Care for a Dog Blind from Birth
Designer dog breeding has caused a high incidence of blindness as a birth defect. Double-Merle Dachshunds are particularly prone to this disability, as veterinary eye specialists will attest. This does not mean that the dog won’t be a valuable pet! In fact, blind dogs can be some of the most obedient and affectionate dogs. They are not the burden that owners may think. Their hearing and sense of smell are far superior to humans, so their other senses can usually make up a lot of the difference. Their care requires a few easy adjustments.
- Prepare your environment. Dogs that are blind from birth are very adaptable and do not need a completely unmoving environment, since they develop excellent mental maps and adjust, but they do need to be away from stairs and sharp objects that they may bump into.
- House train them normally. Most sighted puppies rely on feel and smell as much as a blind dog. Puppies don’t have great eyesight.
- Get your treats ready. Chicken thighs are very inexpensive and a great luxury for dogs. Gourmet preparation is not required; just bake them until they’re not pink, then cut them into tiny pieces. Training pieces are not meals.
- Condition them for words. Sighted dogs can see how happy or upset you are, but blind dogs need to learn it by touch or treat.
- Condition “Good!” (Good boy, good girl, good puppy, good Fido) with either a soft pet or a small treat. The best treat is a tiny piece of chicken for a small dog.
- Blind dogs can be trained for some actions far easier than sighted dogs, because they are not distracted. Easy words and easy training are even easier for a blind dog!
- Condition something negative with a sharp sound. It can be a hiss, pst, “uh-uh,” or something very short. The sound alone should be enough to deter bad behavior, but steering them away from the behavior at the same time will help.
- Use liberal touching and affection. Sighted dogs look at your face for affection. Blind dogs can’t. Touching, petting, and rubbing are their only signs that you are affectionate towards them.
- Tell them what you are doing. You may not think they can understand, but they will develop an understanding of what you are doing by what you tell them. If you walk away, tell them in a simple word about what you are doing. “Laundry,” “Dishes,” “Jammies,” “Potty,” and many more daily activities are all things they can come to understand.
- You can even use made-up words for activities. “Hodeeho!” could mean you are going to the car and will be right back. Feel free to make up as many words as you want. Your sighted dogs will understand these too.
- Walk your dog. Blind dogs (who have never had sight) are even better on a leash than sighted dogs. They don’t have the distractions that sighted dogs have. They will learn, much as a horse does, that a slight tension on the leash means to turn. Keep them on a close leash so you can steer them from things they may bump into, but let them run if it’s clear and they want to.
- Be lenient on your walks. Blind dogs don't heel well, since they can't see where your heel is.
- Because blind dogs are denied the visual stimulation of walks, let them have plenty of time to stop and smell. Do this either on the way out or on the way back, since they should have some good exercise time too.
- Step train the dog. This can take time for a blind dog, so be patient. Sitting by a step with the dog can help. Say, “Step!” and then put the front paws on the step. They are naturally (and rightfully) afraid of stairs and steps. Never try to stair-train a blind dog. Disorientation can cause them to tumble and fall. Blind dogs should always be carried on stairs.
- Train the dog to sit, stay, shake, leave it, and any other command you think is desired. They may require more touch and chicken treats than a sighted dog to get it the first time, but will reward you with far less disobedience once they understand.
- Remember that dogs do not think existentially. They have no idea, if blind from birth, that sight exists. They can be fearless and blissfully happy.
- Talk to you dog in your normal voice. "I need to put this ointment in your eyes so you will feel better." Praise your dog for being still while you are administrating eye ointment. Always make time. One on one. They can feel if you are tense, so do what you have to do gently and with confidence.
- Use the same judgment for bringing in another dog as you would with a sighted dog, but remember that to some dogs, not making eye contact is strange. They may be confused by your blind dog sometimes.
- Never physically scold a blind dog except to steer it away from danger. Without eye contact, they won't be able to trust any contact if it's not always positive.
- Care for a Dog Blind from Birth
- Care for a Pregnant Dog
- Paper Train Your Small Dog
- Understand Dogs and Their Environments
- Care for a Poodle
- Train a Blind Dog to Handle the Stairs