by Charlie Mozitis
When you initially look at a blind dog, you may think “poor thing, how does he get around?”. But if you look at dogs as a whole, blind dogs aren’t that different then dogs with sight. Dogs use their nose more than their eyes, it sounds crazy but it is true. Watch a dog interact with their environment and you will see the dog sniff everything. Last night I was sitting on the couch with my Daisy sitting next to me. I went to pet her and even though she could see that my hand was empty, she sniffed my hand looking for treats. If you have ever watched Cesar Milan on TV, you will see him talking about how he wants dogs to use their noses when greeting other dogs and not their eyes. Having said all this, there are some differences with blind dogs.
Because blind dogs can’t see, they rely on their noses even more. So when we approach a blind dog, we need to give the dog some space and some time for them to “pick up” our scents. So, as you approach the dog, speak, so he can hear you before he can smell you. Let him pick up your smell and then put out your hand near his nose so he can sense that you are close, then you can pet him being gentle so you do startle him.
If you are lucky enough to have a blind dog as part of your family, you probably have your dog trained with “warning cues”. These “cues” may include “step up” when approaching a curb or steps etc. Another “warning cue” that could be added is “pet”, so when someone wants to pet your dog, he won’t be startled.
Some things to remember is that since blind dogs can’t see, you don’t want to startle them by sneaking up on them and touching them without warning. Also, don’t disturb a blind dog when he is sleeping. With a sighted dog, if you wake them, they can instantly see you, with a blind dog, they have to sniff and hear to become oriented to where they are.
So, remember always approach your blind dog while talking to him and allowing him to recognize you by allowing him to sniff you. Don’t forget to use the “pet cue” before you touch him. By following these simple suggestions, your blind dog can be confident and have a happy stress free life.
Please remember to respect your dog and any other dog you may encounter. No dog should be obligated to be petted. If your dog is showing signs of not wanting to be petted, respect him and don’t allow anyone to pet him. The same goes if you meet a dog, if they do not want to be petted, respect that and give them the space they are asking for.