help me make my blind dog's life as good as it can be
January 17, 2017 3:05 PM   Subscribe

My darling dog Jack has gone blind, I'm looking for real-world suggestions for making his sightless-life better.

We adopted Jack from rescue at roughly 9 years old (he's creeping on ~11 now). He's been a mess of mild health issues since, but pretty happy after a lifetime of generally shoddy care. His eyesight rapidly declined around Thanksgiving, which we've tried to treat, but ultimately Mr. Magoo has lost his sight completely.

I come to AskMe for any tips or tricks you have in aiding us in the transition to total blindness. We know the big stuff, like not picking him up (he's 75 lbs anyway), commands like "step up" and "step down" for stairs and curbs, and not moving the furniture. But he's still running into furniture and walls, or spending an hour gazing in to the distance while whining, growling, or barking. He's getting lost in the house and completely refuses to go for walks. I'd love to get back to walking if there's a way, but at a minimum, I want to make him comfortable in his own home.

I work from home, but my schedule will be very busy in the spring and I want him to be as adjusted as he can be before then. We have a dog walker who checks in, but once April hits, he and our other dog will be alone in the house for what amounts to a work day.

Thank you, AskMe!
posted by rinosaur to Pets & Animals (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Buy or fashion him some sort of "cane" that will give him tactile feedback before he smacks his sensitive nose or toes into things.

Here is a google image search showing a broad variety of the things I'm talking about.
posted by SaltySalticid at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Here is a blind-dog-DIY google search.

People have come up with some pretty ingenious bumpers. Maybe if he got used to one of these he'd get enough confidence to head outside, eventually.

Good luck.
posted by beccaj at 3:11 PM on January 17, 2017

Rolling Dog Farm has been taking in blind dogs (and horses!) for almost 20 years, and aside from the resources on their website you might contact Steve and Alayne to see if they know of an experienced trainer/vet/rescue/owner in your area that might be able to offer you some in-person advice/assistance.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:22 PM on January 17, 2017

"Living With Blind Dogs" resource book and training guide is available from Amazon. Sorry I don't know how to link from my phone. It was a big help when our dog went blind years ago and she lived several more happy years. One trick I remember is scattering a scoop of kibble over the floor before we left for work. it helped her re-learn her way around by exploring the room sniffing from kibble to kibble. It gave her incentive to move around yet go slow, and with her snout down she didn't bonk her nose on things. She got so she could move around the house with ease. If I think of more I'll post again.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 5:16 PM on January 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

My hyper and fun loving Brittany went completely blind last year from SARDS (she was only 6 at the time). She (well, both of us) went through several months of depression over it (I don't think you can rush this part, sorry). She was listless, wouldn't play with toys, didn't eat with enthusiasm and was very tentative on our walks. It sucks, but it passes.

She's now back to her enthusiastic self. This includes running or jumping into things when she's excited or bumbling into everything when sleepy/disoriented. I jokingly refer to her learning new spaces as "face braille." I'm actually happy that she's back to being energetic, even if that means running into things more frequently. She's kind of fearless and it makes me happy.

Literally several dozen people posted on my Facebook timeline with the youtube video of that little dog and his bumper harness. It's cute, but it's no way to live. Honestly, the best thing you can do is to treat it like it's no big deal. When you freak out the dog freaks out. She just ran into the wall, she already knows it wasn't pleasant, and dogs just get confused by the human concern and emotion. Running into things happens. She's learned to respect my "woah" if she's about to walk/run into something on our walks, but when she plows over a curb (regardless of whether I just said "step") or swerves into a wall before I can react, I just tell her she's a good girl and we continue on.

Living with a blind dog can be a challenge (she gets into things a *lot more now than she used to), but you both adjust and things go on, and she's only gotten more lovable and sweet.

Best of luck with Jack.
posted by titusfortner at 5:37 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I guess I'd also recommend "Living With Blind Dogs." I was annoyed by some of the factual inaccuracies in the section on SARDS, but I just now grabbed my copy to reread parts of it, and there is some good information in there (including the depression and dependency issues I mentioned).
posted by titusfortner at 5:41 PM on January 17, 2017

We've found these scent stickers helpful for marking doorways, etc.
posted by LikeaDogwithTwoTails at 9:44 PM on January 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Never move the furniture again.
posted by kerf at 11:15 PM on January 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I had a blind lab for years. Great suggestions above. We increased our use of sounds with him--like commands such as "this side" for when he was sniffing a street sign on leash and I needed him to stick close to me instead of going around it and getting tangled. He was pretty quickly fetching squeaky balls in the lake. I'd squeeze them so they squeaked a good bit of the way down to falling with a plop in the water. He'd even respond to commands to go left or right if he lost track of the ball. This was all just instinctual for him and for us--no formal training program.

Blind dogs are capable of a ton of nuanced learning with increased inputs via sounds and smells. For example, if Jack is consistently bumping into the same thing in the house, start consistently saying "outta the way" (or any command) just before he collides. It might take him a while to catch on, but eventually he should hear that command and redirect his body so he misses it.

If he likes toys, get lots of noisy ones. If he chases toys, you can help him explore the house by throwing them as they're making noise.

Good luck!
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:34 AM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

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