There are different methods to help blind dogs adapt to their environment, and one of these is a halo. It’s interesting to understand how blind dog halos work and the benefits and disadvantages.
A blind dog halo works by replacing the visual system with a tactile system of interacting with the world. The halo allows the blind dog to detect obstacles and prevents it from injuring itself by bumping into hard surfaces. It enables the dog to maintain independence and activity.
In previous eras, blind dogs were humanely euthanized most of the time. People felt it was unkind to allow the dog to live without vision. Thankfully, with changing veterinary care and modern advancements, people have begun to reconsider what to do with blind dogs.
How Does A Blind Dog Halo Work?
Dogs use their five senses, vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch to interact with the world. When they lose one sense, such as vision, the dog often develops better skills in the other senses.
We see this in people who have lost their vision. Their sense of smell, hearing, and touch become more developed, allowing them to replace the visual stimuli with other input.
A blind dog halo utilizes the principle of replacing one faulty system’s information with another. Since visual input has become limited or non-existent, the halo uses the touch or tactile system to give additional details.
The blind dog halo is made from a thin, flexible tube that forms a circle around the dog’s head. The tube is attached to a harness, vest, or sometimes a collar.
The correct sizing and fitting of the harness and halo are critical. Too small and the halo could restrict the dog’s movement. Too large, and the blind dog will still bump into obstacles.
The harness, vest, or collar must fit appropriately, so the halo does not sag too low or point uselessly upwards into the air.
As the dog moves around, the halo touches obstacles in front of the dog’s face, preventing him from injuring himself on hard, unforgiving surfaces.
Here’s an example of a blind dog using a halo:
Which Dogs Benefit From a Blind Dog Halo?
Dogs that are blind from birth or dogs that become blind will both benefit from using a blind dog halo.
Dogs blind from birth are often more adept at coping with the lack of vision as they have never relied on the visual system. Their other senses become well-developed from an early stage. They benefit from using a halo as many are enthusiastic puppies despite being blind. They still run and play. The halo helps prevent them from running into objects or having nasty accidents.
Dogs can lose their vision due to several different diseases. Glaucoma is a disease where malfunction causes pressure in the dog’s eye to become increased. The eye structures are damaged causing vision loss. It can be managed, but sometimes intervention is too late, or occasionally the condition does not respond to medication.
Cataracts are thickening of the lens in the eye. They often occur bilaterally and are relatively common in older dogs. Some dog breeds are genetically prone to developing cataracts at an early age and may even be born with cataracts.
Breeds affected by early cataracts are Labrador retrievers, Boston terriers, Poodles, and American cocker spaniels.
Progressive retinal atrophy is a genetic condition where the retina begins to wither and die, leaving the dog blind by three to five years. It is common in dogs such as cocker spaniels. Springer spaniels and poodles. Neurodegenerative conditions and trauma to the eyes can also cause vision loss.
Blind dog halos are beneficial to both dogs with no vision and those with partial sight. Starting the use of the blind dog halo in a dog with partial vision but a degenerating condition can help the dog adapt quicker.
How To Train A Blind Dog To Use A Halo
The most important factor in acclimatizing a blind dog to the use of the halo is to start slowly. The dog must become accustomed to the feel of the weight of the halo. Although the halo weighs a minimal amount, the dog will still feel it pulling on the harness, vest, or collar.
Begin by letting the dog wear the halo for short periods. Depending on the dog’s tolerance, this can be as little as ten minutes or as much as thirty minutes. Gradually increase the time that the dog wears the halo.
The halo should be paired with positive reinforcement to make wearing it a positive experience for the dog.
Encourage the dog to move around while wearing the halo. Dogs that are lead trained will often feel more secure if they are placed on a leash, and the owner guides the dog around. The dog feels the bump as the halo makes contact with objects.
Using a lead allows the owner to show the dog how to back up from the contact and move around the object. Dogs must learn to negotiate around the obstacle. If left to their own devices, the dog may panic or try to push through the barrier.
Clicker training is an invaluable training method for blind dogs as the clicker is an auditory cue that can give the dog information on whether he has the right response.
Are There Disadvantages To Using A Blind Dog Halo?
There are some disadvantages to using blind dog halos.
- Some owners feel that they can rely solely on the halo to assist the dog. This is not the case, and the blind dog will still need extra care and attention.
- The halo does not prevent a blind dog from falling down steps, drops, or into swimming pools or fishponds. These dangers still exist, and precautions must be taken.
- Some blind dogs cannot become accustomed to using the halo and are frightened by the extra sensory input, similar to hearing aids. In these dogs, it is better to use alternative methods.
Our Verdict on Dog Halos
Blind dog halos work by replacing visual stimuli with tactile information to help guide the blind dog around his environment. Dogs should be trained to use the halo and allowed to become accustomed to the feel of it around their heads.
However, fitting for size is critical.