Dogs can experience varying degrees of vision loss at any point in life. Eyesight can deteriorate slowly over the course of years for dogs with glaucoma. In other cases, a dog may develop total blindness after suffering a traumatic eye injury. Whatever the cause might be, a vision-impaired dog must adapt to their environment all over again.
Dogs with vision loss can still live life to the fullest when the right tools are in place. The following tips can help your vision-impaired dog move through the world with confidence.
- Guide your dog around the home: Dogs that gradually lose their vision have time to adjust to living without sight. However, dogs with traumatic eye injuries become disoriented due to the sudden loss of vision. Help your dog relearn the layout of your home by guiding them through each room on a leash. Practice this exercise at least once a day until your pup can safely navigate the floor plan on their own.
- Create location cues: Vision-impaired dogs need a way to locate important areas of the home. Pet parents can make food, water and doggy doors more accessible by engaging the dog’s other senses. For example, swap their water bowl for a drinking fountain so the sound of trickling water can guide your dog in the right direction. Place their food bowl next to the drinking fountain so it’s easier to find. Textured rugs signal the location of doggy doors and entrances to the backyard.
- Keep necessities on the same floor: Staircases pose a safety hazard to dogs who are still adjusting to their vision impairment. Even if your dog is used to traversing the stairs, different elevations create an unnecessary obstacle for vision-impaired dogs. To make things easier, keep their food bowls, bedding and toys on the same level of your home. Place these essentials in readily accessible locations and avoid moving them around. Doing so will confuse the dog and cause distress.
- Clear away the clutter: Vision-impaired dogs can’t tell when an obstacle stands in their way. Objects strewn across the floor can become tripping hazards. They also make the environment less predictable, and constantly running into unexpected obstacles will stress out your pup. Tidy up high-traffic areas to provide a clear path from one location to another. You can prevent a messy home by making sure everything has a designated spot.
- Place barriers around safety hazards: Dogs with vision loss compensate by channeling their sense of touch, hearing and smell to get around. Unfortunately, some dangers can still catch these dogs off guard. If you have a pool, install a fence around it so your vision-impaired dog doesn’t wander too close to the pool’s edge. Block off staircases with baby gates if your dog hasn’t figured out how to maneuver them yet. Corner protectors can prevent injuries in case your dog bumps into the coffee table.
- Speak as you approach: Vision-impaired dogs use sounds and smells to keep tabs on their owner’s location. Avoid sneaking up on them, as your sudden presence can startle the dog. They’ll pick up on your scent, but only after you’ve gotten really close. Speak in a gentle, soothing voice so your dog knows exactly where you are. Always speak to your dog before petting them so they know they’re not in danger.
- Give your dog squeaky toys: A common misconception about vision-impaired dogs is they miss out on a lot of activities. Despite their disability, they can enjoy nearly all the same activities as a healthy pup. Dogs don’t let vision loss get in the way of having fun! They just have to play with their owners in different ways. Purchase toys that squeak or rattle so they’re easier to track down. These toys allow vision-impaired dogs to stay active and build their confidence.
- Incorporate verbal and physical commands: When a dog starts to lose their sight, pet parents have to change the way they teach commands. Of course, vision-impaired dogs won’t respond to hand signals. Help your dog relearn the basics by swapping visual commands for your voice and physical gestures. For example, you could touch their rear and say “sit” to guide them into the proper position.
Vision-impaired dogs can do just about anything a healthy dog can do. They can still play, navigate the home and enjoy your company in their own unique ways. Dogs with vision loss are more than capable of living a happy, enriching life. When you create a disability-friendly environment, your pup can thrive even without their vision.