Every four to six weeks I’ll post about good strategies and tips for blind dog owners. I know not everyone who comes here has a blind dog so I’ll categorize and tag it so you can decide whether to read or skip.
The day I realized Earl was blind is forever etched on my brain. I took him to the vet to be certain he wasn’t in pain (he wasn’t) and although I have a very good vet, the only info I left with was, “dogs have a unique ability to map their surroundings by using their other senses” and “don’t rearrange the furniture” Truthfully, even if I’d been given more information it probably wouldn’t have sunk in. Being a feature writer for many years has honed my research skills so I thought I could easily find the info I needed.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find much of anything that was truly helpful as far as helping a blind dog navigate their surroundings safely. Resources are scattered, I had to dig for good information and if you go to Earl’s page, you’ll find some of those resources. Books about caring for a blind dog were hard to come by also but two which stick out in my mind as having valuable information are Living With Blind Dogs by Caroline D. Levin and Blind Devotion: Enhancing the Lives of Blind and Low Vision Dogs by Cathy Symons.
It was in Living With Blind Dogs that I found a strategy I could use immediately. It’s hard to believe something so small with very little time investment can significantly change how your dog navigates his world and will also help him/her to continue to be independent. Low vision dogs will benefit too! What is it?
Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be overpowering and obnoxious. In fact you will use as little scent as possible. However, before you use scent you must minimize the dangers your blind dog faces from everyday household items. If you have children, it’s important they pick up their toys because any objects protruding at eye level are dangerous. Blind dogs don’t have a blink reflex and they can harm their eyes by running into sharp objects. Anything that sticks out at their eye level which can be moved, should be moved.
Of course there are things in your home which can’t be moved. Fireplace bricks, fancy end table spindles, furniture corners. This is where you’ll use your scent. I let Earl know these things were there by using an essential oil used for making soap. Michael’s and many other craft stores sell oil based scent for soap-crafters. Basically it’s a little brown bottle outfitted with an eyedropper.
One small drop on a cotton ball is enough for any canine’s super sense of smell, plus, one drop on a cotton ball can scent a lot of spots around the house. I’ve had my vanilla soap scent for almost three years and it cost around $4.00. There are many, many scents available. Some people use different scents in different rooms, I think this is way too much work for you and confusing for your dog.
It stands to reason that an oil used to make soap would be safe and benign on your furniture or baseboards.Test in an inconspicuous place first. I cannot vouch for the safety of using this on your furniture just because it works on mine. TEST FIRST. Here’s a link to Michael’s ArtMinds Essential Oil Blend Fragrance
One nice thing about using soap scent is that even though I could smell it a little at first, within an hour of using a wee dab every three or four feet on my baseboards in a long hallway, I couldn’t smell it all. So, if there is a person in your family who is highly scent aversive they likely won’t smell it either.
You may wonder exactly how this works. I know I did. I had visions of Earl running toward the scent but he doesn’t, he uses it as a guide. I had visions of my sighted granddogs walking or running down the hall bamming their noses on the baseboards to get a whiff but that never happened either. Perhaps it’s because blind dogs need to rely more keenly on their other senses like smell. I like knowing it works for a blind dog but won’t bother other dogs or people in my household. I learned from Living With Blind Dogs that using scent in this way actually helps our blind dogs develop their mental map.
With permission, I use it when Earl visits my son’s and daughter’s homes as well. It’s amazing how well he travels around, it gives us all peace of mind, plus he can explore and be curious about his surroundings which is good for his little old brain.
Remember I said in my first post that Earl goes to my office everyday at 1pm and waits for me? He finds his way there, down a long hallway open on one side where the dining room and foyer are, places he could become confused and tangled up in dining room chairs and other furniture. Thanks to scenting, he finds his way easily and quickly. He zooms!
I mentioned the scenting technique to my vet and she was impressed, so impressed as matter of fact, she said she’d inform her other blind dog owners.
Every few months or so I go around the house and refresh the fragrance. Your dog will tell you when it’s time.
I also want to tell you about a commercially available product online called Tracerz which are small scented disks you affix to your furniture or other objects. Personally I can’t vouch for this product because I haven’t used it but they also have a great article about your blind dog’s ability to make a mental map of his/her surroundings so it’s worth a visit.
Earl and I send smooches and hugs! Please share if you’ve used this strategy successfully or are thinking about it. I’d love to hear what you think.
Have a wonderful day!