot to make vibrations will alert your dog that you are coming.
Small bells can be attached to you, other family members and the other pets in your home. The sound, too, will alert your blind dog to your whereabouts.
Some dogs may become depressed and withdrawn as their blindness develops. You can help by keeping a positive attitude with your dog. Maintain his routine; go for walks, continue to play with a favorite toy, etc.
give them massage, the closes between the two of you will sooth him
toys and play
Since scent and sound are now your dog's main senses, place a unique scent on the toys or use a toy that contains a bell or other noise maker. Squeaky toys also work great. This will help him follow and locate the toy.
There are many toys that serve blind dogs very well. Toys that hide treats and toys that make noise when they are played with both work well.
Create a "base camp" for your dog. This can be the area where his crate, bed and food bowl are located. If your dog becomes confused, he can return to base camp to re-orient himself.
A large plastic floor mat for your pet's food and water will help your pet identify their location. He will learn the feel of the mat and know where he is. This is another good place for a unique scent.
If your dog uses a crate to lounge or sleep in, tie the door open or place the crate on its side with the door tied "up." This will prevent you dog from running into the door or inadvertently closing a partially open door.
Drinking water fountains work very well for blind dogs. The bubbling sound of the water fountain helps the dog locate his water source.
Getting around in the house
Your dog will need to "map-out" his surroundings in his mind. With a short lead and some treats, walk your dog from room to room throughout your home. Reinforce good behavior with the treats.
Be sure to examine your home and yard at your dog's eye level to make sure there are no hazards (furniture, low hanging limbs) that could injure your dog.
You can also use key words such as "watch" when your dog approaches a hazard such as a slippery floor surface or a piece of furniture. Sharp edges on furniture can be padded with bubble-wrap or foam pipe insulation to help prevent injury.
If you have a small or toy breed, avoid picking him up and carrying him around your house. Allow him to re-discover and map-out your house. Being carried and set down in another part of the house is very confusing to your blind dog.
Leaving a radio or television on can be re-assuring for your blind dog especially in your absence, and help the dog orient himself.
Use baby-gates to block stairways and other hazards until your dog has mastered the location and navigation of these hazards.
If you have wooden or otherwise slippery stairs, place non-slip strips on the stair treads to make them easier to use. Place a unique floor mat at the top and bottom of stairs to help your dog identify the stair's location.
You can teach your dog to use the stairs with treats placed on each stair tread. Place yourself in front of your dog and encourage him without pulling on his collar or harness. Let him figure it out.
Use scents (e.g., flavored extracts, scented oils, colognes) to "cue" your dog to particular areas of your home: doorways, top and bottom of stairs, etc.
Artificial and real plants placed around hazards like posts, corner cabinets or other solid objects can act as "feelers" and alert your dog of the danger.
Settle on a furniture lay-out you like and stick with it.
Do not move the furniture around as this will distress the dog
Getting around outside of the house
A wind chime, placed by the outside door used most often by your blind dog, can be very helpful. The unique sound will help him locate the door.
In-ground swimming pools, decorative ponds and other hazardous areas outside your home should be fenced off to protect your dog.
Traveling away from home
Your blind dog will still enjoy walking with you. A collar should be exchanged for a harness and his lead should be short to avoid tripping.
Socializing is still an important part of your dog's mental health. Be sure to walk your dog in areas frequented by other dogs. When meeting other dogs, remember your dog will not be able to "read" their body language. So take things very slowly.
Use a name tag for your dog. Let others know that your dog is blind. A bandana or vest that displays "I'm Blind" will alert others of your dog's condition.
In addition to an identification tag, get a tag for your dog's collar that says, "I'm blind."
If your dog will be visiting a groomer or spending time at the kennel or veterinary clinic, create a sign for the cage or run door explaining his condition.
If you will be traveling to a strange place, take along some familiar items like a favorite toy or blanket.
Teach your dog new words that will help him navigate new surroundings: "watch," "easy," "left," "right," "step up," "step down," "stop," etc.
If you intend to bring home another dog, introduce the two dogs slowly. You can use a baby gate in a doorway to separate the dogs while they get to know each other. Some sighted dogs will actually help the blind dog get around.
As you can see there are many ways you can help your blind dog. Blindness in dogs does not need to spell the end of quality life. With patience and training, you will be able to enjoy your sightless canine friend's company for many years to come.