The Top 10 Rules for Living with a Blind Dog

blind dogLiving with a blind dog is not as difficult as it seems. In fact, it’s really not difficult at all. There are a few things you need to adjust to but over time it gets easier and easier and before you know it, you find yourself sitting back wondering why you were so worried and upset to begin with.

Rule #1: Dogs aren’t people!

We often forget the fact that dogs aren’t people. They don’t think like people and they don’t act like people. Well maybe they do a little but really dogs are dogs and people are people. Dogs don’t get all emotional like we do. They have their emotions of course but they don’t hold on to them for long like we do. And they don’t sit and feel sorry for themselves like people do. With this in mind, you can better look after your blind dog by keeping your emotions out of it as much as possible. This doesn’t mean you can’t love your dog and you can’t cuddle them and talk to them and be there for them. What it means is that you take your negative emotions and leave them at the door when dealing with your dog. Dogs pick up on our energy and they can feel when you are sad. When you are around your dog you want to be strong and confident so they know that everything is okay.

Rule #2: Don’t pick up your dog

We don’t mean that you can never pick up your dog, however, there is a right time and a wrong time to to do it. To ensure that your dog adjusts quickly to being blind, you need to let them find their own way. So as long as they aren’t in a dangerous situation, avoid picking them up to help them get to their location. This especially applies if they are whimpering as you will only be rewarding this behavior and they will take longer to learn.  If you pick up your dog and move to a different spot, the dog can become disorientated. They really have no idea where you have left them. Just call them to you and help them along by patting the side of your leg. If you have to pick up your dog then the best way to ensure that they know exactly where they are when you put them down is to place them at a base point like their bed for instance. Once there, they will know exactly where they are.

Rule #3: Don’t move the furniture too often

Contrary to popular belief, you are allowed to move your furniture or even move house if you have a blind dog. However the trick is to not do it too often. Each time you move things in your house your dog has to learn how to navigate the house all over again. When you move furniture just guide your dog around a few times until they get used to the new arrangement. Most dogs are pretty quick at figuring out that things have changed and they will get used to it quite quickly.

Rule #4: Keep your dog leashed

Blind dogs can be just as adventurous as sighted dogs and they will take off in all sorts of directions sniffing out things without even thinking that there may be some sort of hazard up ahead. They can easily fall of cliffs, into lakes and rivers or holes in the ground.  So unless you really know the area, it’s best to keep your dog leashed when you are out. You can purchase long extender leads to give your dog some extra freedom.

Rule #5: Warn people that your dog is blind

Whether you have guests in your home or you meet people on the street whilst walking your dog, ensure you let them know that your dog is blind. Many blind dogs need warning before someone is going to pat them and the worst thing that could possible happen is your dog biting someone.

Rule #6: Use a harness and double-handled leash on your blind dog

Blind dogs can be a little erratic sometimes when they are out walking. A harness is a good way to keep them under control but it is also a necessity for a dog with glaucoma as it reduces the amount of pressure on their neck. A double-handled leash is ideal for a blind dog. These leashes have two handles, one at the top where you would normally expect one to be and one down further near the collar. This handle allows you to keep the dog close to you in tight situations.

Rule #7: Teach your dog the ‘Warning Word’

Whenever my dog is about to run into something I yell ‘Watch Out!’ and she stops immediately. She learned this pretty quickly because she realized what it meant after hitting things a few times. This is an important one for your dog to learn particularly if you let your dog off the leash. Choose a phrase that suits you. Here’ a few examples:

  • Watch out!
  • Look out!
  • Stop!
  • Whoa!

Rule #8: Teach your dog to ‘Step up’ and ‘Step down’

The one thing you will notice when walking your dog is that when you come to a curb or step, they will just walk right into it. Obviously they have no idea when a step is going to appear so it’s up to you to tell them. Words like ‘step up’ and ‘step down’ will need to be part of your vocabulary when walking your dog.

Rule #9: Talk to your dog before patting them

A blind dog can get startled when you pat them without warning and depending on the dog this may result in a bite. Always talk to your dog first before patting them just so they know you are there. Ensure that your children understand this one.

Rule #10: Safety first!

Ensure you fence off anything that is likely to be a problem for your dog. Fence off the pool or ensure that if your dog falls in they know exactly how to get out. This applies to any water feature you might have in your yard. Also ensure that the fireplace is well protected…an excited dog can lose their sense of direction pretty easily and can run straight into a fire.

28 thoughts on “The Top 10 Rules for Living with a Blind Dog

  1. This is exactly what I did with our blind dog. Her vision went suddenly and we had to adapt fast. Thank you for posting this!

  2. Our dog is a little 4.9 pound poodle and our first response is to pick her up. Thank you for pointing out so well why that’s not the best idea. I keep telling myself if I give her food, water, and a safe place to be, she ‘ll work the rest out. I hope I’m right.

  3. Thank you for posting these terrific suggestions. Our fur baby suddenly lost her sight 7 days ago. It has been rough going for my husband and I. Brandi seemed to be very sad and depressed the first few days but she is doing better. We do not have a reason for her blindness as yet. She goes to the Ophthalmologist in 4 more days to try to find out why. Our local vet is thinking SARDS or Cushings. Thank you again it will helpful to work the rules into what we are already doing.

      1. Our baby was just diagnosed with SARDS. This is heartbreaking for us. We will adjust.Our ophthalmologist likes Levin’s book for the tips, but told us her medical advice can do real harm and says steer clear…

        1. Did he say why it can do harm and what actual harm it can cause? You have to remember that a lot of doctors (both for people and animals) are stuck with prescribing only what they are allowed to prescribe. So anything different (especially if they are natural remedies) and they tend to think that it may be a problem.

          The fact that there is no cure by conventional medicine for SARDs, then personally I would be looking for anything I could get my hands on for a cure if my dog had SARDs.

          Take a look at some of Caroline Levine’s videos here:

    1. I just saw your post, and was wondering how you and your dog were doing. My dog just went blind due to SARDs. She’s doing ok, but is afraid if her toys. She seens to be looking for me all the time and it’s breaking my heart. Have you found any good sites for help/advice? Thanks.

  4. Yes the list is appreciated a lot. Our 8-year-old yorkie got a definite diagnosis of SARDS from the veterinary ophthalmologist this week and we are shock. I particularly appreciate how important it is to be strong for him to give him confidence. At this point, he is doing better than I am but if I keep facing the reality and with the help of sharing with people with the same situation, we will give him all he needs to adapt for a good quality of life. The rules of living with a blind dog are so basic but at a time like this, we are not thinking too clearly and it helps a lot. Thank you.

    1. Dogs always do better than their owners. They just get on with it. We on the other hand, worry like crazy…at least I know I did. It can be quite stressful when your dog isn’t well, so I know what you are going through Trish. If your dog has SARDs I’d like to recommend a book that has a good section on SARDs. It’s called Living with Blind Dogs by Caroline D Levin. Amazon link here:

    2. Our 7 year old Yorkie was attack by a relatives golden retriever. The attack lasted seconds and I witnessed the whole event. He bit our 5lb little man in the face dislodging both eyes. The emergency vet saved one eye but had to removed the other eye after two long hours of surgery. The other eye was sutured shut and was opened today to see if he had any sight left. Negative. He is totally blind. We are searching for guidance from others who have silimar situations. Our little man Zack is our life. We are both retired and he and his sister are our whole lives. We adore him. Our commitment is for total unconditional love and to make his life as perfect as can be. Thanks for listening. We are devastated

  5. Hi Everyone, my little 5 year old girl Charlie was diagnosed with SARDS 2 weeks ago. This has been such a complete shock to me and has happened so quickly. I left on a holiday 3 weeks ago with a happy healthy pug and came home to her being completely blind. We are coping ok however as I live in a 3 story townhouse she can get disorientated easily and has dehabilitating panic attacks where she freezes and shakes uncontrollably. I think I will purchase a thunder coat and see if that helps. It would be great to have something that will calm her down to let her know everything is ok. I hope everyone else is coping ok with their dogs and I’m happy to share any tips that I discover along this journey with Charlie.

  6. My 5yr old Shar Pei was just diagnosed with Glaucoma in both eyes. One is not responding well to the drops. I can opt for the surgery that is about 5K. Has anyone had this performed? Looking for anyone elses results.

    1. 5K? Is that for eye removal surgery or for laser surgery? Eye removal surgery shouldn’t cost anywhere near that amount so I am assuming it is laser surgery…yes??

      My dog had laser surgery on one of her eyes but it wasn’t successful but the reason ours was not successful is that we left it too late. There was already too much damage to the eye. But laser surgery isn’t always successful regardless of the state of the eye.

    2. Andy and Paula,
      Please bare with me as I tell my story. It will be rather long but I want others to hear about my mistake and hopefully I can help someone else. I wish I had seen this site beforehand.
      I am so sorry to hear about your baby Andy. He is in my prayers. Paula, thank you for taking the time to make this site. I am so sorry yiu lost your baby to heaven. I know he is looming down and is so very proud of his momma for caring enough to help others with hsi story.
      My Beethoven was diagnosed with glacoma the Monday after Thanksgiving. He had started pawing at his right eye over the weekend. By Monday morning I could see infection in it. He had scratched his eye and it had ulcerated. The vet told me then that he had glacoma in both eyes and both were infected. On his right eye where it had ulcerated the vet pulled his “third” eyelid over the eye and sewed it closed. Then glued the eyelid closed. He had to wear a cone for a couple of weeks and we had antibiotic drops and glaucoma drops to give him. Every single Monday since Thanksgiving I have had to bring him in for check ups. The vet was working hard to get the infection to subside. It finally seemed to be getting better. Beethoven had a bad cateract in his right eye and vision was limited on that side. So he was having a hard time with anxiety. He was running into things. I thought this was his new normal. I was heart broken but thank full that he at least see some shadows.
      Two weeks ago the doctor said the infection looked much better but that he would never get his vision back in the right eye. He also said the cateract on the left eye was getting worse.
      Each time he would ask if I had any questions and I would usually say no. When he told me he had glacoma it was almost as though it to second place I my mind to all his other problems. He did tell me that with glacoma his eyes could rupture but he felt we should try the drops. He was reassuring so I just put that in the back of my mind and gave him the drops. I am sure the vet thought I knew what all the diagnosis of glacoma would entail since I did not ask him questions about it. All my questions were focused on the ulcerated eye and the infection. I never looked up glacoma on the internet. I wish I had now.
      Beethoven seemed to get around a little with very limited vision in one eye and a totally blind second eye. He did begin to sleep alot and wasn’t eating much at all. I attributed it to having infection and the fact he was 13 years old. He also has a very bad back.
      I brought him in on his regular every Monday recheck two weeks ago for the infection and told him that Beethoven seemed very anxious. He gave him tranquilizers to be given if he continued but I was so scared of them. I gave him his first dose and he slept for a day in a half. We had to wake him to go to the bathroom. Truthfully, at this point I really felt like it was the beginning of the end for him.
      Now this is the major point I want to make. Last night at 10:00 pm he began shaking. I thought he was cold because we had just had his hair cut that afternoon. I wrapped him in a blanket and was rocking him. He had been sleeping so he quickly fell back to sleep. I had given him a pain pill before he got cut because of his back problems. I began rubbing his check and he yawned. When he yawned he opened his eye and it literally ruptured. It protruded out and then went back in but he could not close the eye and part of the eyeball was hanging out. Almost as though someone had tried to cut the center out but didn’t finish. We rushed him to an emergency office. They explained what had happened and said it needed to be removed. I asked if he would be ok for him to wait until the morning so his vet could perform the surgery. She said that he could but that I needed to put the natural tears drops I had in every 4 hours. I took him this morning and the doctor removed the eye a few hours later. He had to spend tonight there because of his age.
      Like I said at the beginning, I hope others can learn from my mistake. My mistake was not taking the glacoma more seriously and not asking more questions. In my mind it was being treated with the drops and it was second to all his other eye issues. I should have googled it and I would have found this website sooner. I would have asked if he should have it removed before it ruptured. Plus I would have known the pain associated with it. I feel absolutely horrible. I have caused him to endure additional pain that might have been avoided if I had researched the glacoma and asked the appropriate questions.
      He made it through surgery fine and I pray that he is resting peacefully there tonight. I am trying to remind myself that God has this under control but truthfully I am sick to my stomach with the thought of him waking up there tonight and being petrified because he can’t see and not realizing what is going on.
      As I reflect, i do know God has had his hand all over how I have reacted since it ruptured. It just so happened that when I took him to the groomers yesterday she was telling me that her dog had both of his eyes removed 2 weeks ago because they had ruptured due to the glacoma. She said it was like having her old baby back. He adjusted quickly and is playing once again. I had no idea this would happen to my baby that very evening. Knowing that her baby did so well has given me hope that my baby will be back to his old self and that he isn’t fixing to leave us for heaven.
      I know this was so drawn out but I wanted to explain the whole story. I am so thankful for this site. Thank you Paula for all the great information. My husband sent it to me a couple of hours ago. Reading it showed me some other mistakes I was making. Like picking him up to take him out to use the baathroom, holding him all the time so he ciukd go from room to room with me, bringing him to his water bowl and hand feeding him because I figured he would never be able to see it with the very little vision that was left in the left eye that now has been removed.
      Andy, I will be praying for your baby. Since your post was written 2 weeks ago I am praying that good things have happened and he is ok.
      I now feel prepared to ask questions tomorrow when I pick him up. Even though he can’t see out of the other eye I am now worried that it might rupture at some point. I am going to ask if we should go ahead and remove it since he can’t see out of it anyway. That way he won’t have to go through the agany of it rupturing.
      I hope that others that might read this know to do their research and to ask lots of questions. I feel such a tremendous amount of guilt for my ignorance. I might have saved him from the pain he has endured. Thankfully dogs love unconditionally!

      1. Oh goodness, so many typos and grammatical errors in the post i jus submitted. It is late and I didn’t proof read it before hitting send.

        1. Thank you so much for sharing Beethoven’s story. i’m currently dealing with blindness in my dog as well (yorkie, cataracts) and you really inspired me to take accountability of my dog’s medical care.

    3. Hi Andy. I posted pictures of my 11yr old sharpei . He had both eyes removed 18 months ago and is happy as Larry! Walking playing eating! Hope yours is doing well

  7. I was just told my Shih-Tzu has glaucoma. she won’t be three until next month. We are devastated. What can we expect? How fast does blindness occur? She is our first little house dog, w always have big outside mutts. Love them!! Going to Holistic vet on Tues. next week. Any comments appreciated. Thank you!

    1. Hi Lynn

      Take a look at these posts. They may help:

  8. My baby (a 13 year old dachshund) has seen better days, he is almost fully blind, the exception is during a bright sunny day outside where there is more available light for him to see, but he is also a little deaf now too! I have to shout at times for him to hear me, whether it be a stop or a come. So the problem I currently face is he is so incredibly stubborn, he wants to ‘Learn’ his surroundings by using his nose and sides as a guide, but this is a problem up and down the stairs which lead to our apartment, as suddenly the wall ends and there is no railing. He is always ALWAYS on his harness, I know he is more comfortable wearing it outside when I hold up the slack (he has always been a needy dog with a special penchant for his mommy’s attention and cuddles), but what can I utilise, both in and out of the home, that he can hear? I’d appreciate any help!

  9. Hello everyone. My 10.5 year old Shih Tzu, Lilly, has primary glaucoma. She had her left eye removed in June of 2016 and I was completely traumatized having to have this done. However, she recovered very quickly and gets around just fine! Well, now, of course, her other eye is affected. She had a pressure of 72 the other day, which his awful!, They did a procedure of inserting a needle into her eye to relieve the pressure and her pressure came down very nicely and her vision returned. However, we have been told she will go blind and it could be soon as the medicines only work for so long. They want to do a gentamycin injection which kills the eye and the pain goes away, but of course she will be blind. I am wondering if this will be a good quality of life for her or if we should let her go…. I never thought I would have to make this awful decision….. some thoughts would be appreciated. Another thing is I work full time but my mother does also like with me and is home most of the time so she would have that support….. thanks for your help everyone.

    1. Hi Lori,
      I completely understand how you’re feeling. My little Boston Terrier, Zoe, had a bad start to life. I adopted her from a shelter, where she had been taken in four days earlier, having been rescues from a puppy farm. At the approximate age of 5, her whole life she’d been used to breed from. She was so traumatised.
      When I got her she only had one eye and we didn’t know why. The vet said it had been surgically removed.
      Zoe managed fine, occasionally she’d bump into something but once she had settled in, learnt her name, learnt we wouldn’t beat her, she started to gain confidence.
      That was two and half years ago. About a year ago her eye became very swollen and inflamed. A couple of trips to the vets confirmed she has glaucoma. Its possible that’s what caused her to lose her left eye. For a year she’s had the drops 3 x daily and anti inflammatory pain medicine. 2 weeks ago the pain started to get worse. Despite the medicine, she started pawing at her eye and crying. The vet said I had to make the decision whether or not to remove her only eye.
      I grew up with my grandmother being totally blind, I always dreaded having to live in darkness but there is no choice.
      I can’t leave her in pain. I could decide that maybe this is the time to say goodbye but I have to give her a chance. My vet said some dogs cope, some don’t. Zoe has to have that chance.
      Her operation is booked for Friday, I have to take her in early. I dread it but I’m pretty sure its the right thing for her.
      I found this page looking for advice on how to help her her when she comes home.
      Thank you for all help
      Rosina x

  10. If there is anyone out there with a pug that has PDE “pug dog encephalitis” there is a way you and your pug can live a long life and not pass away in days or weeks.
    I keep hearing it’s a miracle by specialist but the right amount of prednisone , phenobarbital and potassium Bronide can save your pug! Please share with any pug owners :). Btw our pug had lasted 3 years so far and PDE normally takes away life in a pug in days..

  11. Still interested in Bella she is do cute she could get a halo for moving around l am sure we would get on well l need someone also as l am getting older my last 2 dogs one 17 had poor sight and was going deaf so l could manage her home most of the time 3 cats who were brought up with dogs ? ? still got my beds just in case l got another dog so l
    Please consider me l withdrew my application as other people were interested as well you said l did not say how l would look after her blindness several ways my cars have bells get her halo touch her softly when l am near and speak to her regards karren chuter

  12. #11, get another dog? We got a second dog and she is helping our blind black lab (progressive retinal atrophy) a lot.

  13. Thanks for this post. Bella, our 10 year old Schnauzer/Poodle mix just got diabetes and overnight her eyes are cloudy and she is losing her sight. It is heartbreaking for us but this helped. I’ll start using commands for her now. I think watching her navigate around is the hardest thing, but will start using commands for her.

    I understand letting people know she is having problems seeing but with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching are there any special tricks to help them along?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Content

link to Boston


My Boston is 11 and has glaucoma. We have been using eye drops and his numbers have been relatively good. Unfortunately, he has lost most of his vision. The vet Optomologist thinks that his loss of...