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Vision Loss in Dogs

Dog with collar and canesVision loss in your pet can be an emotional time for all family members. Therefore it is important that you are all aware of the problem and give yourselves and your pet time to adjust. The emotions that you may all go through are quite normal but you need to be aware that there is something you can do for your pet. Being blind is not a death sentence. It is just a new learning experience for the whole family. In fact you may get a lot of pleasure out of re-training your dog to cope with his/her blindness. It will be challenging but here are some tips to help you and your pet develop your relationship on a new level:

  1. Try different methods of announcing your presence when approaching your pet. Whistling, clapping your hands softly, wearing bells around ankles or wrists may assist in alerting your pet to your where-about's.
  2. Using verbal cues when around your pet will reassure him/her and assist with retraining. Words like “up” or “down” for stairs or “careful” when he/she approaches an obstacle. For blind dogs that are deaf special training devices can be obtained to assist when verbal cues won’t help.
  3. Scented perfumes and oils can be placed on the edges of furniture. This is particularly good to assist your pet to be able to “map” out the area especially if you need to move furniture around or are moving house.
  4. The garden can also pose a challenge for your pet. One solution is to plant your garden with highly scented plants or distinctive smelling mulch to help your pet move freely around the back yard. Different smells can allow your pet to “map” out the area, slowly regain his/her confidence and give him/her something interesting to investigate.
  5. Allow your pet play time. Give him/her toys which work on the other senses. Try toys that make noises, or balls with bells inside. Stimulate your pet by hiding food treats inside a Kong or ball.
  6. Use training aids such as the blind collar or hoop which will alert your pet to obstacles, particularly in new environments.
  7. Be aware of pools and cliffs or holes with sudden drop offs.
  8. Keep food and water bowls in the same area. Use matting which is textured differently from the surrounding floor, this will let your pet know that food or water is nearby.
  9. Have safe areas for your pet. Use designated bedding or matting which has a different feel from other areas in the house. Your pet will learn that this is an area they can go to feel safe and regain his/her bearings.
  10. Try using textured matting, such as the grass matting on the edge of stairs so that your pet can feel when to step off the steps. If stairs really pose a problem, build a ramp for him/her to use.
  11. When exercising your pet, have a couple of different routes that you use for walking. Once your pet has “mapped” out the route, his/her confidence will grow and eventually he/she will be taking you for a walk.
  12. Get your blind dog, a sighted canine companion. A recent programme on pay TV showed another sighted dog was of great benefit to a blind dog. But before making the decision to get another dog, always make sure it is going to be the right decision for your family. Another dog will increase the responsibility of all family members and another dog may not suit the personality of all blind dogs. If you like the idea of another canine companion, inquire with friends if their dog would like to be a regular visitor to the household, particularly while they are at work etc.
  13. Always remember to spend quality time with your special friend and be patient when training him/her. This is a challenging time for him/her too.

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