For most of our clients, “in home” visits are what they are looking for. There are, though, a few pups in our care that cannot be left alone for long stretches of time. As long as the dogs our rigorous screening process (screening process = don’t bite any of my 2 or 4-legged kids!), I invite them to stay in my home. While they physically outside their element, both pet and parent alike can relax knowing that myself, my mom, or my husband is usually around about 22 hours out of the day. Surprisingly, we have never had any issues with having house guests. Well, not until recently…
A few weeks ago, one of our “regular” house guests came to stay. He is a sweet Pomeranian who is adored by my 3 year old and greatly ignored by Buffy & Amigo. (As you dog lovers know – total disregard is the dog equivalent of BFF.) And while this sweet man has stayed with us many times before – he recently had to have an eye removed. Then just months after that, he went blind in his other eye. He is now completely blind.
I’m not going to lie to you – I was a bit nervous! Dogs are smart, and I assumed something about my house would be familiar to him (the smell of our dogs, my voice, etc.), but I work with dogs enough to know you should NEVER assume ANYTHING! (I think that’s true when dealing with us humans as well.) By using common sense, though, we all actually enjoyed our tiny furry roommate. Here are a few things to consider when dealing with a visually impaired pup:
Make sure everyone is aware of the situation – Obviously, my husband knew the dog was blind. Informing and then explaining the circumstances to my 3 year old proved to be challenging…but he actually caught on pretty quickly. Making sure everyone who came into contact with Mr. Pomeranian knew about his vision situation was imperative. Not only so all humans were looking out for him…they were careful not to assume he would move from underfoot, be able to walk about the door for a potty break, etc.
Talk…a lot – This one is not hard for me. I would literally narrate everything I was doing, trying to use familiar words (“crate”, “water”, “treat”). Obviously, the dog didn’t understand what I was saying, but at least he some vague idea what was coming. It also made it easier for him to keep tabs on where I was in the room. Every time…and I do mean EVERY time I went to pick him up, I would say “I’m going to pick you up now!” I can’t imagine not being able to see and all of a sudden being lifted off the ground. That goes right into my third point….
Put yourself in their
shoes paws – So often when working with dogs, I find myself using those rules I was taught in kindergarten. “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” If you were in a foreign place with your eyes shut…would you appreciate a loud movie with lots of dramatic explosions? Someone rubbing on you when you were sound asleep? NO! By visualizing myself in Mr. Pomeranian’s paws…I hopefully was able to make things a little less scary for him.
Obviously, our house guest was only staying for a few weeks, so we didn’t run into the same obstacles we would if we were dealing with vision 24/7. While the first day or two was a little rough on our little friend (I was unsuccessful in persuading my 4 month old to give up the crying…and Mr.Pomeranian had never been around a newborn. I wonder what he thought was going on!), overall we all managed to co-exist in harmony. I did do my homework, though, and learned some new facts about blind dogs:
***Rugs are a great way to alert your dogs where doors, furniture, and other obstacles are located.
***Give them their own personal space. (I heard some behaviorist refer to this as a “home base.”) Basically – this is where all their stuff will live: crate, bowl, toys, bed. Decide on a layout and stick to it. This way they can always come back to this familiar corner and reorientate themselves.
***Blind dogs can map out their surroundings in as little as one day! (I was amazed to learn this!) Try to avoid picking them up while they are playing mental cartographer. A few bumps never hurt anyone! (Obviously after ensuring stairs or any other dangers blocked.)
***Dog Halos! (Muffin’s Halo is pictured above) Do you know about these? They are so simple and so ingenuous at the same time. Check them out here. Basically a “halo” around the dog’s head to warn them when they are getting too close to bumping into something. I love it!
Any readers with blind dogs…I would LOVE to hear from you!