There are many reasons why dogs can begin to lose their vision. Age-related conditions, injuries, and certain illnesses can all take a toll on your pet's eyes. Many pet-owners envision constant care and frequent animal hospital visits due to accidents, and some even consider putting their dogs to sleep due to blindness. However, it is possible for a blind dog to have a good quality of life, as long as you're willing to learn how to help them learn to adapt to their condition and navigate the environment without their vision. Take a look at some tips for learning to adjust to having a blind dog in the house.
Emphasize the Sense of Touch
The truth is that many dogs adjust to blindness with more ease than their human counterparts do. While vision may be one of your most finely tuned senses, the same is not true for your dog. A dog's most finely tuned senses are smell and hearing, and your dog already knows how to use the ears and nose to identify people, places, food, and signs of danger. Their sense of touch is highly developed as well, and without their vision, they will rely on this sense much more heavily. You can help teach your dog to compensate for their lost vision.
For example, making sure that the floor in each room is a different texture can help your dog learn to navigate the house. Your dog's sensitive paws can distinguish the difference between vinyl flooring in the kitchen, tile in the living room, and carpet in the bedroom. Have the same flooring in every room? Invest in some textured floor runners so that your dog will have something to touch that can help them navigate.
Minimize Confusion By Making Changes Gradually
Your dog is already familiar with your home's layout, so they'll get used to moving around it without their vision faster than you may expect. However, a home remodel, or even rearranging your furniture or bringing in new pieces of furniture, can lead to confusion, as well as some bumps while your dog re-learns the territory.
That doesn't mean that you can't make changes to your house, but for your dog's comfort and safety, it's best to do so slowly and gradually. If you want to move the furniture around, try relocating one or two pieces at a time, and giving your dog some time to adjust before making more changes. If you plan on remodeling your home, do one room at a time, and once again, give your dog a break in between rooms to get used to the changes.
Teach New Cues as Needed
When you first trained your dog, they learned to "sit", "stay", and "heel" on command, among other things. You may find that with your dog's new limitations, some updated cues are needed. You might need to teach them "steps" for when you're approaching steps or a staircase, giving them a heads up to lift their paws higher. Or they may need to learn "slow down" for when you're approaching a crowd or another obstacle too quickly.
Because your dog doesn't have any visual cues to reinforce your commands, your tone of voice is much more important than it used to be. Your dog can't see you beckoning with your hand when you call him to come in, for example. Teaching your dog that an abrupt, loud "stop" means stop immediately can save your dog from possible harm.
It will take some work for both you and your dog to find a new normal, but once you do, you'll find that your dog's quality of life is as good as it ever was, and so is yours. Your veterinarian can help you find ways to keep your dog safe and comfortable during the adjustment period – as well as treat any underlying illness or injury – so be sure to ask for the support you need from your pet's medical care provider. Just in case your dog does happen to injure himself do to his blindness, make sure you have the contact information for a local emergency pet hospital.