By Katie Shannon
Losing use of one of your senses can be a real challenge, including for our dogs. Many dogs will loose eye sight over time with age, degeneration or disease, to varying degrees. For those that have significantly reduced visibility it can be a real struggle for both the dog and the owner learning how to adapt. Here are some tips to help with the changes, keep things simple and comfortable for your dog.
1. Provide a safe space: Your dog will especially enjoy a safe place, created just for them. Use a small room with a comfortable bed, or their crate as their own safe zone. This means when they are in that space no one will bother them. It is theirs alone to enjoy when they need some peace and quiet all to themselves.
2.Scent Trails: Everyday items you already have in your house like vanilla or scented oils can be used to help your dog to know the way around the house; create scent trails or mark important locations like doorways.
3. Other senses heightened: You can use this to your advantage. Even though visual stimulus is reduced or non existent, you can find new ways to interact with your dog; use sounds or your voice to help guide your dog to your location or for commands. Use scent to play games of play hide-n-go-seek by sprinkling yummy treats around the house.
4. Do not let them free roam outside: Ensure the back yard or garden is safe and fully enclosed so they can not escape. Dogs should never be allowed to roam freely. Keeping them on leash during walks is for their own safety as they may not be able to see dangers lurking nearby.
5. Use physical barriers to prevent injury: Your dog should never have access to anything that could cause injury. Block off stairs, pools, only allow them access to decks and patios with secure railings.
6. Close doors or limit space: This is especially important if this is a new space to the dog or rapid onset blindness. By reducing the amount of space it will be easier for the dog to learn how to get around. Block off access to the rest of the house like bedrooms and hallways by closing doors or using baby gates. Keep them happy and comfortable by containing them to the main living area where their food dishes, water and bed are available, and the majority of the household likes to hang out so the dog can be near you.
7. Use textures: Everyday items can be placed strategically to provide location markers which will help your dog to safely know their location and surroundings. Placing a carpet runner over a hard wood floor can act as a safe guide for a straight path through a room. Placed at the top of stairs can mark the entrance to the staircase and notify the dog of the coming decent. Using gravel around the perimeter of the yard provides a defined border before making contact with the fence.
8. Do not rearrange furniture unless you absolutely must: Your dog will use pieces of furniture to mark their location in relation to objects they can identify. Every time some thing is moved the dog will need to figure everything out all over again. This can cause stress and anxiety for sensitive dogs.
9. De-clutter: Remove unnecessary items from the main living space of your house. Large items like furniture need to stay in place, but that decorative vase should find a home on a shelf instead. By creating a minimalist floorplan for your dog to maneuver you are reducing the amount of obstacles that they must encounter on a regular basis.
10. Routine: Dogs are creatures of habit and do not like the unexpected. Create a routine or schedule. This will help them to know when to expect activity around the house and when to relax, helping to reduce stress. Include a morning routine, daily walk, feed schedule and bedtime.