Keeping Blind Dogs Safe at Night
A simple summer staple of the pool noodle can be helpful when teaching your blind dog to be mindful of the edges of your bed. Many of our dogs enjoy sleeping in bed with us, but it can be worrisome for us to fall asleep wondering if our blind dog is going to step or fall off of the side while we're sleeping. This hack can help keep your blind dog safe at night.
Most blind dogs will learn with repetition to be careful and feel with their feet for the edge of the bed, but this can take some practice. I've found that using pool noodles can help them learn faster, as they provide a more noticeable boundary for the dog. In the photo, you can see how the pool noodle under the sheet creates a bump.
Pool noodles can easily be laid out end to end and can be cut to perfectly fit any size of mattress. Place the pool noodles under the bottom sheet a couple of inches from the edge of the mattress. Leaving a couple of inches will help with teaching your dog to slow down before the edge, preventing her from overshooting the boundary.
Introduce your dog to being on the bed with the pool noodles in place when it's not bedtime so you can help her explore and find all the boundaries. Be nearby to allow her to explore safely without falling. Give her lots of petting, praise and treats when she stays inside the boundaries of the noodles.
When you see her begin to turn away from the pool noodles on her own, be sure to praise and reward her for that choice as well. If she steps on the noodles or tries to step over them, gently stop her and guide her back to the center away from the edge and the noodles. Then reward her once she's back toward the center of the bed.
Many smaller dogs will learn very quickly to respect the pool noodle bumps. Larger dogs may take longer to notice and respect them simply because the bump won't be as significant to a larger dog as to a smaller one. While your dog is still learning, you may wish to push one side of the bed up against a wall and sleep with the dog between you and the wall. Keep the pool noodle also under the sheet on that side so your dog continues to become accustomed to it.
As your dog learns to stay within the boundary of the pool noodles and is no longer trying to walk off the side of the bed, you can cut the pool noodles in half lengthwise so the bump is lower. Your dog has already learned to feel for the bump at the edge of your bed. Now you can begin to lessen that noodle so she learns to be more aware of a smaller bump.
After some more time, when you're sure your dog is aware of the edge and is staying safe, you can cut the pool noodle again lengthwise so now it's only 1/4 of a bump.
The next step will be to remove the pool noodle piece completely leaving only the edge of the bed as your dog's cue to slow down and be careful. Because you've left the couple of inches between the edge of the bed and the pool noodle, she should begin to feel for the edge before she actually gets to it.
When you start removing the pool noodle pieces, begin with one piece or even a section of a piece at a time so you can assess how your dog is feeling for the edge of the bed. Gradually remove all the pieces until you no longer need them.
I have found this to be a helpful tool in teaching dogs to feel for and respect boundaries. Not all blind dogs will need this help, of course, but many will find it helpful and it can decrease their stress and fear about getting too close to edge. It can also help us humans to sleep better knowing our dogs are safe during the night.