A dog sits waiting

A dog sits waiting in the cold autumn sun.
Too faithful to leave, too frightened to run.

He’s been there for days now with nothing to do
But sits by the road just waiting for you.

He can’t understand why you left him that day.
He thought you were stopping to go with him and play.

He’s sure you’ll come back, and that’s why he stays.
How long can he suffer, how many more days?

His legs have grown weak, his throat parched and dry.
He’s sick now from hunger, he falls with a sigh.

He lays down his head, he closes his eyes,
I wish you could see how a waiting dog dies.

– Contributed by: Samaira Garg

Minimizing the risk of dog bites

There are ways to prevent children from being bitten by dogs. This article gives advice on training children, adults and dogs to approach each other and communicate effectively.

We tend to forget that dogs do not communicate in the same way as humans. For example, humans make eye contact when communicating and make contact through an open handshake. Both of these behaviours may be seen as a threat to dogs.

Training is the key to preventing dog bites. By that we mean that dogs, children and adults need to be trained in how to approach and communicate effectively.

Sleeping dogs

Teach children not to approach a sleeping dog. When awoken from a deep sleep, humans have been known to behave defensively, that is to strike out. Dogs when woken in fright may behave in much the same way. Dogs should not be disturbed when sleeping. If you need to wake the dog up, call them from a distance to allow them time to become oriented.

Provide the dog with a bed that is separated from noisy high activity areas. This will minimize the risk of unintentionally waking the dog in fright.

Feeding dogs

Children should be taught not to approach a dog who is eating or gnawing on a bone. Dogs may become protective of their food or bones.

Dogs can be conditioned to accept interference with their food from the time they enter the house as a puppy. This requires the owner to teach the dog not to react if his food is removed while eating. Start by putting a small amount of food in the bowl, then moving your hand to the box to add more food. In this way, the presence of a hand becomes rewarding. If the puppy is happy and does not show signs of aggression, take the food away. Reward the puppy with a pat. After the puppy has sat and been given a reward, the food is returned and the puppy resumes eating. This training should continue throughout the dog’s life, especially if there is a possibility of children entering the property.

When approaching a dog

Children should be taught to leave strange dogs alone and to report stray dogs to an adult who may be able to deal with the dog appropriately.

Many behaviours humans show towards each other can be perceived as a threat to dogs. If a dog is in the company of his owner, it is essential to ask the owner’s permission to approach the dog. The owner of the dog must initiate the introduction of a new person to the dog. The dog should be approached on an angle, not from the front or rear. Once closer to the dog, slowly extend the back of the hand and allow the dog to sniff the hand before tickling under the chin or the side of the chest. Dogs should not be patted on the top of the head or the shoulders. An open palm facing the dog may be seen as a threat by the dog and may cause the dog to act defensively. If the dog doesn’t sniff or backs away, do not attempt to pat him.

Young children can be rough and unrelenting. They may be unaware that their behaviour is annoying for the dog. Their high-pitched squeals and uncoordinated attempts at showing affection can disturb the dog, causing him to act defensively or trigger a chasing response. Discourage rough, inappropriate play, as this may over excite the dog.

Supervising children around dogs

Young children should never approach a dog without the permission of the owner. Adults should initially control the child’s movements when they are learning to interact with dogs. One good way to start is by holding and guiding a young child’s hand to pat the dog gently. Young children need constant supervision when in contact with dogs.

Establishing eye contact with a dog can send a strong message of domination which can be perceived as a threat to the dog.

When approached by a strange dog

Children are easily excited. A common reaction in their excitement is to run and squeal. This behaviour can frighten a dog who may only be curious, or want to join in the fun. Never approach a strange dog without the permission of the dog owner. It is useful to teach children to stand straight and still (like a tree trunk!) and not raise their hands above their heads.

Important dog behaviour to recognise

As with other animals, dogs have a special way of communicating with each other and humans. Most people recognize the wagging tail as a sign of a happy dog, but fewer people really know or understand other signs of dog body language. A dog’s body language gives us clues about how a dog may be feeling.

A dog should be left alone if he:

  • Lifts his lips
  • Growls
  • Backs off
  • Raises the hair on his back

The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters,  I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie –
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet’s unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find – it’s your own affair –
But… you’ve given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone – wherever it goes – for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We’ve sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we’ve kept’em,
the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long –
So why in – Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?
–Rudyard Kipling

Preventing and managing dog bites

Dog bites are in no condition simply wounds, but are in fact medical emergencies that need to be attended to as soon as possible. Here’s how to prevent and manage dog bites.

Preventing dog bite

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog or scream in the presence of a dog.
  • Be still, ‘like a tree’, when approached by a dog.
  • If knocked down, become ‘like a log’ and using your arms hide your face and ears.
  • Children should never play with a dog without an adult present.
  • Immediately report stray dog or dogs with unusual behaviour.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog who is eating, sleeping or caring for her puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without letting him first sniff you.
  • Tell children to report a dog bite to an adult immediately.
  • Educate the children and adults to remain calm when threatened by a dog.
  • If a dog perceives no movement, it will lose interest and go away.

Causes of dog bite

  • The incidence of serious and fatal dog bites has been seen mainly because of:
  • Involvement of the victim in trying to harm or steal the pups of a dog.
  • Involvement of the victim in provoking the dogs by some mischievous activity.
  • General carelessness of the victim, while approaching or handling a dog.
  • Allowing small children to play unsupervised with the pet dogs.

Dangers associated with dog bite

Only 15-20% of dog bite wounds become infected. Crush injuries, puncture wounds and hand wounds are more likely to become infected than scratches or tears. Infection tends to develop within 24-36 hours of the injury. However the main threat of dog bite is risk of acquiring ‘Rabies’, a disease which if develops always ends fatally. Till now there has been no suitable cure found for rabies, only pre/post exposure vaccines have been developed which help to prevent the occurrence of the disease but are of no use once the disease has developed. Other complications include infectious diseases such as osteomyelitis, septic arthritis, tenosynovitis, and septicemia. Most infected dog bite wounds yield polymicrobial organisms. Pasteurella multocida and Staphylococcus aureus are the most common aerobic organisms, occurring in 20-30% percent of infected dog bite wounds.

Some of the medical conditions associated with a high risk of infection after a dog bite include:

  • Chronic disease
  • Chronic edema of the extremity
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immunosuppression
  • Liver dysfunction
  • Previous mastectomy
  • Prosthetic valve or joint
  • Splenectomy
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus


Treatment of dog bite

Treatment with prophylactic antibiotics for three to seven days is appropriate for dog bite wounds, unless the risk of infection is low or the wound is superficial. Amoxicillin-clavulanate potassium is the antibiotic of choice for a dog bite. For patients who are allergic to penicillin, doxycycline is an acceptable alternative, except for children younger than eight years and pregnant women. When compliance is a concern, daily intramuscular injections of ceftriaxone are appropriate.

Whether a person has received pre-exposure vaccination or not, anyone exposed to the rabies virus MUST receive post-exposure treatment.

(Dr F H Dedmari, BVSc & AH, is currently doing master in Veterinary Surgery & Radiology at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology, Kashmir, SKUAST-K).


Your dog is unique and so should be his diet!

Despite the dignified, even anxious appearance, the Pug can’t hide his happy, affectionate, totally loyal – even exclusive – nature for long! Lots of love and care is needed to keep him healthy and happy. Royal Canin has launched Pug 25 – a food totally dedicated to the breed.

Sometimes unruly as a youngster, firm, kind training turns him into a totally calm and level-headed dog. His square (cobby) muscled physique means he plays with calm poise and dignity. The Pug is undoubtedly the oldest of the small molossoid breeds, with historians reporting his existence for two or three thousand years. Originally from China and sharing the same origins as the Mastiff or Tibetan Mastiff, the Pug arrived in Europe via Holland in the 16th century. The breed quickly became a favourite in royal courts, before it was supplanted by the Pekingese and Terriers. It was not until the 1960s that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor restored the breed to royal favour.

A delicate skin which needs care…

The Pug’s short hair clearly displays his skin, which is folded around the face as the breed standard requires. These folds can retain natural humidity in the skin and encourage the appearance of cutaneous irritation. Regular cleaning is necessary for good hygiene, and food can also contribute to good health: A patented complex of four B vitamins and an amino acid help reinforce the effectiveness of the cutaneous barrier. Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA-DHA from fish oil and Vitamin A have a supportive anti-inflammatory action.

A face with no comparison…

Carried n a large, round head, the short muzzle is completely square and not turned up. The jaw is characteristically brachycephalic, with slight lower prognathism, and the incisors are implanted almost in a straight line. In fact, picking up an object or food that is too flat is very difficult, and the Pug has a tendency to swallow his food without crunching.

A characteristic physique

The Pug’s compact form shows off his crisp and firm muscles. Regular, gentle walks, avoiding strong heat and intense effort, are enough to keep him in shape when combined with the right food, served in the right amount, and not too many treats. Regular, gentle exercise is also good for the digestive system.

A food…that takes care of all

Today, as a result of discussions with breeders keen to support this charming breed, and the benefit of scientific advances in terms of nutrition, Royal Canin has launched a new food dedicated to the breed:

PUG 25.

PUG 25 is based on ultradigestible (90%) proteins and a combination of fibres to stimulate transite and protect the intestinal flora.

PUG 25 is enriched with antioxidants which are effective against free radicals: Vitamins E and C, taurine, besides active plant extracts such as luteine and grape polyphenols.

This little dog has a relatively long life expectancy, and regular veterinary checks and a specially adapted diet can help make this long life a comfortable one.

Dog Training

Visual cues are key to training a deaf dog

How sad you feel when you realise that your pooch doesn’t respond to your commands, ignores the doorbell…not because he doesn’t want to obey but because his hearing is impaired! Here’s how to communicate with your lil one.

Why hearing loss occurs?

Hearing loss in dogs is relatively common and can have variety of causes, including old age, infectious diseaseDog training or reactions to medications. Some dogs are born deaf, having inherited a gene that predisposes them to the condition. This gene is often found in white dogs or those with a mottled coat. Dalmatians and white Great Danes are among such breeds.

Making life meaningful with communication

  • First and foremost, remember that he’s a dog and even though he can’t hear, he will have the same instincts as any other dog.
  • It’s important to treat the dog as normally as possible.
  • Don’t baby him, or shy away from all the regular things you would do with a normal dog.
  • Most deaf dogs compensate for their loss of hearing by making heightened use of their other senses, including sight, smell and touch.
  • They can be more responsive than average to non auditory cues, an important factor that helps make the training process easier.
  • And some older dogs will respond to a very loud hand clap or stomping on the floor as they may pick the vibrations in the floor.
  • Learn the fact that you and your dog have to rely on visual cues and commands as the vocal commands like “come”, “stay” or “sit” don’t apply.
  • Socialization is critical. You might think that because your dog can’t hear, he needs to be kept close by your side at all times. On the contrary, a deaf dog can easily learn to interact positively with other people and dogs.
  • Be vigilant when your dog is around other canines. They can always see when a dog is snarling at them.
  • When people are greeting your dog, tell them to smile and avoid direct eye contact and offer him a palm to sniff.
  • In a market place, there is a device called pager collar which gives vibrating signals to your dog.
  • If you are taking them to a new place, be careful and never keep your dog off leash.
  • Make sure that you don’t startle your deaf dog by “sneaking up on him”, especially while he’s asleep.
  • To wake a deaf dog, place your hand near his nose so he’ll smell you, or scratch the floor or pillow near him so he’ll feel that. Since he may be startled, you can make waking up or sudden touch more pleasantly by immediately offering him a treat.
  • You can actually condition your dog to find being startled to be pleasant — just associate something he likes (such as a food treat) with a startle.
  • Watch strangers (especially children) and don’t let them touch him unless he’s recognied that they’re there.
  • Never get angry, jerk, hit or push your pet for unwanted behaviour. Instead, ignore it and focus on rewarding the behaviour you do want.

Tips for training a deaf dog

  • Dogs who can’t hear have to rely on vision to keep tabs on what’s going around them and more likely to be influenced by visual distractions.
  • Use clicker training using a flashlight. For this, you will need an instant on-off light with a button rather than a sliding switch. Do not use a laser light though.
  • When using sign language, it’s important to keep the signs consistent, so that the dog learns to recognise specific gestures as commands.
  • Train with you back to a wall or even in a corner so that your dog is able to focus more exclusively on you.
  • Be in his line of sight and never approach him from behind.
  • Smile, so that he can see your expression and will come to regard the training as a happy experience.
  • Last but not the least, reward the dog for good behaviour.

Teaching various commands Teaching ‘Come’

  • Flash a light or wait until your pet notices you.
  • Show a treat when the dog looks at you and give the hand signal for come by extending your hand straight up and then reward your dog when he comes to you.
  • Keep on practising with the treat and then slowly cut down on treats concentrating on commands.
  • Make sure you use the correct facial expressions.

Teaching ‘Yes’ or ‘Good Dog’

  • To teach the sign ‘Yes’ or ‘Good Gog’ is to use thumbs up. Repeat it several times. Teaching ‘No’
  • The best way to use the command ‘No’ or ‘Stop’ is to flash your palm in a very firm way.

Teaching ‘Sit’

  • Start making you own signs. For example, to teach a dog to sit, put a treat over his nose and then move it slowly backwards until he sits. Then, add a sign to it.

Training a dog with hearing loss involves some extra challenges but it can be a rewarding experience. You are learning along with your dog. Common sense and ability to think outside the box! Don’t be limited by a lack of imagination. Find a way to make it work.

(Niharika Virmani is a graduate in Animal Behaviour and Pet Grooming from Nash Academy of Animal Arts, Kentucky, USA in the year 2007. She has her own day care and mobile grooming called Happy Tails in Mumbai.)


How to teach your dog to be calm around visitors

Dogs will guard their homes or territories by nature. In the wild when an intruder comes too close, one dog within the family group will give a warning bark to alarm the others of the intrusion. We cannot expect our dogs to behave in a different manner in their human families. Often when a visitor comes to the door, our dog will give a warning or guarding bark to alert us to the visitor. Here’s how you can teach your dogs to be calm around visitors.

Warning bark…

A warning bark sounds like a high frequency and a little hysterical. This bark may be constant or a series ofTraining small barks with short breaks. A guarding bark sounds like: Grrrrrrr – bark, bark – Grrrrrrr. Depending on how defensive the dog is, warning bark depends on the amount of growling. The bark may also be a deeper bark than usual.

Whether the barking is a warning or a guarding bark, your dog will have a high level of arousal, excitement or fear. You may see your dog react by lunging forward, spinning around, barking, jumping up your visitors or yourself, growling, running around, or she may be reacting with all of these behaviours.

Because of the high level of excitement, arousal or fear involved, your dog will also have a high level of stress. This causes the muscles to become full of adrenalin and will become active. This is why it is not possible for your dog to keep still. Giving your dog something to hold in his mouth, such as a toy or blanket, can help your dog cope with the situation.

Training to become calm

You may like to try the following task firstly with regular visitors whom you and your dog know, then build up to visitors your dog does not know very well and then with strangers.

When a visitor comes to your door and your dog gives a warning/guarding bark, tell your dog ‘thank you for telling me’, do not touch your dog, just go to the door and stand between the door and your dog (as the photo above). Absolutely do not talk to your dog, look at your dog or touch your dog at this stage. Any verbal, physical or visual contact this time will reward the dog for continuing to bark and increase the behaviour.

Open the door slightly and tell your visitor that you are training your dog and what you want him to do once you let him in. If your dog begins to bark once you open the door slightly, close it again making sure your body is positioned between the door and your dog.

Open the door again slightly, if dog barks again, close the door, if dog does not bark at all, open the door a little more. Build this up opening further if the dog does not bark and closing it if the dog barks until you are able to open the door completely and let your visitor into the house.

Ask your visitor when he comes in just to say a quick hello to your dog, so your dog knows the visitor has acknowledged her and then to ignore your dog until she is settled and calm.

Once your visitor has come into the house, give your dog something she can carry around or chew (your dog cannot bark easily with something in her mouth). This will help her to settle and calm down. You may need to place your dog on a leash the first few times your visitors come to help her cope, then unclip the leash once your dog has settled and calmed down beside you with a chew or a toy. If your dog approaches your visitor in a nice calm way, invite your visitor to talk to and stroke your dog. If your dog does not approach your visitor, then do not allow your visitor to approach her. Give your dog the respect of having the choice in her own space to approach your visitor if she wants to.

Do not start playing with your dog as this will only make her more excited and give your dog the association that when visitors come, it’s time for high levels of excitement. Dogs learn by association and if she associates visitors with the high level of excitement, she will anticipate that excitement the moment there is a knock at your door, and as a consequence may never learn to be calm around visitors.

This is quite an easy task so long as owner, visitors and dog follow these instructions and work together.

(Nicole Mackie has over 14 years of experience in handling, exhibiting, training, observing, studying and sharing her life with dogs, gaining many qualifications such as canine behaviour, canine psychology, general animal science and experience veterinary nursing. She is a radio speaker and writer for magazines, works with behavioural problems in dogs and runs socialising groups for dogs with social problems.


Sibling rivalry : bringing home asecond dog

Most pooches love to have friends from the same species but that is not enough ground to assume that bringing home a new dog is going to be a cake-walk! Striking a balance between your two furry friends is important, if you don’t want either of them to feel hurt, threatened or left out. Here’s how to make things easier for both pooches.

Two doggies living under the same roof (especially if one of them has been there for long enough) can lead to agrooming complex scenario with one turning hostile towards the other or feeling insecure. But once you succeed in your endeavour to make them cool buddies, you will be pleased to see your two pooches reveling in each other’s company. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind before you make the big decision to expand the family and how to go about introducing the new pet to the old one.

Understanding is the key: Don’t bring in a new dog just because you think it’s the right thing to do. Keep in mind your first one’s feelings – he may not be too keen on the idea of sharing space and your affection. Give it a second thought, if your dog is over-possessive and insecure. In case you are planning on a second dog just because the first one is old and unable to play around, it would be the worst thing you could do to a friend who has been there for you all his life. Your old friend needs special care and as a pet parent, that is the least you can do to give him his due for all the loyalty, love and friendship.

Choosing the new pet: If you must bring in a second dog, try choosing one from opposite gender. Dogs from opposite sexes are less likely to be competitive and more likely to be polite to each other. Also, size them up so that one is not too small to be bullied by the other. Some breeds are inherently intolerant of canine company. Make sure you discuss these issues with the breeder or kennel owner before zeroing in on a particular breed. A dog’s personal characteristics also go a long way in determining how she would gel in with other canine inmates in a new home.

The first ‘hellos’: This may be the trickiest part of all; if you get past this, pat yourself and heave a sigh of relief. Make sure the introductions take place on a ‘neutral ground’- an area that does not belong to either. When dogs are in an unfamiliar territory, they are more receptive and open to strangers because they are not worried about protecting and defending their land. Once they are well acquainted, you can gradually introduce the idea of ‘going home together’.

Handling them right: If your first pooch is unpredictable and fussy, it is best to put both of them on leash and gradually bring them closer – carefully judging their individual reactions. If either of them growls or bares teeth, slow down and put it off for another time. If the tails go wag-wag, it is good news and you can let them sniff up and introduce themselves. From what I have observed over the years, grown-ups are usually softer around puppies. Make sure you encourage the older dog as she gets to know the little one. This works as a positive reinforcement as the dog is “rewarded” for being nice to the new member of the family. As much as you may be tempted, refrain from excessive doting on the pup so that your first dog does not feel hurt or left out.

Personal space: Do not expect your first dog to share stuff like toys, bedding, feeding bowls, etc. Most dogs are possessive about these things, so make sure that both have a separate set of toys and bedding. Their feeding and sleeping areas should also be kept separate at least for the first few days or weeks. Unless you are very sure of how they will behave, keep them out of each other’s reach while you are not around.

Buddies: Once both dogs are comfortable with each other’s presence, they can be allowed to interact freely and play together. However, if one of them is a puppy, you may need to supervise so that she doesn’t accidentally get injured in the over-enthusiastic play.

To forge a healthy relationship between your two furry friends, treat them with equal love and attention. Just like us, pooches with a social life are happier, healthier and are likely to live longer too. There are few things in life that give more joy than a double dose of doggie love and seeing your beloved pet in the company of a new-found friend.

Papillon:the butterfly dog

Dainty, royal, graceful, and distinguished by other breeds owing to their beautiful butterfly like ears, Papillon are big dogs in small packages. The y have all that you wish in your pawfect companion. They are smart, intellig ent, active and loving. Can you ask for more?

Papillons are one of the oldest breed of toy dogs. This fashionable dog was loved by esteemed dog-lovers such as Madame de Pompadour and Marie Antoinette and was also carried to court by France’s King Henry III. He was a favourite of many painters of the Renaissance period, who depicted him in many paintings.Small and elegant, equally appealing is their friendly nature…they are simply the best. And what’s more, do not go by their small size as these truly companion dogs are extremely watchful.Those butterfl y-like ears take my breath away…

For Papillon, the name speaks for itself because in French, Papillon means butterfly and the most distinguished characteristic of this breed is his large butterfl y-like ears. “They get a long fringe on the ears, which make them look beautiful and elegant; there is also another variety with the ears hanging down that is called a Phalene, meaning – Moth,” tells Sally Bacus, a reputed breeder of Papillon. Their coat is fi ne-haired, long and silky but puppies have short length fur. Their tail is long and set high and is highly fringed. Their colours can range from black & white, red & white and tri colour with black, brown & white. And, their average height is 8-11 inches and weigh around 3-5 kg.

Smart and active… that’s how a Papillon is

“You have to keep them busy, or they will invent things to do on their own. They are cuddly and affectionate and love to sit on your lap and get your attention. They are great at obedience training & agility.

They learn fast and can train you well,” adds Sally. They are also easy to house-train. On asked about how is it to live with them, Sally quickly replies, “I don’t know what I ever did before we had papillons. They are family.”

Your watchdog as well…

“Papillons are not a “yappy” dog, but do let you know when there is a stranger in the area. You won’t need a doorbell if you have a Pap,” tells Sally.

Living with them is easy…and fun

They can jump really high & fl y like the wind. They are like a cat and like to sleep on the back of the couch and wet their paw to clean their face.

If the children are gentle, they will do well. “If a child is jumping around, they could hurt a light boned little dog,” advises Sally.

Taking care of lil puppies…

“Puppy care can be diffi cult because they are so small. They normally have 2 in a litter weighing up to 4 oz if you’re lucky. The females in general are very good mothers. You do have to watch that the new babies don’t get chilled. Puppies are generally born black & white & their colors come in later. Their ears usually start to stand up about 6-8 weeks.

They will loose their fl uffy puppy coat about 5-6 months & we call this – the Uglies,” tells Sally.

Groom him little…

“I would recommend brushing twice a week. We trim their feet to look like a rabbit foot – smooth & dainty They are really quite easy to groom. Papillons do shed, but not a lot. Females will shed after they have a litter of puppies & after they have a heat cycle,” tells Sally.

What they love to do…

“They love to sleep with us and like our touch, sometimes they even sleep on top of us,” laughs Sally. “Aside from agility, they love to fetch & run.”

Watch out for…

There are two main hereditary problems to watch for: Luxating Patellas (knees) & PRA (eyes). These beautiful dogs are truly companion pooches. “They are like potato chips. You can’t have just one!” concludes Sally.

(With inputs from Bill & Sally Bacus, reputed breeders of Papillons in USA. They have had Papillons for several years & enjoy breeding & showing them. They show in conformation, agility, & obedience. Their main man is Charley, CH Chateau Charlemagne’s Crown CD, RA, NA, NAJ.)

Dog training

Tips to help a dog with limited or no vision

If your dog is born blind, losing sight or has limited vision due to disease, genetics or injury, she will need a lot of help, support and confidence building. Here are a few tips to make her life easier.


I have written this after experiencing two of my own dogs go blind. My older Labrador Retriever Bella


Nicole and Barbie

started to go deaf at 8-9 years of age. I then taught her and used sign/body language to communicate with her. However at the age of 10 years, she began to go blind too and could not see my body language very well. I had to think of other ways to help and support her.

My other dog Kiwi began to loose her sight at the age of fi ve years. She underwent blood tests and saw a specialist. I hope my own experiences will help other people support their dogs, having blindness.

  • Your dog may prefer the comforts, familiarity and security of staying at home. If this is the case, give your dog time, it may be that she has not yet come to terms with the loss of vision and may not be ready to venture out into the strange dark world.
  • If your dog is fearful of strange or different environments, it may be that your dog feels secure in familiarity. Try to walk or exercise her in familiar territory, if possible away from other dogs and people she does not know.
  • When you do start to venture out, try to take it very slowly. Begin with short walks in the same area, building up the time and distance of the walk very slowly at the dog’s pace. If you see her showing signs of getting stress such as panting, lip licking, trying to turn around to go back, rubbing her body against you, standing still and not wanting to carry on, lagging behind you, whining or barking, then help your dog out by ending the walk and taking her back home where she feels safe.
  • Try to keep your household and garden furniture in the same place, so that your dog becomes familiar with where everything is. Make sure all sharp edges or holes in the ground are covered and any children’s games or toys are picked up afterwards. Hide or cover all electrical wires your dog may trip on. Keep all low cupboard doors closed so that your dog does not walk into as she cannot see them if they are opened.
  • If your dog is partially sighted, she may find it more difficult to see at certain times of the day. Dogs see best at dawn and dusk. According to studies, dogs see their world in colours of white, yellow, blue, indigo and violet. When they are partially blind, these colours will be easier seen at dawn and dusk rather than mid-day when day is at its brightest and colours and shapes of white and yellow may blend in and become harder to distinguish.
  • Do not step or reach over your dog. This can be very frightening for her. She does not know what you are doing and partially sighted dog may only see a movement going over her, which is very threatening. Walk slowly around your dog, talking softly to reassure her. If you are going to stroke your dog, bend at your knees and not the waist. Bending at the waist means you are bending over your dog from above, which is very frightening for the dogs, especially with limited sight. Bending at the knees means you are bending down to the dog’s level, your dog will feel much more secure if you stroke her this way.
  • When you stroke your dog, make sure you are stroking her slowly, calmly and gentlly. Do not slap the dog on her sides. Often we like to slap our dogs on the sides as an act of affection towards them, but this is very threatening to a dog and may be seen as a punishment rather than our intended affection.
  • If you are using baby gates or dog gates in your home, your partially sighted dog may not see the gate if it blends into a light background. Place blue tape across the gate so that the dog can see if the gate is open or closed.
  • If your dog is blind and cannot see doors at all, you may need to use language such as telling your dog if the door is open or closed every time she approaches a door. Get used to talking to your dog. Dogs are highly intelligent animals and can grasp language amazingly well.
  • Teach your dog ‘left’ and ‘right’ commands, so that you can guide your dog around an obstacle when needed. When out on a walk, each time your dog turns right, say to her ‘right’. Each time your dog turns left tell her ‘left’. Your dog will soon get to learn which way you want her to turn.
  • You may fi nd your dog may trip you up a lot as she needs the security of leg hugging. Your dog may need the security of touching you. If your dog is like this (many blind dogs are), then you may need to talk to her more for reassurance and make sure you walk very slowly when your dog is with you.
  • Your dog will benefi t from knowing where you are all the time. Separation may cause anxiety. If you can and if it’s safe to do so, take your dog with you to your regular places. Keep her on leash so that she does not wander off and get lost. If you have someone who can babysit when you are out, this will also help your dog to feel more secure. If you cannot do either, give your dog a safe, secure area to rest in, that is warm, with water, some toys and perhaps something she can chew such as a stuffed kong or chewy.
  • Talk to her all the time whenever you leave your dog alone, tell her where you are going and how long you will be away.
  • If your dog needs to go upstairs, take time to teach her to count. Tell her there are two steps and count them as you go up, 1 and 2 and so on depending how many steps there are. If there are fi ve steps, tell your dog there are five steps, lets go up 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 5 and fi nish.
  • The equipment you use on your dog is important. Many dogs come to prefer a soft padded harness. This can give your dog the feeling of being in a secure wraparound or blanket. The centre of your dog’s back is also the centre of balance. If the harness is the correct type for your dog and the leash attachment is at the centre of the dogs back, she may feel more balanced and secure being led via the centre of balance rather than the neck which may be a sensitive area for some dogs.
  • A long leash about two metres long may be the preferred length for your dog. This will give her the opportunity to sniff and explore her environment. Your dog will need to sniff and explore, it is a necessary part of her life and more so in blindness as she will be developing and using those other senses a lot more.
  • Remember dogs are born blind and it is two weeks after they open their eyes. In that world they depend on their other senses for everything, they need scent and touch to fi nd their mother and to feed. They depend on touch to keep warm and their senses to fi nd one another in the litter.
  • Your dog may have loss of sight but her brain will most likely be just as active as always. So, do not stop playing with her. However, the games will no longer be visual games but nose-work games. Your dog will still enjoy games such as hiding treats around your garden or in your house, a kong stuffed with her dinner, a treat ball filled with nice treats, some seaweed from the beach to sniff and play with. Old cardboard boxes stuffed with surprises such as soft toys, treats or nice smelly things to sniff. Old shoes or slippers of her own to explore. These are just a few ideas, but be creative and safe and talk to your dog.

(Nicole N S Mackie is an animal therapist with specialisation in small animal nutrition, dog behaviour, communication and psychology, having experience in veterinary nursing, with qualifications in animal science, canine behaviour, canine psychology, dog training instruction, nutritional advisor of veterinary nutrition and a graduate from the International Dog Behaviour and Training School in the UK.)