Let me introduce you to BoJ!
Please, take a look at the picture above and say if something strikes you … No? Seems to be an ordinary dog enjoying his hobby? Well, being a mixed-breed pooch jumping the obstacles, he is an average dog. But what if THIS DOG IS COMPLETELY BLIND?
I got BoJ at the age of 10 weeks from a farm. He ran amidst a bunch of 10 puppies, and straightaway he caught my eye. I can’t say why. He looked at me, I looked at him, and that was that.
My Dog Going Blind
Two weeks later, when we visited my sister, he lost his first eye to a cat. More precisely, a cat came out of nowhere and clawed at him, hitting his left eye. To this day I don’t understand what motivated her, because neither I nor my dog even saw her. We raced to the vet and it turned out, the eye itself could be saved, but the eyesight was lost. Ok, I’m a pragmatic, so what! BoJ stayed a very friendly, open and balanced dog with a love for everything that lived. He even still liked cats. A former friend of mine had 9 cats at that time, and BoJ loved to play, cuddle and sleep with some of them from the beginning.
Growing up, BoJ came to be a wonderful working dog. With just 7 months he gave his first demonstration as Service-Dog for people with mobility handicaps. Still an adolescent with lots of nonsense on his mind, playful and happy-go-lucky, he was a confident companion, eager to learn and happy to perform well. We had a lot of fun with other dogs, went hiking, biking and swimming and enjoyed being a real good team.
Then we got another dog, a Beauceron with big anxiety problems caused by a completely isolated puppyhood. BoJ was a fantastic “big brother” helping me raising this Beauceron to a confident, balanced and real funny guy. We altogether went to the USA, where I also worked as a dog trainer and behavior consultant.
And coming back to Germany I realized, something was changing. BoJ, now 1,5 years old, was changing. He couldn’t any longer catch his toy, when I threw it to him. He sometimes bumped into objects. He showed insecure behavior to other dogs and many little other things.
Caring For a Blind Dog
I went to the vet again to get the diagnosis: detachment of the retina. This went along with a very high pressure in the eye and therefore severe pain. We were able to lessen the pain for some time. But it was clear from the beginning, that in the end we had to remove the eye. Well, what could one do!
The surgery went well and BoJ recovered very fast. All this time I got “good advice” from people around me: “Well, you know, this is no life for a dog like BoJ. What kind of quality of life does he have now? You should think of putting him to sleep…” Or: “You know, now you have to have him on-leash all the time. He needs a dog as a guide-dog for himself now…”
What a bull-shit! Luckily, dogs are nothing like people when it comes to health and physical disabilities. They don’t think about how poor they feel now or what they can’t do anymore. They compensate. As good as they can. And as good, as their owners let them! And I trusted this wonderful, intelligent dog. I knew he could use his other senses quite well. After about 3 months of reorientation he was almost his old self.
How to Train a Blind Dog
Just as before BoJ was off-leash most of the time, as all my dogs are (after being excellently trained, reliable and controllable). He was still working with me (resocialization of other dogs, going to schools to teach children about dogs, giving demonstrations as Service-Dog). We still went hiking, swimming and even biking off-leash. And as before, he had fun playing with other dogs and so on. He was able to lead an almost completely normal life. The only help I had to give him was an “attention”-word. Sometimes, when he was playing or deep into work, he forgot to concentrate on his orientation. Then I signaled him to be attentive and he paused, to orientate himself newly.
BoJ never had an accident, fell off something and just twice ran into something at the beginning of his complete blindness. He actually passed several obedience trials with success (even got 2nd places). You know, blind dogs are not allowed to take part in obedience trials. Since I can’t understand why, I did them “illegally”... Nobody noticed it, only once (at a stormy day) did a judge ask, if my dog had “any problems with his vision today”!
Living With a Blind Dog
Please guys, let your blind dog live a normal life. Don’t limit him just because of blindness (or deafness). Dogs are not as dependent on their seeing (or hearing) ability as we humans are. Please don’t transfer your own fears and worries on your blind dog!
About the Author
Vera Wonneberger is a professional dog trainer, a behavior consultant, and a publicly appointed and sworn expert for dogs. Educated in Germany, Vera has also worked in Europe and in the US.
For Vera working with dogs is not an occupation but her life and passion since her childhood. She learned dog training more from the dogs, than from people. Vera is very results-oriented. From puppy to senior dog, through all breeds and mix-breeds, basic to advanced obedience, behavior modification/correction/therapy and much more. Focus is the likeable every-day companion and the correction of aggressive dogs.
If you are looking for an excellently trained companion dog you should definitely contact Vera on her website http://ihr-hundeprofi.com/en/home/ or on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/verawonneberger/en