If you’ve ever helped a blind dog adjust to his surroundings, you know that scent can be a dogsend. Animals are so exquisitely sensitive to fragrance that even the tiniest dab of it can act as a marker to prevent a dog (or cat) from bumping into objects and tripping over steps.
But more than reducing bumps and collisions, marking locations with scent creates unmistakable olfactory landmarks that build confidence in vision-impaired pets. Within a couple of days, blind dogs get used to “seeing” the lay of the land with their snouts — and they get around so well, behaving just like any other happy-go-lucky canine, that the casual observer might not even guess they’re blind!
“I’ve used scent around homes to help visually challenged dogs navigate for years,” says Sarah Wilson, dog trainer and author of Dogology. “It works extremely well.”
Sadly, many blind dogs at shelters get overlooked because people wrongly assume they’re difficult to live with — when nothing could be further from the truth. To prove it, along comes Tracerz Scent Guides, designed to make it easy for owners of blind pets to help their friends navigate their living environments with keen olfactory cues.
Containing a proprietary blend of scents, based on essential oils that are easily differentiated by dogs from the smells of other common household products, these are scented discs that are very helpful in marking “things like doors and chair legs that move and may be in a dog’s way, or that dogs commonly bump into,” says Karen Belfi of Blind Dog Rescue Alliance. “My dogs adapt very quickly.”
“These location markers allow pets to literally see the world through their sense of smell,” explains Mike Edwards of Innovet Pet Products, the California medical technology company that makes Tracerz. What’s more, the discs’ essential-oil components are highly concentrated, so they retain their scent for approximately a year. Plus, Innovet donates 5 percent of Tracerz sales to Blind Dog Rescue Alliance.
For those who want to take a DIY approach, remember to use scents that aren’t found anywhere else in the home, so they’re unique to that spot and won’t confuse Spot’s sniffer. Essential oils are ideal, whether individual ones such as clove or cinnamon oil, or blends such as Thieves Oil by Young Living (which contains clove and cinnamon plus lemon, rosemary, and eucalyptus).
In a pinch you could even, say, rub the oil from an orange rind directly onto a table or chair’s wooden legs. Humans who treasure their wood furnishings can rest assured that this won’t harm the wood (actually, any oil rubbed into wood — especially an antique specimen — helps keep it conditioned and lustrous, and reduces dust buildup).
Do you have a dog with vision issues? What methods have you tried to help your pup navigate his or her way around your home? Let us know in the comments!