By Sally Salopek
Q: We have an older border collie who is almost blind. We have had her to the veterinarian who said there isn’t anything we can do for her. Any suggestions on how we can keep her comfortable and happy in our home?
A: Dogs are truly amazing at their adaptability. I grew up with a blind collie. Unfortunately, he had a hereditary form of blindness and was totally blind by an early age. He did so well that people who met him could not believe he was sightless.
You can help your dog feel more secure in her surroundings by providing a stable and accident-free environment. The list below was composed by the ASPCA and it addresses a lot of issues to be made aware of when dealing with a blind dog.
- Give extra attention and TLC.
- Avoid moving the furniture.
- Don’t leave boxes, toys or other objects in walking paths.
- Cover sharp corners and objects with soft insulation.
- Speak to your dog when you enter the room and before petting or touching her.
- Let her smell visitors’ hands before they touch her.
- Mark different rooms with different scents so that your dog can use his sense of smell to recognize where she is.
- Mark the tops and bottoms of staircases with a bit of perfume.
- Use rugs to texture rooms, allowing your dog to use her sense of touch to get her bearings.
- Carry or lead your dog up and down stairs and block access to them when you’re not using them.
- Place barriers around hot tubs, pools and other dangerous and off-limits areas.
- Make sure she has her own safe place she can get to easily.
- Buy toys with sound and scent.
- Keep food and water bowls in the same place.
- Be very vocal and be aware of your different tones.
- Don’t baby or pity your dog – simply help her adjust.
A few things I would add would be to use a leash on your dog outside. You are now her eyes and she will feel more secure knowing exactly where you are.
Teaching a few new commands like wait, step up or step down will help her navigate her surroundings. Your voice will both guide and reassure her.
If she is used to roaming the house at night, you may have to confine her. A crate is an ideal solution.
If at times she becomes disoriented, lead her to her safe spot and pet her calmly till she settles down.
If you have other pets in the home you can clip small bells to their collars so she knows where they are. You can also put one on yourself if she gets distressed not being able to find you.
Once she gets used to this new way of life and has a mental map of her world, she’ll do just fine. Many dogs navigate wonderfully around their home and live a happy life despite their blindness. I know my collie did for 14 years. And, like him, visitors may not even realize your girl is blind because she gets around so well.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected]