Helping a Blind Dog Learn to Develop its Other Senses

By: David Codr

Published Date: February 11, 2016


Hadassah is a four-year-old Chihuahua / Daschund mix who went blind overnight and is now scarred of dogs, new people and new situations.

I was surprised at how well adjusted Hadassah was. Often blind and deaf dogs show a lot of signs of insecurity; acting jumpy or skittish around new people, but Hadassah came right on up to me to give me a sniff.

I sat down with the guardian to discuss the situation to determine what she had done to help the dog adjust to her loss of eyesight.

Because the guardian raised a blind son, she was far ahead of the curve when it came to the various things you want to do to help a blind dog adjust; not moving furniture around, removing any low hanging items that the dog may scratch its eye on, using sounds to communicate, assigning movement and awareness commands, etc.

She had also purchased an assistive aide; an angel halo that gives the dog a bumper of sorts to help the dog have more awareness of its surroundings. When the dog bumps into something, the halo is supposed to transfer the sensation to the dog’s shoulders. The model the guardian had gotten was of a design that was a little off as it had the bumper attached to a pillow of sorts that was velcroed to the top of the vest on the dog’s back. As a result it wasn’t translating the message the way it should.

We removed the pillow and attached the bumper directly to the vest the dog was wearing so that it would communicate with the dog better. I suggested that the guardian sew small pockets or sleeves that the ends of the bumper can slide into. This will better translate the sensation while also keeping the bumper in a better position.

I was fascinated at seeing how well the dog used the halo. Although she was familiar with the furniture and objects in the room, my bag and feet were no problem for her to discover, investigate or move around.

Her guardian mentioned that the dog “hated” the halo when first attached, but once we made the adjustments to its attached position, Hadassah started moving around better. This is probably one of the best accessories you can provide to a blind dog and is a tool I would only remove as necessary. The more its on the dog, the more comfortable she will be with it. The more its on her, the more she will learn to use it.

Next I showed Hadassah’s guardian some games that she can practice that will help the dog develop her other senses.

Developing the dog’s other sense will allow her to better interact and deal with a world she can no longer see. Because scent is a dog’s dominant sense, games that ask the dog to identify, track and discover items will lead to an increase in the dog’s self confidence.

Even simple games like find the smelly treat will go a long ways towards the dog’s development. Because the dog is rewarded for finding the item, this adds extra motivation which is important in any challenging endeavor.

Many dog guardians feel sorry when their dog develops a disability; trying to cater and care for the animal even in situations where the dog can manage on its own.  But connecting all the dots for the dog reduces its motivation which can lead to a dog who stops trying.

We want to challenge a disabled dog so that it is inquisitive and moving forward. Dogs get over things by literally moving forward. So rolling a ball with a bell in it, going for a walk, practicing the recall exercise or other activities that ask the dog to move forward are just what the Dr ordered.


As a young dog, we need to continually push Hadassah and provide her with challenges that she can overcome. The more things she overcomes, the more confident she will grow to be. Her guardian was already off to a great start, but by adding games that ask the dog to use its mind and senses, we can help Hadassah grow even more.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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