Grooming blind or vision impaired dogs can bring about some challenges. Yesterday a customer brought her elderly Golden Retriever mix to see me. I've been grooming the dog for a couple of years, but she does not come in terribly often as she has a fairly light coat and her owner does brush at home. I was a bit astonished when I opened to door to greet them and saw Lilly stumble over a rock by the pathway and do a face plant. "Oh, she's blind now." The owner was not too concerned and was not helping her dog navigate the unfamiliar terrain.
But we, as pet care professionals, do have an obligation to help vision impaired dogs when they are in our care. Here are a few ideas you might try the next time you groom a dog who can not see.
- When walking the dog from point A. to point B., keep the leash snug so the dog is pressed against you leg. This will help guide it to where you want to go, and prevent it from crashing into obstacles in the path.
- When you put the pet in a cage or kennel, move slowly and gently, letting it sniff the new space and explore it. Imagine how terrifying it would be if you were blind and someone tossed you into a strange place. You wouldn't know if there was solid footing or if you were about to fall, if there was something scary in that space or not.
- Removing blind pets from a cage or kennel can also frighten them. Speak calmly, guide gently.
- When bathing the dog, keep in mind that the sounds and sensations of the bathing process can be intimidating or scary. Speak soothingly, and move slowly. Let your hands guide the dog as you move or turn it, so it feels secure.
- When the dog is on the table, a safety device such as the Groomers Helper can be invaluable. Blind dogs often pace about, trying to discover where they are. While doing this they can easily step off the edge of the table and be injured.
- Vision impaired dogs are often startled when touched. If possible, keep one hand on the dog at all times, so it knows you are there and will be touching it's body. Again, imagine if you were blind and someone randomly kept picking up your feet, touching your face, back, legs and belly. It would be scary!
- Drying: the sound and sensation of the dryer can be a problem for vision impaired dogs. Start with the dryer on low, at the back of the body. Gradually increase the volume of the air and move the dryer towards the head as the dog becomes accustomed to the sensation.
Taking a few moments to consider how it would feel to be the pet in the grooming shop can really open your eyes (pun intended) to new ways to keep the dog calm, comfortable and safe. If you find that you need to take extra time grooming a blind pet, discuss with the owner that you will have to charge a few dollars more to compensate for that. Most owners will be happy that you care enough to take steps to insure their pets comfort and safety.