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Is It Cruel to Keep a Blind Dog? 21 Tips for Caring for Your Visually Impaired Pet

Howard lives with Chester, a blind dog who enjoys his life, especially his meals and naps.

Do Blind Dogs Suffer?

If your dog has lost its sight, you might be wondering if it's cruel to keep it alive like that. Is your dog suffering too much?

The simple answer is no. Veterinarians tell us that dogs adapt very well to losing their vision.

Owners of blind dogs will tell you the same thing. They can still get lots of enjoyment from food, walks, games, exploring, and lounging around like they always have.

Dogs are great at living in the moment. They aren't lamenting their loss and thinking about what their lives could have been. However, they could experience unnecessary stress if no allowances are made for their new condition. Once they adjust to their new routine, they'll be fine.

Dogs that go blind suddenly might have a harder adjustment. It could take up to six months for their temperament to return to normal.

There are some things we can do to ease this transition, limit their anxiety, and put them on the road to a happy, comfortable life.

This is Chester, a blind dog who enjoys eating, resting, sniffing around and many other things.

This is Chester, a blind dog who enjoys eating, resting, sniffing around and many other things.

21 Tips for Keeping Your Blind Dog Happy

There are lots of things we can do to make our blind buddies more comfortable at home and when they go out. Not every dog needs everything on this list. Our dogs personalities and habits vary; knowing your dog combined with some experimenting will tell you what will help most.

  1. Be consistent inside. Keep your home environment as consistent as possible. Don't move furniture around unnecessarily and keep the floors clear. Keep the dog's bed and bowls in the same place.
  2. Be consistent outside. Same goes for the outdoors. Keep the yard consistent. Make sure there's no growth at eye level that could be walked into. Fence off pools, ponds or sudden drops.
  3. Use texture to mark locations. Having different surfaces in the yard will tell your dog where he is. Mulch or rocks can be used around trees and edges. If you have bare floors, a carpet runner can be used to lead the dog to various rooms or key spots like his bed, bowls or toys. Mats can be placed in front of key locations like bowls or stairs.
  4. Use scents as markers. Scents can be used to mark familiar places or places to avoid. When your dog is away from home, these scents will provide some grounding in a strange place. Don't use much; a dog's sense of smell is strong. If your dog likes playing fetch, a scent (like an essential oil) can be applied to the toy to help them find it.
  5. Give reassurance of your presence. If your dog is more comfortable knowing where you are, you can wear a scent, wear a bell, or occasionally say something. You can also walk with a heavier step so the dog hears you.
  6. Be sensitive to stress. If the dog is stressed or anxious, bring him to a familiar spot (his bed, a chair, a common sitting place) and pet him until he relaxes.
  7. Be careful on stairs. Stairs can be difficult and might have to be relearned. Having them carpeted or applying traction strips is preferable. The dog can be supported as it goes up or down one or two stairs. Rewarding with a treat should fix it in their minds. Stairs can be added until they can handle them all.
  8. Use a leash. Using a leash on walks is a must, but it can also be used at home. They can be walked through the home regularly until they have a good sense of the space.
  9. Use sounds as guidance. You can guide the dog through the home by tapping the floor and walls, or getting it to follow you while snapping your fingers. A dish with moving water (fountain style) makes noise and might help your dog to find it. The dog might favor toys that make some kind of noise.
  10. Use your voice instead of your hand. If your dog gets startled when touched, make your presence known first by talking.
  11. Tell people. Tell visitors that the dog is blind. Be especially sure that children know not to frighten the dog.
  12. Teach children. Children who live in the home have to learn to be careful around the dog. They can crawl around (supervised) with their eyes closed so they will understand what the dog deals with.
  13. Identify the blindness. Away from home, the dog can wear a piece of clothing that identifies them as blind. You can also say this to people who approach. If the dog has to spend time somewhere else like a kennel or clinic, you can make a sign identifying the dog's blindness. You can have a collar tag made that lets people know about the vision problem.
  14. Anticipate hazards. Check for things your dog could bang into or fall off. Sharp edges should be covered and ledges blocked, including stairs if the dog isn't used to them.
  15. Use sound as comfort. Leaving the TV or radio on when you're gone might provide some comfort.
  16. Offer a halo of protection. A "halo" could help while the dog is getting used to the home or is in a new environment.
  17. Train. Associate simple commands with certain situations like "step up" or "step down" for stairs, "stop" for a danger spot, "food" or "drink" for bowls, and anything else that happens frequently.
  18. Follow a schedule. Walk your dog in the same places, preferably with even ground.
  19. Use a bell. Other pets might need to wear a bell to avoid startling the dog into an aggressive response.
  20. Crate. During times of increased activity in the home, the dog might need to be in his crate. A blind dog can't avoid danger as well, so they could get stepped on if they're loose.
  21. Don't do too much. Avoid carrying your dog from place to place at home. This interferes with their ability to form a mental map of their surroundings.

This video shows a blind dog being acclimated to its home environment. The work we put it will pay off in a relaxed and happy dog.

Comments

Howard Allen (author) on June 09, 2019:

I'm sure he will like the big bed. Losing their sight doesn't make them any less lovable.

Paula Chaplin on June 09, 2019:

Hi my 13 year old staffy has gone blind.i have bought a super king size bed so he can continue to sleep on my bed .as he has always done.im struggling with this as he is my best friend and dont want to lose him.

Howard Allen (author) on February 21, 2019:

Yes, having a blind dog is just as rewarding as a sighted dog. They just need a little more understanding at times. Thanks for reading.

Ellison Hartley from Maryland, USA on February 21, 2019:

I have never had a blind dog myself but found this article super interesting. After reading this I would consider adopting a blind dog without a second thought. Thanks for a great article!

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