Helping a Blind Puppy Adjust

Making Your Puppy's World Safe

Dog face with lots of skin folds sitting on sofa
Tara Moore / Getty Images

Eye injuries can affect the vision of pups at any age, and there are some congenital eye disorders that may cause puppy blindness. For instance, some puppies are born with cataracts or inherit genetic defects that cause blindness. Early onset PRA (progressive retinal atrophy) can be observed in puppies shortly after birth when they have trouble seeing in low light; over time, they eventually go blind.

It’s not cruel to allow your pup to function as a blind pet or to consider adopting a vision-impaired puppy. Blind puppies just rely more on a sense of smell and hearing. If he’s born blind, the pup won’t know the difference and if it’s a gradual loss, he’ll adjust along the way. If you've considered adopting a blind puppy, here's how you can help.

10 Tips for Blind Puppies

A blind pet’s comfort level, safety, and emotional health are particularly important when he's blind. Your pet won’t know he’s any different as long as he’s happy and can do all the fun puppy stuff he enjoys.

  • Avoid rearranging the furniture. Blind pets memorize the pattern of the house, and moving things around will confuse him. It’s not at all unusual for a blind pup to still insist on making floor-to-sofa leaps with confidence as long as her memory remains fresh and accurate.
  • It’s vital to keep the food, water bowls, and pet beds in the same spot so the pup can easily find belongings. Stick to the same routine so he knows what to expect.
  • It may be helpful to “scent” important objects with strong odors (liverwurst? peppermint?) to help his nose “see” what he’s looking for until he’s memorized the floor plan.
  • Offer smelly toys like puzzles stuffed with treats to engage him in play.
  • Make the most of the puppy’s other senses. For instance, you can teach your puppy the pathway from his bed to the back door by dragging a toy with a bell on it for him to follow.
  • It’s also important to puppy proof danger zones, particularly if you make unavoidable changes. For example, pad the sharp edges of furniture with bubble wrap until your pup learns to avoid the danger.
  • Block off steep stairways with baby gates to prevent falls. Keep the lights turned up for PRA dogs with fading vision. A nightlight can help him navigate after dark.
  • Your pet’s personality and behavior may change a bit as vision fades. Some become more dependent on the owner and act “clingy”—basically, they treat you as a guide dog, stand very close, and follow you around.
  • In multiple pet homes, another cat or dog may serve as a guide for the blind pet, and you can help by adding a bell to the sighted pet’s collar. To avoid tripping over the pet that’s always underfoot, provide a safe, comfy bed in each room.
  • Very social pups may become standoffish once vision fades. They’ll avoid contact with house guests to avoid being stepped on. Blind pets also startle more easily, so always speak to your dog before petting him to avoid being accidentally nipped as a reflex.

Blind pets typically are still very happy. They continue to enjoy and remain engaged in life and the world around them—including their human loved ones.