Dogs can lose vision for any number of reasons. Genetic causes, injury, and illness can all cause blindness and some dogs need to actually have the eyes removed when infection is the cause.
Blindness is, of course, a sad turn of events but it hardly is a death sentence. Dogs, in fact, are extremely resilient. Some dogs barely slow down at all and this is likely due to the other senses kicking into high gear. A dog’s sense of hearing is acute to begin with. It’s a known fact that when one of the senses is hindered in any way whatsoever, the other senses become more acute.
If you’ve ever had a blind dog, then you know that absolutely nothing goes past their nose without inspection. Blind dogs will wake out of a sound sleep when they smell a can of tuna or dog food being opened. They can find their way to the source of a smell the size of a dime on the kitchen floor.
Helping a dog adjust after a sudden blindness or blindness that was a progressive issue when they were born sighted can be a challenge. You should expect there is going to be some anxiety at first.
What to Expect
Some dogs can become snappy and temperamental when their vision begins failing them. This is fear. They don’t mean to lash-out necessarily, but they are terrified when they can’t see something coming near them and suddenly a shadow is a blur that seems to be attacking them. They become over-reactive and I’m sure that you understand if you were to put yourselves in their shoes for a few moments.
It is particularly important that you instruct children not to walk up and suddenly touch the dog. Speak to them first. Let them know who you are and give them some time to learn identifying you by scent faster. They already have the skill, but like us, they become used to looking. Soon, they will know the moment you walk in the room.
Their sense of smell will become even more accurate. A dog’s nose is already capable of smelling cancerous skin cells with 100% accuracy. A beagle walking past a bag at the airport can tell if you are hiding an orange that shouldn’t be in there.
An adjustment period is going to happen, and they may act scared or they may take the offensive and become aggressive in their behavior. If you note anything particularly disturbing, hiring a private dog trainer to come to your home and help you make sure that your dog is supported in the best way during this transition is a great idea.
Trainers are that expensive for the benefits that you gain. They can give you insight to the problems your dog is having emotionally and physically right now.
They can teach you how to find aids for blind dogs like these scent markers at Innovet.
Loads of Patience
Something as simple as rearranging furniture can be a big deal to your dog from now on. Have understanding for them. Know that meeting new people and other dogs can be very scary if they cannot see the body language of the other dog.
Dogs rely on seeing the way a tail is carried, the position of the other animal’s ears and body posture, to know if this is friend or foe. Not being able to see these things is going to be a big social anxiety going forward.
It is extremely important that your dog isn’t introduced to other animals that you are not 100% sure are safe. Remember that your blind dog is at an extreme disadvantage and if a situation gets out of hand, you are likely to get bitten if you reach between two fighting dogs. These situations can be avoided with some planning on your part. You’re his eyes now.
Know that you can train a blind dog with sound. Clicker training is a great training tool and dogs learn through repetition, so if you keep routines the same and leave their bed, toys and bowls in the same places, they will have no problem finding things on their own and adapting to their new world.
Being Blind is Not Problematic for Most Dogs
Blind dogs can learn to go for walks with you, hiking, and being very athletic. Surprisingly, their senses adapt, and they learn to run and play with other dogs. Dogs also tend to have a better attitude about these sorts of things than humans do. A dog with an amputated limb will typically be up and running within a week.
Little holds them down because they live in the moment. The biggest gift that you can give your dog at this time is simply the time and patience to let him learn how best to be independent again and you can bet that he will.
Be patient and wait for your dog to decide when he is ready. Don’t rush him but reinforce when he’s done well with your kind voice and treats. Use aids for blind dogs, such as the targets at Innovet Pet. These are training tools to help them start a new way of learning and adapting to life again.
Dogs are adaptive because they are survivors. They’ve been around since cavemen walked the earth and likely became man’s friend at that time. Now is your chance to pay him back.