Monday 23rd August is International Blind Dog Day, a day which unites blind dog owners and caregivers across the world to celebrate how amazing blind and visually impaired dogs are!
To celebrate #InternationalBlindDogDay we wanted to share with you some tips about training and caring for a visually impaired pooch, to raise awareness on how rewarding owning a blind dog can be.
 

Visual impairment in dogs is not a one size fits all!

The same as in humans, visual impairment is not the same for every dog. Some dogs may experience sight deterioration or sight loss with age or illness, whilst other’s may be born with a visual impairment. We can help dogs adapt to living with sight loss to ensure they live their best dog life!

 

See our 3 top tips for helping dogs with sight loss below:

 

Navigation

For a dog with a visual impairment, navigating the house and garden is reliant on smell, touch and hearing. You can help them stay safe by padding out the sharp corners of furniture and objects to ensure they do not hurt themselves if they do bump into things. You can also add smell and touch waymarks for them by adding different textured mats under key places in the house, such as where their food and water is kept and where the entrances and exits are. We would also recommend keeping them on lead when they are learning to navigate new areas, so you can help guide them if needed. Additionally, if you have other dogs or cats in the home, pop a quiet bell on their collar so your visually impaired dog can know their movements to avoid them becoming startled, or to help them navigate by following their fellow furry friend!

 

Consistency

For all dogs, consistency in rules and training is key to help them learn new things! For a visually impaired dog, consistency in rules and routine can help prevent them being startled or worried, as constant changes in environment and routine may be additionally stressful for them to adapt to. Here are some additional consistency tips which may help a visually impaired dog:

  • Communicate to your dog when you are entering or exiting a room, by using consistent cues to let them know, such as “hey” and “bye”. You can do the same for when you are approaching them, before you touch them, to ensure they are not startled by people touching them when they are unaware of your presence. As always, if the dog does not belong to you, please ensure that you ask the owner’s permission before approaching.
  • Try and stick to a consistent routine when visitors come round. For example, when someone comes to the door call your dog to a safe space such as their crate or favourite room, to ensure the new person in the house does not startle them. Then you can allow your dog to approach and investigate the visitor in their own time.

 

Training

Training is important for all dogs, however, for dogs with visual impairments training them specific words can help them know what is happening in their environment and prepare themselves for interactions with their humans!

When training a new behaviour, such as sit or lying down, use a food lure to help them learn this new position. For example, hold a treat near their nose and guide them into a lying down position by slowly moving the treat from their nose to their toes! When they are in the desired position, use a special marker word or clicker and release the treat so they know they have done the right thing. After several repetitions you can then introduce a word such as “down”, to help them associate the new word with the action of lying down. Later in your training you can phase out the food lure, and simply reward them afterwards!

You may also wish to train your dog other words or phrases, which means something is about to happen. For example, saying the word “steady” if they are moving towards an obstruction, which after repetition they will learn the word means they need to slow down and navigate round an object.

Always remember that a visually impaired dog may be more easily startled by sudden changes and movement. When worried or startled dogs may be more likely to react in an aggressive manner, therefore patience and understanding is needed when considering a blind dog’s behaviour and they should never be punished for reacting in this way. Instead, seek help from a qualified behaviourist who can help with your dog’s response to things which worry them.

 

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Interested in adopting a dog from us?

If you are interested in adopting a dog from us, please visit our adopt a dog page. We hope this information and advice about caring for blind dogs has helped raise awareness that they are just as amazing companions as all the other dogs who are also searching for their forever home!