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Tips needed for suddenly blind dog


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To our consternation, our feisty little doxie Finn suddenly became blind last Sunday. On Monday, after being examined by a canine eye specialist,  we were told that the retina's in both of his eyes have become disconnected. The retina in his left eye is torn, but the one in his right eye is still undamaged. There is a slight chance that with medication (prednolon) the retina of his right eye might reattach, and that of his left eye partly reattach. But for now, he is completely blind, and there are no assurances he will ever see again.

It's hard to see him trying to get around without his sight. He's not bumping into everything in the house after only a couple of days, thankfully. He can find his food and water bowl and his bench and cushions. But going for walks is a challenge. He's pretty smart and picks up new commands rather quickly (he already knows 'step up' and 'step down' when crossing the street) but he's resistant to me gently tugging him to one side or the other when I notice he might bump into something. His reaction is to heavily lean the other way. He also refuses to walk when he's unsure of his surroundings (of course) and it's very hard to get him to come along again. Gentle tugging on his leash, and/or calling him doesn't work well. We have three routine routes we walk (morning, afternoon and evening walk are different but repeat the same every day).

Finn has always loved playing fetch. Balls are his obsession. But now it's hard on him as he can't play anymore. He can still be his goofy little self crawling into his cushion and flailing about on his back inside it, but that's only fun for a short time, and he's used to playing for much longer.

Does anyone have any tips on how to help him (and me) cope with his new (and possibly permanent) situation?

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@fraurosena,  please give my hugs to poor little Finn!  I don't have any counsel to give other than my parents' Australian terrier went blind many years ago and Cricket did learn to cope with her blindness over time.  Cricket could no longer jump up on the bed and could not be let out by herself, but other than that, she did well.  

Wait a minute!  I just remembered that my copy of Training Your Dachshund has a section on Blind Doxies.  I summarize what the book says in just a little while.  I need to get my shower and then give the dogs their lunch.

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I'm so sorry for Finn and you @fraurosena.  I hope the meds and work Finn recovers some sight in time.

Yes, as @PennySycamore says, many dogs can cope well with blindness and still have good quality of life.  They still have their noses and ears and we can help them manage.  My spaniel mix went gradually blind but strangers couldn't even tell.  She stayed very close to me on leash (literally her nose was next to my knee, and followed the other dog around the house and fenced yard.  Instead of playing catch and fetch, she had fun "seeking" smelly toys and treats hidden around the house and yard.  I am having a brainfart over her exact dx.  It was something progressive, irreversible, and not treatable though.

Off the top of my head - safety first!  And training for you both.

  • Finn will startle easily and may bite if startled.  Move slowly and talk to him before you touch him.  Always
  • Do not allow anyone to approach Finn suddenly or to touch him without warning.  Ever!
  • Block off any inside stairs and leash walk Finn up and down them every single time at least for now.  Possibly forever.
  • Do not move any of the furniture.
  • Always on leash for walks.  If he is pulling I recommend the 2 Hounds Design No Pull harness and a very short leash.   I have no affiliation with 2 Hounds, it is just a very cushy well padded harness.
  • Clicker training!  I know I always recommend this  He may be blind but he can still learn.  He can't rely on your body language now - so for a blind dog it's like training all over again except with voice cues only.  Step up and step down are great starts. 
  • Look into scent markers.  (This is where you scent doorways or toys with vanilla or other non-toxic oils so he can find them by smell. )  
  • Talk to him as much as you can,

And give him lots of pets and gentle ear rubs from me.  I'll also look for more resources for blind dogs and get back to you.

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Thanks, @PennySycamore and @Palimpsest. That's very helpful. :romance-heartsmiley:

  • We're aware Finn startles more easily (he's always been skittish but it's in overdrive now). Luckily he tends to bark when he startles, and not bite, but we're not taking any chances. As soon as anyone enters the room he's in, they talk to him, telling him they're there. No petting or touching without talking is allowed. 
  • Finn doesn't do stairs, thankfully. He's not allowed because he had a really bad hernia last year (needed an operation), so there won't be much trouble keeping him from going upstairs.
  • He has a soft-padded harness (always recommended for doxies btw) and he doesn't really pull as much as heavily lean in the opposite direction that I want him to go. If I'd let the leash go a bit, he'd fall on his side, that's how much he's putting his weight on it.
  • Clicker training it is! Like I said, he's pretty smart and eager to please, so I think clicker training will certainly help.
  • I'm pretty chatty with all of my furbabies (we have two dogs and four cats) so talking to him won't be a problem :my_biggrin:

He's enjoying all the extra pets, hugs and ear rubs, by the way!



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Aw. He is beautiful.  And it sounds as though you already have a great grasp of things.

A few more tips because I called a friend of mine who has a blind greyhound for her advice.  We often go on walks together with our pups.

She recommends:  https://www.amazon.com/Living-Blind-Dogs-Resource-Low-Vision/dp/0967225345/  

And: https://www.amazon.com/My-dog-blind-lives-life-ebook/

She reminded me that her dog, I'll call him Luke, is still very nervous in strange places and on walks. Luke went slowly blind, so imagine how scary it is for Finn.   Even if Finn isn't likely to bite (good boy) it is still much kinder not to startle him.

Luke takes a really long time to get in and out of the car too.  Getting in is like "jumping into nowhere" and so is jumping out.  She always leaves plenty of time for things like vet visits, doesn't ever rush him, and praises or treats whenever he gets in or out of the car. 

Luke walks very close to her with his head touching her thigh and she trained that by clicker training with stinky treats in her pocket.  When his head touched her thigh she clicked and treated until it was trained.  With a doxie, perhaps you could put cheese or liver treats in your socks and click-treat when Finn's nose is on your ankle!

She also says that she taught him a few key words - and teaches strangers how to greet him safely.  (She never taught me so perhaps I do the right thing instinctively because of my experience with my own blind dog.  Although that was 20 years ago!)

Luke knows his name (obviously), he also knows "hello" means he is about to be greeted.  "Sniff" means that a strange hand is going to get close to his nose.  And "pet" means that a strange hand is going to touch him.  

So she talks strangers through it.  The words don't matter at all - so long as the key words are used in the right order.  Slow approach:  "Hello, Luke.  Do you want to sniff my hands."  (offer hands) "Now can I pet you." She recommends a gentle chin rub as first touch, but in my experience L. is cuddling up to me as soon as he hears my voice or sniffs my hands!  

I hope that helps.  Good luck!



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@Palimpsest has already said much of what I was going to so I have only a few things to add.

Feeding Finn in a crate will help to prevent food guarding.  Blind doxies are more likely to be protective of their food as they cannot see who is nearby.

Bells on the other furbabies will help Finn know where they are.  You might also want to bell Finn so that you can find him more easily if he wanders out of sight.

Make sure he is microchipped and maybe put a tag on his collar noting his disability.

Toys that make noise or have a scent will be easier for Finn to find.  .Chewy.com,  Petco.comPetsmart.com may have balls that make noise or are scented especially for blind dogs.  

Babyproof so that Finn can't injure himself in the house:  Look for obvious and not-so-obvious hazards like sharp corners on furniture.  

Lastly,  remember that vision ranks fourth in importance to a dog after smell, hearing and touch.  There will be bumps along the way, but blind dogs can and do adapt well to being blind.  

Finn is a very handsome boy and I have a weakness for wirehairs!  My Trinket is a chocolate dapple smooth. 

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All great ideas, @PennySycamore.  My dogs are always fed in their crates so I didn't think of that.

  @fraurosena will have a positive orchestra of bells if she puts them on all her pets. 

I didn't know you could buy ready scented smelly toys for blind dogs either.

But where is Trinket's picture ...

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  • 2 weeks later...

Update on Finn:

We went to the top canine eye specialist in the country today. I'm sorry to say that the news wasn't good. Finn's loss of vision is complete and irreversible. Although it saddens us, we weren't that surprised by it. In the twelve days he's been blind and on his medication we hadn't seen any improvement, so we were prepared for this outcome.

In the last week we have been making progress in adjusting to the new situation. Finn is absolutely amazing. It's astounding the way he has already adapted. He can find his way around the house without any effort. He has a new game that he plays with his tennis ball which he enjoys enormously. We bounce it (softly) next to or in front of his face, and he follows the sound and manages to catch it, after which it is 'killed' enthusiastically. He also likes to hide it inside his cushion, walk around the table, and go and find it again. I tried scenting it with vanilla, but that wasn't a success. He decidedly does NOT like that scent, so I had to wash it off as best I could before he wanted it again. I tried rubbing smelly sausage over it, but that didn't have the results I was after either. Kella, our other doxie, suddenly was very interested in it too. She isn't much into toys, but she is incredibly food-driven and she tried to run off with it.  Although I'm still looking for an alternative scent, for now we're playing by sound instead.

Going for walks was difficult at first. We have two dogs and they always went on walks together. Because Finn needs a lot of attention now, that wasn't working out too well. Their leashes kept tangling, and it was often pretty difficult to wrangle the both of them. So I tried walking them separately. I took Kella out first. Then I went walking with Finn. And he loves it! He follows Kella's scent, almost unerringly. He knows exactly where she has peed, and of course has to mark it with some of his own (she is his girl after all), and I hardly ever have to tell him to go left or right. As soon as we leave the door, it's nose to the ground and off we go. I have a 5 meter roll-up leash, and often he runs out in front of me (not the full length, but still). It makes him feel much better than being kept short (like a typical doxie, he's fiercely independent).  Of course I do keep him close when we're in a potentially 'dangerous' situation, like crossing the street, or when certain obstacles are near, or when other people and dogs are near. He's mostly quite confident of where he wants to go, and it's only when he loses Kella's scent that he can become a little confused. He already seems to sense where obstacles are, probably by their scent, and often avoids them even before I get the chance to say something. On one route there is a bicycle obstacle on the sidewalk. You have to imagine three 'gates', two on one side, one after the other, one on the left in between them, and you need to zig-zag between them. Finn already manages to manoeuvre between them effortlessly, without me 'guiding' him.

I swear he's studying to be the canine version of DareDevil. :angry-devil: :pb_lol:


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