Whether it’s vision changes in older dogs or you are already living with a blind dog, figuring out the best way to care for him (or her) can be overwhelming. I adopted my first vision impaired dog about 9 years ago, and then next dog I adopted was totally blind. I had no rule book I just figured it out as I went along. In this post I’m going to be talking about how to care for a blind dog, and specifically the things I do for my dog Red.
Just because your dog is losing, or has lost his sight, does not in any way mean you cannot have a wonderful, happy and good quality of life together. Sure you’ll have to make a few minor adjustments, and yes you may have to be more aware of certain things, but he or she can still travel, take walks, join you for family outings, boat trips and anything else you used to do.
Something to marvel at
We’ve had Red for 8 years and I still marvel at how well she navigated her way around, no matter where she was. I watched her as she took a drink of water from her bowl in the kitchen, then made her way to her bed down the hall in my bedroom.
She stopped, “looked” around, realised if she was going the wrong way, re-oriented herself, then carried on to her intended destination.
I’ve taken her:
- On short haul flights where she’s with me in her Sherpa bag in the cabin
- Many long haul flights where she had to be in cargo
- Two day car trips UK-Spain and back
- More day trips in cars, on buses and trains then I can count
- Homes of friends and family
Again before her dementia she rarely banged into anything because she would tread carefully, and relied on other senses to guide her. It was incredible to watch her find her water bowl and bed, relatively easily, in an unfamiliar environment.
Here are my best tips
I never move furniture around, but to be honest I’m not the type that enjoys that anyway! My mother loves trying new looks, and is constantly moving the couch here, and a chair somewhere else. I could live in the same house for 30 years and never move a thing, which is good because if you’re living with a blind dog, you don’t want her to bang into something that wasn’t there yesterday. She knows the layout so why confuse her? If I need a change, I buy a new pillow for the couch, or a new accessory.
I’m mindful of my other dog’s toys on the floor. Even though they’re stuffed and soft, Red has really skinny little legs, so even stumbling over a small soft toy can cause an injury.
I never move her water bowls, and always make sure they’re topped up.
I don’t move her beds around. I’ll buy her a new one, but never change the location. There are several around the house, so she never has far to go to find one.
When I have to wash her beds I don’t leave the spot empty. I at least put a blanket down so she knows she’s in the right place.
She understands the word “careful” which I taught her over time. Whenever she would bang into something or come close, I said “careful” and she gradually made the association. When I say it now she immediately stops and changes direction.
If Red is asleep on the couch and there’s something I have to do that will take me out of the room I wait until she gets up, or put her on her bed and then do it. When I can’t wait and don’t want to disturb her I put a chair next to the couch so she can’t fall. I only do that if I am sure it will be seconds. Believe me, it’s too easy to get side tracked, and the next thing you know you hear a thud. It’s not worth the risk to leave your dog unattended.
I don’t pet her or pick her up when she’s sleeping, so as not to startle her. If for some reason I do have to wake her, I’ll call her name first.
If she’s wandering around and I know she needs a quick pee, I don’t pick her up without first saying something like “you have to go out?” This way she knows what’s going to happen next.
When I leave the house, no matter for how long, I always say “I’ll be right back” or “I’ll be back soon” – this way she’s not wondering where everyone went. It’s exactly what you shouldn’t do if a dog has separation anxiety, but Red doesn’t so it’s perfectly fine.
Her water bowl in the kitchen is very near a drawer handle, and that was never a problem until recently, when I elevated the bowl. I raised it because I thought it might be more comfortable for her, which it is. You may be saying “just move the water bowl” but I literally don’t have another place to put it, and she’s too used to it there. I wrapped the handle in a towel so she can’t hurt herself, problem solved!
Red doesn’t need a leash when I take her for a quick pee in between her scheduled walks, but I do stay near her and talk to her, so she doesn’t wonder where I’ve gone. Obviously she is on a leash when we’re out for a walk. That’s the situation for Red, but that may not be the case for your dog, so always keep her on a leash and err on the side of caution.
I put foam pieces on the edges of doors at her head level, so if she bumps into them the foam will cushion her.
I don’t close doors she knows are always open. She’s used to walking straight down the hallway from the living room to the bedroom, so why would I allow her to hurt herself on a door that is never closed.
If you have stairs in your home, baby gates can be your new best friend. A gate should be used both at the top and bottom of the staircase, as well as down to the basement or just keep the door closed. I know getting into this habit can take a bit of time, but you’ll get there.
You may want to consider buying a dog stroller. I can’t say enough good things about it, and how much easier it has made my life. In my case I got it more because Red can’t walk very far, and she gets heavy if I carry her for more than 5 minutes. Having said that, even if your dog does not have mobility issues, it may be a big help to make him feel more secure if you’re in crowds, on uneven terrain or he’s just having trouble keeping up. I’ve written a lot about pet strollers which you can find on this site under “mobility issues”, but here is a link to one post “21 Reasons to Buy a Pet Stroller.”
How to care for a blind dog – conclusion
If you’ve adopted a blind dog, your dog is experiencing vision problems or has already gone blind, it can seem overwhelming trying to figure out how to cope. It’s a question of looking at your home, surroundings and even lifestyle in a whole new way, which will take time. It’s about getting down to your dog’s level and figuring out what can be a problem, and what isn’t.
So there you have it! Yes some changes and adjustments will be needed, but with my “real life” tips as a starting point, living with your blind dog should be as joyful as it ever was.
What adjustments have you had to make? Do you have a tip that has made the biggest difference in terms of quality of life? Sharing helps others so please post in the comment section below, or on my Facebook page.
I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, a new Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.
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