Living With a Blind dog

This be in 2 parts.

Furst section tells you how a dog reacts to losing it's sight and how it's affected by it.

Second section tells you how to live with your blind dog so you boff have a good quality of life & still have lots of fun together.

So are yoo sitting comfortubly? Let us begin!

The following excerpt is from: Living With Blind Dogs: A Resource Book and Training Guide for the Owners of Blind and Low-Vision Dogs by Caroline Levin.

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

His 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 as with SARDS, 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. Blind dog owners report this adjustment can typically take three to six months, but certainly there are instances where it has taken much longer. It is possible for you to help ease this transition

The Fight Or Flight Response

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. As with humans, dogs may utilize a variety of behaviors to help them cope with vision loss. They may utilize more than one behavior at a time, and they may switch back and forth between behaviors. Typical behaviors a dog may display include depression, fear, aggression, and dependence. Since a dog cannot understand what is happening, and since we cannot communicate that to him, we can only surmise what is going through the dog’s mind. One animal behaviorist believes that animals perceive physical ailments akin to being attacked by another animal. There are similarities between the responses of a sick (or blind) dog, and a dog being attacked… so there may be some value in this concept. Dogs have a strong “fight or flight” response. Based on a variety of factors, a dog may stand up and fight challenges (attackers) or he may flee (run from attackers). Neither response is wrong. They are both survival mechanisms and don’t have any reflection on a dog’s intelligence or “goodness”.

Fear And Aggression

If indeed, a dog responds to blindness as though it was an attacker, he may try to “fight”. If your dog was a dominant, aggressive dog before the blindness, this may become more apparent now. Similarly, if your dog was a fearful individual before the blindness, this could possibly manifest itself now as aggression, as fear and aggression are closely linked. Without the ability to identify a true attacker, the dog may lash out at family members. The dog may snarl, snap and bite other dogs in the household, their owners and family friends. This is a common reaction. (See “Pack” section for helpful hints.) There is a fine line to handling these situations successfully. On the one hand, aggression is not behavior that you should encourage or accept. On the other hand, the dog is already stressed, and fearful. A strong reprimand could serve to escalate the situation into a full-fledged attack. Try to minimize whatever situations incite the aggression… other dogs sniffing him, neighboring children visiting. Issue a calm reprimand. Do not pet, cuddle, baby talk or otherwise reward the dog after the aggressive behavior. That will only encourage it to be repeated. As you progress into the training program, specific activities will be outlined to help you deal with this issue.


Dogs that try to “fight” the blindness obviously don’t succeed. And for some dogs, “fighting” isn’t their first choice anyway. These dogs would typically flee an aggressor. Unfortunately for these dogs, “fleeing” is not a realistic option, either. Obviously, the blindness follows them everywhere. Ultimately, for many dogs, their normal methods of coping are ineffective. Dog trainers know that show-ring dogs can have a very similar experience. Many dogs become stressed in the show-ring because there is no specific aggressor to fight, and there are unable to flee the environment. These dogs to become overwhelmed and “shut down”. They begin moving slowly. They lower their heads, ears and tails. In effect, they become depressed.Depression is a common and normal reaction to blindness. A few dogs have difficulty ever getting past this state. Dogs can demonstrate a decrease in appetite and activity (play) and an increase in sleeping time. They have less interest in toys or tasks that once brought them pleasure. One owner reported his dog standing in the center of the room and simply “crying”. If you are still coping with your dog’s loss of vision via a state of sorrow, it is possible that you could transmit these feelings to your dog as well. Most dogs take their emotional cues from us. While it is important for dog owners to let their own feelings run their natural course it may be beneficial to shield the dog from them. You might want to consider separating yourself from the dog when you feel especially sad, or need to cry. Give the dog a chew toy (see “playtime” section), and close the door into another room. You will have to decide where the fine line is between any benefits this might have, and any negative reactions your dog might have (i.e. separation anxiety, or the belief that he is being punished). Another option sometimes recommended by blind-dog owners is massage. There are several good books available on this topic, or consult your veterinarian for assistance. You do not need to be an expert at this skill to benefit your dog. Unless a dog experiences other physical discomfort, general massage over the dog’s neck and back can be an enjoyable experience for both you and your dog. It is believed that massage can both calm down a stressed dog, and energize a lethargic dog. It is also a way to “reconnect” with your dog since he can no longer see you, or see you well. Tactile (touch) stimulation is a good way to replace some of the stimulus loss that comes with blindness. Any additional stimuli the dog receives can help keep him “connected” to his environment and you.


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 “coddle” the dog. “Coddling” is the enemy to any progress your dog might make. This is a sentiment repeated over and over, by blind-dog owners. Do not allow your dog to become dependent upon you. Once coddling stops, and training new skills begins, your dog can regain confidence in himself and the world around him. As you progress further into the training program, you will learn how to better deal with this issue.

and now how to live with your blind dog:

Let's take a look at a few tips that will help your blind dog adjust to his new situation.

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.

Using the other senses: toys and play

Dog with squeaky toySince 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.

Dogs can and do learn the names of toys. Work on this with your dog. Unique sounds and scents will help. Use treats to reinforce learning. The interaction between you and your dog is very healthy.

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.

Indoor tips

A carpeted runner or large area rug can be a great play area for a blind dog. The dog will learn quickly where the edge of the runner is and the traction is good.

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.

Dog using a water fountainA 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.

Carpet squares or throw rugs can also be useful to alert your dog where doorways and other obstacles are located.

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.

Keep floors picked up.

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.

To help your blind dog locate trees, buildings or other large solid objects, place a "warning track" of mulch or bark chips 1-2 feet around the object that will alert your dog that the danger is close.

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 dogLet others know that your dog is blind. A bandana or vest that displays "I'm Blind" will alert others of your dog's condition. Let an approaching person know your dog is blind. Let the dog smell them and their hands before they pet the dog.

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.

Other tips

If you have younger children, they can develop an understanding of your dog's blindness by wearing a blind-fold and crawling through the house at the dog's level (this should be a supervised event).

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 acclimate to his new situation. 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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this article. It is an interesting and informative one.
    The Rock 'n' Roll Dog