Q: How do you make a blind dog less nervous with a puppy?
Q: How do you make a dog less nervous? We took in a blind stray three years ago and since we got a puppy a couple of months back the older dog keeps running away and won't come back. He becomes so distressed every time we bring him home that he cowers until he can get a chance to escape again. How can we calm him down?
A: Being unable to see does make life much more difficult for a dog. Blind dogs tend to be able to learn the layout of their immediate surroundings (house and often the garden as well) quite well and generally navigate those areas without difficulty and with minimal bumping into things. They obviously need to be on a lead at all times when they are taken for walks, as they will quite easily get disoriented and lost.
I suspect your older dog's problem is twofold. Firstly, when he escapes, he will fell disoriented almost immediately. If he is running away, chances are he is crossing roads with no awareness of the traffic, running into stationary objects he cannot see, and in general getting into a panic because he can't tell where he is going or what is around him. This is quite scary and distressing for a dog!
This part of the problem is actually quite easy to correct - do not let him escape! If your dogs are allowed out into the garden, with or without supervision, that garden should be secure - meaning gates should be closed, and walls should be too high for the dogs to jump over. If the garden is not secure, then the dogs need to be on the lead at all times for their own safety.
Secondly, the new pup is clearly an issue for your old boy. Not every dog wants or needs to have doggy friends, and it sounds like your older dog would prefer to be by himself. The situation may have been different when he could still see, but depending on his personality eyesight may not have made much difference here. The blindness makes it difficult to see the puppy coming and he may also not always be able to hear the puppy either, as many dogs will lose some of their hearing acuity with age. Puppies, especially labs, tend to be quite lively and playful, and can be difficult for any older dog to keep up with. Being pounced on by a puppy with none or very little warning would be quite stressful. Being chased or pushed around by a puppy who wants to play is likely to result in disorientation and injury, which is also going to be stressful.
This is a difficult situation to fix, as you have had a puppy for a few months and are now presumably committed to both dogs. You need to separate them, at the very least at times when they are not under direct supervision (which includes overnight). The older dog needs to have a "safe" area which contains his bed, toys, food bowl, and water bowl, and has enough space for him to move around in. This should be at least one whole room, rather than something small like a crate. The puppy should have no access to this area a all, even when the older dog is not using it, as the puppy's smell alone may be distressing - the older dog would be able to smell the puppy but not see him, and would then worry about where the puppy is and when it will pounce.
You then need to take a step back and try slowly re-introducing the two dogs under close supervision, and initially with the puppy on the lead. If the older dog continues to not be keen on the puppy, you may need to keep them separated permanently.
Best of luck with a challenging situation!
If you have a question for Dr. Dalya simply send it through to firstname.lastname@example.org
Top 10 Conditions
Petside: Get Started
- Kitten Life
Learn about the different life stages of your Kitten and much more!
- Puppy Life
Everything you need to know about raising a Puppy, all in one place! Check it out.
- Find a Breed
Browse dog and cat breeds to find your perfect pal.
- Diagnose a Condition
Use PetVet to research what's ailing your pet.