If your dog is blind you may find yourself being unnecessarily worried about leaving a blind dog home alone. Dogs adapt well if they lose their sight or even hearing. They adjust by the use of their other senses especially their amazing sense of smell, their sharp hearing and also by touch. A dog’s whiskers play an important part in their navigation of the world. To learn more about how a dog’s whiskers function read this article.
Help blind dog navigate
I myself had a black Labrador called Kim who went blind in her later years and got around with no problem. Obviously, there are things you can do to make life easier for them such as not moving the furniture or putting things in places that they may walk into them.
Living with a blind dog requires commitment and patience. If your dog has recently become blind there will be a period of adjustment. This period of adjusting can affect their confidence and in some cases can lead to separation anxiety. You will need to make allowances and make an effort to make them feel safe and comfortable, especially when you have to leave them home alone. Dogs that have become blind will quickly learn to adapt by using there other senses such as sound and smell. They are very good at mapping out there surrounding so they know where everything is and where they are.
This video gives excellent tips and advises on helping your dog adjust and gain confidence in adapting to their new situation
The Halo guide is a specifically designed collar for dogs that are blind. It not only helps them to avoid bumping into things, but it also aids them in navigating there way around. It is a device that helps blind dogs transition to becoming familiar with existing or new surroundings quickly.
The halo sits just above the eye level and acts as a buffer to safeguard a blind dog’s head, nose, face and shoulders from bumping into hard surfaces. When the halo taps a hard surface, it indicates to your they need to go in a different direction. Most dogs catch on very fast and it is truly amazing to watch their confidence level rise. Wearing the harness also makes them feel safe and less anxious. It also does not hinder their normal daily activity. They can eat, drink, sleep and play with it on with no worries.
Watch the video to see the Halo guide for blind dogs in action.
Tips for leaving a blind dog home alone
Don’t move furniture around or leave potential obstacles in the way
Once your blind dog has mapped there surrounding they expect certain objects and furniture to be in a certain place. If you pull a chair out from the table always make sure you push it back in. If something has been moved and not where they are expecting it to be they will become disorientated and a little panicked.
This video is an example of something that can go wrong if you move or remove furniture from the room that they expect to be there. WARNING: You may find this video a little disturbing. I know I did the first time I saw it.
Remove any potential hazards
Remove any objects such as vases and ornaments from the top of cabinets. If your dog bumps into the furniture they can potentially knock that object off which may hit them or at the very least give them a scare. Also, remove any electrical cords or anything that they could potentially trip over. Watch out for any sharp corners or objects that could cause injury to your blind dog. You can even put foam, bubble wrap or baby bumpers on the corner of sharp-edged furniture as a safety measure.
Place different textures of rugs and mats in front of steps, bowls, and other obstacles to alert your dog. They will soon understand what each mat means.
Monitor while you are out using a pet camera
Use a pet camera set up in the room your dog is so you can periodically check up on them during the day. For more information on the best pet cameras for dogs see here.
Use essential oils
For a blind dog, their sense of smell is probably one of their best guides. You can use different essential oils in different areas to help your blind dog know what room they are in. For example, you can put a drop of lavender oil near their bed, a drop of vanilla oil in the kitchen, and so on. Only use a very small amount of oil as a dogs sense of smell is very powerful and too much can become overwhelming for them.
Limit access to harmful areas
Beware of areas that may be a risk to your dog such as stairways or decks and balconies. You can put up dog gates to prevent them from accessing these areas. If your blind dog is not fully confident in making their way around the home or yard you can confine them in a smaller area such as a certain room or part of the yard.
Set up a safe area
Set up an area that your dog can go to feel safe. This can be a corner of the room or even their crate. Place their bedding and their favorite toys in this area.
Keep their food and water bowls in the same place
Don’t move their food and water around so it is easy for them to find. You can even try feeding your dog wet or canned food as this will have a stronger smell to them so they know where it is.
Leave the radio on
Leave the radio or some music on. This not only helps to keep them company but also allows them to know where they are by following the sound.
Allow them easy access to their toileting area
In the case where your dog goes outside to the toilet you can set up some wind chimes outside the door so they can easily hear where the door is.
Provide ways to occupy your dog
Provide your dog with toys that can keep them engaged to prevent them from becoming bored and frustrated. Food stuffing toys such as a Kong toy are ideal for this. to learn more on this read “How to use a Kong for dogs”
Another important toy to provide for them are chew toys. Chewing is a natural instinctive behavior for dogs and gives them many benefits. This not only includes dental health benefits and keeping them occupied. The chewing action release endorphins to your dog’s brain making them feel calm and relaxed. For more on the benefit of chewing and types of chewers read this article.
Allow your blind dog to adjust to being home alone
If you are planning to leave your blind dog home alone for long periods of time while you are at work do some practice first. Start by leaving the home for a short period of time such as 30 minutes and increase the length you are out each time. Don’t make a big fuss of them when your return. Just let them know you are there and act like normal. By making it a big deal every time you come home you are more likely to cause them to be anxious when you leave waiting for your return.
Arrange visitors during the day
Have a friend, relative, or a neighbor pop in to visit and spend some time with your dog during the day. This will reduce the amount of time they are alone and prevent them from feeling lonely. Alternatively, you can use a pet minding service to do this for you.
Get a second dog as a companion for your blind dog
This is obviously an important decision and should not be done without a lot of consideration and thought being put into it. Many blind dogs do feel happier and safe if they have another sighted dog they can rely on. In addition, if you did decide to find a companion for your blind dog it is crucial that it be a good match. If you have an old dog that has gone blind getting a young high energy dog would probably give them more stress than benefit.
If you are considering this as an option read “Should I get a second dog” for a guide as to the types of things to take into consideration and questions to ask yourself.
A dog that has lost their sight can still lead a happy life. In fact, it is more likely to be harder on you than them. Rest assured that your dog will be just fine after a period of adjustment. Dogs adapt quickly and soon learn to uses their other senses to make up for any limitation that blindness has caused. The above tips are just some ideas to help your blind dog feel comfortable and safe for the times that you can’t be there with them. If you have any other helpful suggestions, feel free to mention them in the comments.
For a Complete Guide to Leaving a Dog Home Alone see here.