How to Live With a Blind Dog

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How to Live With a Blind Dog. Dogs that are partially or completely blind need owners who can help them cope with their daily lives. With a few minor adjustments to your home, your dog will get around with confidence.

Remove dangerous obstacles (such as toys or pulled-out chairs) in your dog's normal walking path, especially if she has recently lost her vision.

Use tactile and auditory cues, such as rubber or plastic runners along pathways, to help your dog navigate using the runner's texture or the sound of her toenails clicking on the mat.

Teach specific commands as your dog learns how to negotiate her way around, such as "easy" when she approaches hazardous areas.

Tap a nearby obstacle (a wall or furniture) to alert your dog to danger, and offer praise and treats for successful maneuvers.

Guide the dog by scent: Apply an oil-based scent to an area your dog needs to negotiate or avoid (doorjambs, corners of coffee tables and walls, chairs).

Consider using different scents to signify different things: Dog bowls might have a citrus scent; hazards might have a pine scent.

Maintain the arrangement of your furniture. When you add furniture, apply a new scent to that piece and repeat the introduction process.

Keep specific high-use areas--around dog doors and main pathways--well-lit for dogs that have decreased vision, as in the case of night blindness.

Place mats of contrasting colors or shades under your dog's food and water bowls and in front of steps and doors. (Also see How to Train a Blind Dog to Manage Stairs.)

Use high-contrast markings to help dogs with low vision avoid obstacles. Use black electrical tape on white doorjambs or white masking tape on dark stairs.

Introduce your dog to her new environment on a leash. (See How to Train a Blind Dog to Avoid Obstacles.)

Tips & Warnings

  • Dogs may be afraid of rubber or plastic mats, so introduce them slowly (never forcefully) and offer food treats even if one toe touches the mat. Practice with your dog on a leash if necessary.
  • Oil-based scents need to be reapplied weekly, but once your dog has developed a mental map of the house and yard, you might not need them. Scent options include prepared air fresheners, body deodorants and furniture polish.
  • Have your dog's eyes examined by a veterinarian ophthalmologist. Certain blindnesses can be corrected or improved through medications and/or surgery.
  • Be patient when working with blind dogs. Use praise lavishly.
  • Don't train or teach blind dogs using negative or punishment-based methods. They're already nervous about their situation, and using negative reinforcement or punishment on these dogs could cause them to become more depressed, anxious or aggressive.

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