Until recently, I never considered living with a blind dog.  I had seen YouTube videos where people have blind pets, but I never experienced it.  Now I do.  Living with any dog that is blind simply takes a little “putting yourself in his/her place” and understanding that they don’t feel sorry for themselves.

I found Winston, my English Bulldog, abandoned in a park in March 2019.  The worst part was that he was blind, standing next to a highway.  The creeps that did this were essentially condemning him to death by car or starvation.  But God put Winston in my way and I immediately fell in love with him.  With four other sighted dogs in my house, I have found there are just some little tweaks to living with a sightless pet.

  1. You can’t rearrange your furniture. 
  2. You have to protect him/her from others who don’t understand the dog can’t see, both human and canine. 
  3. You have to understand that although he/she is blind, that doesn’t change basic personality. 
  4. A blind dog doesn’t ask for sympathy.

Forget about rearranging your furniture.

I first realized Winston was blind (before we went to the vet) because I opened the refrigerator door, he “looked” in, then ran into the fridge door. Even now, as well as he seems to have figured out where things are in my little house, I will catch him bumping the top of his head into a door frame (he walks with his head down).  Although he follows his nose, I have to put his favorite blanket in the same spot because he stands in the spot where it’s supposed to be and doesn’t know it got shoved two feet away. Winston will compensate by tracking back and forth and turning and turning until he gets the lay of the land, but I imagine he just wants everything to stay where it belongs.

You have to protect him/her from others who don’t understand the dog can’t see, both human and canine.

This is the hardest for me. I want to protect him from everything even though he doesn’t want or need it. I don’t understand why my other dogs started being so mean to him when he first came home. Can’t they understand he can’t see? He bumbles around and accidentally treads into an occupied dog bed and the next thing I know, he’s being jumped on.

Now, for those of you without a pack, there is a pecking order and Winston needed to be put into his place. I noticed that he would try to just tuck his head and stand there unless I couldn’t get there in time. When he didn’t understand that Jax wasn’t finished with his food yet, there was an altercation. This is usually barking and showing teeth. Winston just stood there. Winston didn’t understand that bed was taken and Sweetness was more aggressive. Winston just rolled over on his back, which I thought was strange. Then something else set Jax off and there was Winston on his back again. It all became clear, though, when Sweetness really went after him and Winston rolled to his back and clamped those powerful jaws around the pit bull’s neck. Fortunately, Winston just got skin and not the trachea because even though Sweet had a mouthful of wrinkles and shaking his head back and forth, he would have been killed.  Sweetness has scabs under his chin and Winston has come in the back of one ear, but no one bothers Winston anymore. This Bully Dog is nobody’s pansy.  He just doesn’t get upset easily.

A blind dog doesn’t ask for sympathy.

Because bulldogs don’t walk very well, Winston’s daily exercise is down the alley about four houses and back again. I take a cord since I can’t tug 80 pounds of dog anywhere. I believe he was brutalized with a rope because there are three rings of old scars around his neck. He doesn’t just come when I use the cord, he whips around, like he is afraid. So I don’t use it unless he doesn’t respond to my hand signals. All I do is look it loosely around his neck and he goes right along. I’m working with using my fingers on one side of his head or the other to get him to go where he needs to.

Occasionally, a car will come down the alley and honk at him. He doesn’t flinch or change direction. I’m trying to teach all my neighbors that he’s sightless and doesn’t hear, but some people are just jerks that can’t wait until I get my cord into place. Take a look at my blog, “Living with a Blind Dog” For more information on changes in lifestyle. When you go out, think about having a collar or jacket that tells people your dog can’t see. They should approach slowly and noisily or just stay out of his way. An addition to his ID tag will also let others know he can’t see to find his way home or out of the way of danger.

You have to understand that although he/she is blind, that doesn’t change basic personality. 

 A sweet dog who is not blind will still be a sweet dog if he loses his sight. An irritable dog does not change his nature because he goes blind – he will stay irritable. The point is, a dog’s basic personality may be altered by trauma in his past, but not being able to see will not make a Good Boy and Bad Dog. Dogs who are friendly and easy-going tend to adjust easier to losing their sight, but allow even Mr. Grouchy enough time and he’ll do fine. 

A blind dog doesn’t ask for sympathy.

Your heart just breaks watching videos of animals who have lost limbs, suffer from paralysis, are disfigured, or have other impairments. The most amazing thing to me is that they just take it in stride. Even if they are in pain, they continue to live their lives as normally as possible. A dog who knew how to run before his back was broken still plays and uses his front legs to move along. Bless the people who make running carts for these animals! Some dogs have never seen light or, like my Winston, became blind later. My vet says that bulldogs have an affinity for eye infections and his previous owners just didn’t treat it. Yet, if Winston could talk, I don’t think he would even bring it up. He gets around just fine using his nose, although he’s either stubborn or doesn’t hear well, either. The other dogs even lick his eyes where they become matted, but Winston never bothers with them.

Dr. Tammy Miller Michau, a board-certified ophthalmologist with BluePearl Veterinary Partners, says having your dog lose his/her sight is more tramatic for you than for them. As long as they still feel safe, warm, fed, and loved, they will adjust without many problems. However, if they become depressed, it may be a hormone problem related to the eye degeneration and you need to talk to your vet.

What do you do different for a blind dog?

Be consistent. Use the same signals or commands every time. Don’t forget she can’t see and keep the floor picked up. If she’s allowed on furniture, consider a ramp so she won’t miss her landing point and fall. I put Winston’s food in another room to avoid spats by putting it under his nose and leading him to my office. I am Very Firm with my other dogs when they snap at him, but since the Winston vs Sweetness match, I think they all got the idea that he’s not the pushover they thought he was and the meanness has stopped. I Keep an eye on them until they learn their way around and don’t have decorations with pointy parts that may cause and injury.

Cushion the corner of coffee tables and put gates over stairs or swimming pools. Try getting down on all fours, close your eye, and around your home and you may be surprised at the number of obstacles you didn’t know were there. With a pet that has lost his sight or one that is new to your house, you may want to start by confining him to one or two rooms until he learns his way around. Oddly, keep the television on because he knows what room that noise stays in and he can get oriented.

Vet Street suggests that out in the yard, put a pathway of gravel or some other surface about two feet out from the fence so she knows when to stop. You can do the same thing in the house. Lay a runner to food or water dishes so she knows how to find them.  Winston has a super sniffer, so try putting down a distinctive smell like vanilla around the water bowl to guide her to them. Put a rug that is a different texture from the rest of the house in front of where the exit is. Winston’s two accidents in the house were simply because he didn’t know how to get outside.

Your seeing-impaired pup still needs exercise, so when you go for walks, you can wear bells on your shoes, scuff your feet, or just keep talking so she knows where you are. Just the leash isn’t enough. If he knows how to play ball, get one that makes noise when it rolls and only send it for short distances. He’ll love it just as much. For added safety, rigidly train for “Stay!” and “Sit!” It may save his life. You may even be able to get him to understand “up” and “down” for the car, curbs, or steps.

Otherwise, just love our blind dog the same way you do your ones with sight – with all your heart.

Visit my videos and blogs on Winston The English Bulldog to learn about his life in my home, the history of the Bulldog, and reasons why and why not you may want to bring one into your life.

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I know I will still love my Chihuahua if he loses his sight, but should I think about adopting a blind dog? Yes! A dog is a dog first and blind second. Adopt a dog based on size, breed, temperament, and any other particulars, but you will get as used to his being seeing-impaired as he will.

Isn’t it more humane to put down a dog that is blind or deaf and blind? How can they enjoy life? A treat still tastes good, a tummy rub still feels good, and the sound of your voice will still make him wag his tail. There may be a little adjusting, but they still play, sleep, eat, and exercise like they always did without only a few moderations.

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