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6 Ways to Help Your Blind Dog 6 Ways to Help Your Blind Dog

Sarah Wilson

Dog Expert

Helping a Blind Dog

6 Ways to Help Your Blind Dog

| 38 Comments

Helping a Blind DogYour dog is blind. You’re on the hunt for the best blind dog info you can find. Good for you! Here are some ways to help your dog, with the most important thing being #1 on the list.

#1 – Accept Your Dog’s Blindness

I know, I am asking a lot. You’re upset. You’re probably thinking about all your dog has lost. Here’s the thing: As far as your dog knows, every other dog in the world goes blind or is blind. Dogs do not regret. It’s part of their charm.

Your dog always leans on you emotionally for how to be in the world and, right now, they are leaning on you more than ever. Lead the way with laughter and praise. Show them, in every way, that life is fine. More than fine!

Frequently I hear from people how depressed their dogs are after blindness then I go see the family. It’s not the dog who is depressed. The dog is confused by the change and confused by their human’s depression. This is a case where “act the way you want your dog to act”  really helps. If you want your dog to be happy, relaxed and accepting of the situation – lead the way by being all those things.

Of course, being well-informed can help accept things so here are books for blind dog care and below are other ideas you can implement right now.

2) Get an Ad-Visor For Your Blind Dog

Both you and your dog will be more relaxed if you’re not worried about your dog bumping into things. A visor, especially for the blind flat-faced dogs, will give your dog an early warning that they are close to something and protect their still sensitive eyes. I selected these because the design is a secure one and allows for the ears.

Dog Baseball Caps

Introduce this slowly with a playful attitude with plenty of treats. Cap on – praise and treats. Cap off – silence and pause. Repeat and your dog will learn to accept it. Sooner or later. Just happily persist. There will be head shaking during this process so only for dogs that are vet-okayed for head shaking.

#3 – Words to the Wise

There are many words you can use to help your dog navigate his new world but the first and most important word of all is “Wait!” meaning stop. Immediately. Right where you are. Teach this on leash and make it a game. You walk a few steps then say “Wait”. Help him wait then praise and laugh and treat. “Wait” is the best thing ever! Use it at all stairs, curbs and doorways. Have your dog on leash – always – when moving around the house for now. Pretty soon you’ll have a dog who “waits” on your word reliably and immediately.

#4 – Sound-Making Toys Help Visually-Impaired Dogs

Toy-loving dogs will benefit from a sound making toy. Find toys that stay where you throw them as much as possible (balls can roll off making it harder for your blind dog to find) and skip things with batteries, unless you use them under strict supervision. Dogs can get very good at orienting toward the sound, as this clip of a blind dog playing fetch demonstrates.

If your dog is a fetch-hund, start playing in an empty hall with you blocking the exit. Toss the toy a little ways away then help your dog find it. Apply a scent as explained below. Dogs can get very adept at this with your help.

#5 – Use Common Scents

Your dog’s nose is working just fine so you can harness that to help them navigate. For a negative marker: try natural deodorant stick or roll on. That will mean warning: Barrier ahead! Dab it on doorways and thresholds at your dog’s nose height. They will quickly learn to “read” what that means. Use small amounts because a dog’s nose is thousands of times better than yours. If you can smell it, it’s more than enough. If you can’t smell it, it’s probably perfect.

Also get a calming extract made for pets. Dab a tiny amount of that on his toys. Then his nose can help him locate things and you can easily “tell” him when a new toy is added to the group.

#6 – Gate Off Risks

Apply scent to all stair areas but put up gates as well.  That way you can really relax when your dog is out and about, secure in the knowledge there will be no tumbling down stairs in your future. Most dogs learn quickly about where the stairs are but, especially when the blindness is new, protecting your dog in this way is good insurance.

Hope this list helps you feel more confident about this situation. Please tell me about your dog below, I’d love to hear your story.

38 Comments

  1. Marci Horgan commented over on facebook to leave your dog’s whiskers long. This is an excellent point – so talk to your groomer if your dog’s face is clipped short for any reason. Thanks, Marci!

  2. I had a dog “Blind Willie McTell” aka Willie, who came to us age about 9-10, completely blind from retinal degeneration – he didn’t even see light. He was in very poor condition and riddled with parasites from being a stray. But he coped amazingly well with his blindness and didn’t consider it a handicap at all. Willie played with other dogs, hiked off leash, went on road trips across the country with me and learned his way around the homes and motel rooms we stayed in. I taught him some cue words (wait was one of them), but also “step up”, “step down”, “careful” (in a sharp tone of voice to convey urgency as it meant “you’re about to run into something” and he learned to veer away from the tree or brick wall he was about to hit), come to me (which meant “walk straight to me without taking a detour” – that was how I helped him navigate around more difficult obstacles). Off leash he’d walk along happily behind me, clambering over logs when necessary (cue word – “over”); once in a while I’d turn around and see him doing something goofy, like following his nose and walking into a river. Then I’d send my other dog Tarka after him and he would turn him around. Willie wasn’t afraid of anything, though the sound of rain disoriented him because he couldn’t figure out where he was – too much noise all around him. He never said an unkind word to anyone and was a big hearted gentle giant. He died in May of this year and I miss him so much. This video is how I want to remember him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTgEqBiheKQ

    • What a lovely video of your dog playing ball, Willie was a real happy boy!

    • How did you handle steps

      • Hi Susan –

        A gate at the top and the bottom so your dog can’t do them without you. A harness and leash so you can help keep your friend safe. Then use the same words overtime: step down or step up… You could also use a light and unique scent on the edge of each step – applied with a swipe of a cotton swab. If you can smell the scent, it is WAY too strong. Hope this helps – Sarah

  3. We have a blind dog. All these suggestions make sense.

  4. My 11 year old IG girl went blind some time in this past year. I’m not sure because she adapted so well I wasn’t aware how blind she had become. She had a bleed in her eye and I took her to the eye vet. That is when I learned how little she could see. I cried when I thought she was helpless. How would she find her water, the paper, or her way up on the couch. She amazed me by not skipping a beat. She knew where everything was, the water bowl, the paper, the steps out the front door and she still jumps on the couch. Her way is lit by a light that comes from inside. She only runs into things like shoes left on the floor or the cat sunning himself in the middle of the room.

  5. Our 12 yr old Cairn/shih tzu girl became Diabetic 3 months ago. This diagnosis was followed by sudden onset of cataracts and blindness over the past month. We learned that Diabetic cataracts can be removed early on, so for anyone with hope of removing cataracts to preserve your Diabetic dog’s vision, I would advise to take your dog to a veterinary ophthalmologist as soon as possible. And be sure to tell them what the situation is, as with several of the ones I contacted, they made room in the schedule as they did consider Diabetic cataracts emergency in nature, if vision was to be preserved. Our little one already had severe inflammation in both eyes caused by the Diabetic cataracts, and elevated blood sugar in the eye. The inflammation was causing scar tissue to form and elevated eye pressure (glaucoma). The vision loss is permanent for her, unless through some miracle, as the cataracts mature, there are some clear spots that occur that may let in some light. We are now giving her eye drops 4 times daily, 5 different ones, to reduce eye pressure and reduce inflammation. Hopefully the pressure can be controlled and inflammation recede. If the pressure remains high, this causes pain, and then the eye(s) will need to be removed. For suggestions, the “careful” is one I have used, also “lift up” and “lift down”(when I will lift her, as otherwise this is startling to her to be lifted up without warning.) I am hoping to teach her some way to learn “right” and “left”. She does know “up” and “down”, although still gets confused a bit when first waking up to her blindness in the morning She was cautious and fearful for a while, still is at times; but we are seeing more and more of our happy girl again, with her waggin tail! Even a bit of trot to her walk when she is sure of solid footing.. she is more tentative where we live in the country , and more sure of herself when we walk on pavement. I plan to try some of the scent suggestions, they sound very helpful, as going through the storm door is still a bit tricky and worrisome as the edges of it are sharp.
    Sorry for the long story, but I do hope someone may be helped by learning early enough of the need to rapid intervention with Diabetic eyes.

    • She is VERY lucky to have you, Gladys. Big hug, one dog lover to another.

    • My little dog Killer just became blind from his diabetes as well. He woke up one day and could not see anything. He ran into things and has fallen off the porch and will not go down the stairs to go potty because he is so scared to. It breaks my heart and I’m hoping me training him with the words step down will work. I’m still struggling with his blindness and how to teach him. He gets so tense when I try to direct him to go down them because he has fallen so many times.

      • Keep him on leash with you so you can protect him. Especially around stairs or porches or other drop offs. Work in quiet, safe places on some basic commands like wait and sit so you can stop him when you need to. Building his trust in you will help build his confidence over all. – Sarah

    • Hi Gladys, I also have a shih tzu boy named Archie, when he was a younger around 1 year old he was attacked by another dog in the park one day, immediately we rushed him to the emergency vets where they did everything they could to solve his problem, however the other dog had caused too much pressure on his neck which resulted in Archie’s eye dislodging from the socket, after several weeks and many check ups we decided it was the best option for Archie to have his eye removed, he was fully blind in this eye and the only reason to keep it was for vanity reasons, and of course we’re not them kinds of people. He’s been amazing for the past 6 years since his trauma but recently the vision in his other eye started to worsen, he had cataracts surgery at an animal eye specialist hospital and they told us it had been extremely successful and we just needed to monitor him with eye drops to keep his pressure down. Every morning I drove 3 hours to the eye specialist vets to have his pressure checked and have gave him 8 different types of drops each one four times a day, it was two weeks ago that I noticed he was struggling slightly so when I went the next day to have him checked, they told me he was blind and they were sorry but there was nothing they could do. His eye drops have now reduced to 5 different types 3 times a day for each one. He seems depressed and doesn’t want to do anything, I’ve bought him scented balls and noisey toys to try encourage him but nothing seems to work, it’s breaking my heart to see him like this he is such an amazing dog and theres nothing I wouldn’t do for him. I spend every single day with him, we go to his favourite places on walks and I never leave him alone, I’m trying to teach him new things and commands but he can be very stubborn sometimes so I’m going to try putting scents around the house. I hope people can learn from Archie’s story too, and for anyone else with a blind dog, I think being there for them whenever you can is the best thing you can do.

      • My Minature Schnauzer has also gone blind with cataracts and glaucoma. Although the opthomologist doesn’t consider her having glaucoma now as her pressure is way down. I too give her a pressure drop once a day and an inflamation drop 3 x a day. I am still working but my husband is around her a fair amount. I picked up on your message as you said your dog is depressed. Mine too is as she was always in good health till this. Now she just wants to lay around. I still get a tail wag when I get her excited. The vet doesn’t want to remove her eyes because of her age and she has a slight heart murmur. This weekend she had bumped into something and caused a coneal ulcer so now I have drops for that. So sad. Any good ideas for the depression for you guys yet?

        Thanks

        • Hi Cindy – Your dog is lucky to have you! Follow some of the suggestions in the blog post so she feels safer in her environment and act like you want her to act: happy. Both those things should help her feel better. Hope so. – Sarah

  6. My little man just injured his ‘good’ eye, leaving him nearly 100% blind. I can tell he has slight vision in his previously injured eye. He is a Boston Terrier, and apparently these types of injuries are common to the breed, and with eyes that bulge out (so cute) just makes them more susceptible to injury.

    We have lived in the same home since he was added to our family, and I haven’t moved furniture in the home, so he had adapted well, even though it’s only been a few days. He also has an older brother, who is an 11 year black lab who can hopefully help him get around outdoors and during their walks they normally get 3X/day.

    I totally agree with Sarah’s initial comment though; this has been a lot more devastating for me than it had been for him. I have been trying to stay positive while in his presence, and things are improving for me mentally, but he has been in good spirits, relatively.

    He is on a bunch of eye drops, salves, and oral medication for the pain, so I’m hoping that some of the moping around and apparent depression are simply fatigue from the pain meds. Another reason for me keeping a positive attitude while in his presence, and I hope he returns to his playful, energetic self.

    I have been doing a bunch of research on making his life good now that he is without his eye sight. It makes total sense to me that the loss of vision for dogs isn’t as extreme add it is for people, since it isn’t their main sense; it is third in importance to dogs, with their ears and nose being more important (in that order for shorter nosed Bostons).

    Sorry for the long comment, but this page has really helped me to stay up-beat, with the sincere hope that I can keep his life great, as it was, and hopefully help others who may be experiencing the same thing. Besides my husband, this little man is the most important ‘person’ in my life, and had been for his nine years of life. Hopefully, we can have many more happy years together!

    Good luck to you and your best friends!

    • So sorry to hear about your dog’s eyes. You’re right, I do hear about more injuries with the bulging-eye breeds.

      And so happy for your dog that he has you in his life. You clearly adore him and want the very best for him. 🙂 His life is already great and if you tell him it’s great, he will believe you. 🙂 Give him pats from me. – Sarah

  7. My little poodle, Coco, has had every bit of eye misfortune a dog can have…and she’s only four. At nine months…severe cataracts…surgery. Then surgery to remove eyelashes that were scratching her cornea. Then cherry eye. Then detatched retinas in both eyes…another surgery to repair that. One was partially successful…they tacked the retina back on, but she lost vision in her right eye 100%. Yesterday at checkup we found she has glaucoma. Started on meds for that. From everything I have read glaucoma usually predicts blindness within 2 years.
    We are preparing now. This has been helpful. Thank you.

    • You are welcome. Poor you and poor Coco. {{{ }}} She’ll be fine with blindness, dogs are. Impressed you are preparing so well and so soon. I applaud you. Sarah

  8. We just found out our 11 year old Lhasa poo is going blind due to SARDS. Thank you for all the advice….we are learning that dogs can adapt, which is great. Our dog is left alone many time during the day and is not a crate dog. Can you offer any advice on the best approach to leaving the dog alone that is now blind? Thanks

    • Hi Denny – Sorry to hear about your Lhasa. At 11, I would not fret too much since your home is known well. I’d block off stairways but otherwise, watch and see if there are other things you need to address. Also, talk to your vet about your concerns. My bet is things will go surprisingly smoothly. I certainly hope so. Good luck! Sarah

  9. My Spaniel, Teddy, is 10 and suddenly was diagnosed w/diabetes in September. 4 no later, just one weekend the diabetes took away ALL his eyesight. He has bad back legs and I’m struggling with the Vet for us to get his diabetes under control. He’s gone from a chubby 40# to anorexic 19#. It’s killing me, he’s upset and confused. I’m doing my best but just losing it.

    • Oh, Lisa, that sounds miserable. So sorry. Poor Teddy. And poor you.

      What are the biggest challenges right now?

    • My dog had the same things happen all of a sudden. I had to change his food to meat and veggies. (I can be very specific if needed) This has stabilized his diabetes and he is starting to gain weight back. Mine also has bad back legs but he is on alot of vitamins (also can be specific if needed). This has helped him greatly. please let me know if you need specifics, we have been this way for almost a year now. Try to be calm, THEY really sense things now from you. I used to just put on the ok face when stressed, but now that he cannot see my face, he feels my feelings. it is really hard at first, but it does get better.

    • We are dealing with the same problem. Our pug was diagnosed diabetic in December, and in less than 6 weeks, cataracts have completely rendered him blind. It’s been so hard to watch him struggle:(

  10. Hi. Our 5 yr old bichon Beaux just was diagnosed with sards. Hes adjusting well. He seems to have good and bad days . He seems to get disoriented and then freezes. We have a lot of stairs and most of his troubles come from them. My question really is would another dog help our Beaux? If so when would be the most optimal time to bring another dog into our home and how.

    • That is SO hard to know. Another dog might be a help or might be a hassle for him. If you decide to try, consider an older and wiser female as his buddy. A calm dog about his size or even smaller who he could relax with and count on. Hope that is helpful – Sarah

  11. The dog in the picture at the top was my beautiful Iggy, Bella. Bella just passed away this week at the age of 15. This photo was taken when she was about ten, but I got her when she was nine, from a rescue agency that specializes in rescuing puppy-mill mothers. When I got her she was already blind and it never seemed like a handicap at all. She went camping with me, played with the neighborhood dogs, helped me puppy-sit a friend’s adolescent Rottweiler and, oh, more than I can say. She would always walk behind me on her leash and I was always careful never to leave stuff laying on the floor if it didn’t belong there. I also never moved the furniture once after we’d decided where it would go. Aside from that she didn’t really need much. She eventually went deaf too, so I shouldn’t give her verbal cues. My corgi knew she was blind, though, and would go get Bella if the leashes came out or if it was mealtime. Or we could say, “get Bella” and the corgi would bound over to her and nose her, and the two of them would come to me.
    For a while we lived in Hawaii on seven acres and Bella could find me when I was doing yard work anywhere on that property. I honestly don’t know how she did it, but she was faultless. Another time, when we’d moved to a new place, the backyard was downstairs and through a crowded kitchen from my bedroom. Bella had me convinced that I had to carry her from the bedroom to the backyard and back whenever she needed to go outside. I carried her for three months. Then, one day, she was sitting on my lap in the kitchen and something scared her. Off my lap she jumped, wound through the kitchen chairs, upstairs to my room, through the door, and jumped on my bed – completely problem free. She totally had my number – she just preferred to be carried. Yeah, well most of the time she walked to the backyard after that – but I still carried her sometimes just because she liked it.
    Whenever she was in a new place she would explore the area, walking around and around, bumping into things. But after 10 or so minutes she seemed to know her way around, and would settle down, standing in the middle of the floor, wagging her tail ready to play. We miss her terribly now. My advice is just not to be afraid if your dog is blind. Bella ran into things from time to time but always shook it off no problem and went back to whatever it was that she was doing. And woe behold any corgi that tries to steal her dinner!

    • Thank you, Connie, for sharing this wonderful, heart-warming story. I love Bella from here. How lucky you both were to have each other. My sympathies on her loss this week. Such a companion and friend leaves a very big hole in one’s life.

  12. Thank you very much, Sarah. I miss her terribly but I’m pretty sure I have her a good and adventurous life while I had her. I totally warms my heart that her picture is at the top of this page. I wish you could see the picture of her and the corgi ⛺️ camping.

  13. I recently adopted an 11 yr old, 80 pound, blind and deaf pit bull. He is amazingly sweet and affectionate. I have researched many sites regarding life with a blind & deaf dog, but most info addresses one or the other issue but not both. I am interested in making the rest of his years happy and playful (if possible). I need to know about toys and activities for him. He loves being outside and going for car rides. He sleeps a lot during the day, but I don’t want him to be bored. Any suggestions or tips will be sincerely appreciated.

    • That’s one lucky dog! Now, worry about boredom if HE seems bored. Dogs of his age/size rarely suffer boredom since they generally simple nap. Do enrichment as much as you like for both of your enjoyment, just don’t stress the “boredom” aspect. Try some food toys, he may find that a lot of fun. Here are a few I might try: Food Ball: https://amzn.to/2KZm360 – Snuffle Mat: https://amzn.to/2L3i5ZM – other slow feeders: https://amzn.to/2LF8JEG Have fun with him!

  14. My mom whos went to heaven, her dog she left behind went blind all of a sudden. An I get him to play fetch with a bottle, an or play wrestle with him.. He gets super excited. If he doesn’t hear it hit the floor I will go get it and make sure he hears it… I’m learning how to keep him have as normal a life as he did when he could see. I won’t let him run the backyard alone but I did extend the leash so he can feel like he has some more freedom… I think you have to learn your dog…do what feels right for him and you.

    • Sorry for the loss of your Mom. My sympathies.

      Sounds like you’re doing a loving job with your Mom’s dog. “Do what feels right for him and you” is good advice. Take care.

  15. I just adopted a 1 year old vision impaired poodle/silky terrier mix. The sweetest little thing. Bella Rose was flown from a kill shelter in Louisiana to Northern Idaho. She is already managing the 5 stairs off the deck to our fenced backyard. She is getting around great and is adjusting to her new home. Thank you for the good advice.

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