How to Help a Dog Who Suddenly Starts Barking Due to a Loss in Vision or Hearing

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Dogs that experience sensory loss (such as vision or hearing impairment) often experience anxiety or confusion due to their inability to perceive their environment as they once did. This can lead to increased vocalizations such as barking. Here are some strategies to help a dog with sensory loss at home.

How to help dogs who are losing their vision (and barking excessively as a result)

Dogs that lose their vision can feel vulnerable, anxious, or confused in their environment, which can lead to behaviors like increased barking. Here’s how you can help a dog with vision loss:

1. See your vet or a vet behaviorist: If the barking becomes unmanageable or if you’re unsure how to help your dog adjust, consider hiring a dog trainer or behaviorist familiar with vision-impaired dogs. Regular veterinarian check-ups can ensure there aren’t other issues contributing to their anxiety or discomfort. Your vet might also have additional recommendations for care.

2. Maintain consistency at home: Keep furniture and other major items in your home in the same place. Avoid rearranging things too frequently. A consistent environment can be reassuring. Limit surprises because sudden changes can be distressing. If guests are coming over or there are other changes, introduce them gradually and reassure your dog.

3. Use sounds and scents. This will help your dog navigate this new, scary world:

  • Scent markers: Dogs have an excellent sense of smell. Use safe scents or essential oils (ensure they’re safe for dogs) to mark important areas like their food and water bowls, their bed, toys, or even the top and bottom of stairs.
  • Sounds: Bells, specific types of music, or white noise machines can help your dog understand where things are or where people are in the house. For instance, a bell on the collar of other pets can indicate their presence. Opt for toys that make noise or have a distinct scent. Puzzle toys can help keep them engaged and mentally stimulated.
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4. Provide a safe space: Provide a secure space where your dog can feel safe and retreat to if overwhelmed. This might be a specific bed, crate, or a favorite room.

  • Consider using baby gates to block off dangerous areas like stairs or pools. Make sure sharp or hazardous objects, this may include throw rugs, are out of their pathway.
  • Teach them commands such as “stop” when they’re about to bump into something. Reward them with treats and praise for following these commands.

5. Give your dog verbal reassurance: Talk to your dog more often. Your voice can be a comforting presence. Use consistent commands and praise to guide and reassure them. Also, if you used to use hand signals, it’s time to switch to voice commands.

6. Stay calm and patient: It’s essential to understand that your dog might be barking more out of insecurity, fear, or confusion. Stay patient and provide positive reinforcement. Avoid scolding them for behaviors they can’t control.

Remember, a blind dog can still lead a full and happy life with a little extra care and patience. The bond between you and your dog might even grow stronger as they come to rely on you more for guidance and reassurance.

How to help dogs who are losing their hearing (and barking excessively as a result)

A dog with hearing loss might feel disoriented or anxious due to the inability to hear familiar sounds, leading to behaviors like unexplained barking. Here’s how you can help a dog with hearing loss:

1. Check with your vet first: Ensure that the barking isn’t due to other reasons. For example, a dog with hearing loss might also have a medical issue causing discomfort.

2. Use non-hearing related signals (visual, touch, vibration)

  • Visual signals: Use hand signals and gestures consistently. Over time, your dog can learn to associate specific signals with commands. If you’ve previously trained your dog with verbal commands, associate those commands with new visual signals.
  • Touch communication: Gently touching or tapping your dog can be a way to get their attention. Find a consistent way to communicate “yes,” “no,” and other simple messages.
  • Vibration: Utilize vibrations to communicate. Stomping the ground lightly or using vibrating collars (not shock collars) can serve as a way to get their attention.

3. Maintain routines: Dogs find comfort in routines, especially if they’ve lost one of their senses. Keeping feeding, walking, and playtimes consistent can provide security.

4. Approach carefully: Without the ability to hear, your dog might be startled more easily. Always approach from the front and make sure they see you to avoid surprising them using vibration or some of the other methods mentioned above.

5. Provide a safe and relaxing space: Create a space where your dog feels safe and can retreat if overwhelmed. This could be a special bed, crate, or a favorite spot. Offer toys that cater to their other senses, like scent or touch. Interactive toys can help keep them mentally stimulated. View our recommendations for senior dog toys.

6. Keep your dog safe: Without the ability to hear approaching danger (like a car or another dog), it’s crucial to keep your dog on a leash during walks and ensure your home and yard are secure.

7. Stay calm and patient: It’s essential to be understanding of your dog’s situation. Remember, they might be barking out of confusion or insecurity. Provide positive reinforcement and avoid scolding them for behaviors tied to their hearing loss.

By providing consistent care, communication, and understanding, a dog with hearing loss can continue to lead a happy and fulfilling life. Adjusting to the change can be challenging at first, but with patience, both you and your dog can adapt.

Keep reading: Senior Dogs Barking For No Reason: Top Causes & Vet Advice.

Authors

  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

    View all posts https://vetmed.oregonstate.edu/ https://petkeen.com/author/dr-chyrle-bonk-veterinarian-dvm/
  • Jason Robins

    Jason is a pet specialized writer who works with our veterinarian team (https://seniortailwaggers.com/team/) to write in-depth articles about pet health and behaviors.

    View all posts

Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

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