A Vest Cane and Other Tips for Helping Blind Dogs

February 3, 2019
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

How Blind Dogs Navigate

A blind dog will take in his world through touch, scent, taste, and sound. He will have many ways to know where he is and what is around him. Scents of foliage, people, food, smoke, air fresheners, and soaps along with textures of concrete, grass, gravel, wood, rugs, or tile under his feet, the feel of temperature, a breeze or humidity, and sounds of birds, wind chimes, cars, television, voices, and clinking dishes will all help him navigate his area. He will get very good at it and will appreciate routine and an unchanging environment.

Helping Blind Dogs Get Around

Baby gates at the top of stairs or in doorways leading to the swimming pool or any other potentially dangerous area and fireplace screens around heat sources can prevent a tragic accident.

Speaking often to your blind dog or wearing a bell around one pant leg can help him keep up with you as you move around. Placing differently toned bells on other pets will make it easier for him to know where they are too.

Porches and decks should have railing and all outside fences should be secure. Steps are sometimes a challenge and a ramp with a side rail can greatly improve life for a blind dog. A water bowl in several areas both inside and outside can help him find them easily. Outside, a wind chime by the door can help a blind dog find his way back.

Blind dogs may startle easily resulting in a growl or nip but a word, first, letting your dog know you are going to touch him or pick him up can prevent this.

Vest with Attached Cane Absorbs Bumps for Blind Dogs

Sharp corners or edges can be hazardous for a blind dog but tacking or taping some kind of padding over them will soften the bumps. Sharilyn Burghart came up with her own solution when her blind dog kept bumping into things. She designed and made a vest with an attached halo which she describes as a “white cane for blind dogs” or the Littlest Angel Vest. When worn, the vest with attached halo extending out in front, acts as a sort of “bumper” for the dog, preventing injury and boosting his confidence when moving about.

Sharilyn accepts a limited number of orders for these handmade vests and can be contacted through her Angel Vest website.

Playing Games with a Blind Dog

A blind dog will enjoy a game of hide and seek with scented toys or treat-filled toys. An empty kiddy pool is a great place for a blind dog to play with toys, such as a ball with a bell inside, and not lose them. Most dogs enjoy a long walk on leash with you but stopping more often to sniff scents along the way is even more important to a blind dog.

Amazingly, some blind dogs’ other senses are so well developed that they are able to play fetch. A search of YouTube reveals at least three blind dogs playing ball, Myron, a Boxer cross, Wiggles, a Heeler, and Stevie, a Border collie. And then there’s Rivers, Mike Dillingham’s blind husky, who even ran the Iditarod sled dog race twice.

A blind dog can be a happy, playful pet and may be even more attentive and affectionate than a sighted dog. A blind dog can be trained to do most of the same things that any other dog can do.

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