The sun at high elevations can cause damage to your pup’s eyes just like your own. Certain breeds are more susceptible to eye conditions, and playing around highly reflective snow and water only adds to the risk. We noticed our dog Jazzy started squinting and going out of her way to walk in our shade around 11-12 years of age. So we asked the vet what was going on with her eyes, and she was diagnosed with an eye condition called pannus. This is a degenerative eye condition more commonly found in dogs that live at high altitudes and certain breeds are predisposed, especially German shepherds and Labrador retrievers. Left untreated, pannus can cause blindness. A little squinting is normal for dogs out here, but Jazzy’s condition had advanced and we knew she needed some help.
We stopped by Steamboat Springs’ local helmet and goggle specialist, Hard Headed, which sells Rex Specs or goggles specially designed for dogs. We brought Jazzy in for a fitting and the staff were very patient and helpful to find just the right fit. Goggles for skiing and snowboarding need to fit your face comfortably to have a great time, and you should take your time to find the correct fit for your dog too. Hard Headed provided some excellent suggestions for a training progression to help your dog become accustomed to the doggles. As always, use plenty of treats and patience when teaching your dog a new trick!
- Adjust the doggle straps to stay in place on your dog’s face, but not too tight to be uncomfortable. This will take some trial and error depending on your dog’s face and doggle frame.
- Remove the lenses at first! Of course this won’t help with the sun, but it will get your pup used to having something new and different on their face.
- It’s normal and even expected that your dog will try to bat away the doggle frames! This is why we start without the lenses – this way the lenses won’t get scratched.
- After your dog has gotten used to the doggle frames, install one of the lenses. We recommend using a clear or lightly tinted lens at first, since your dog will literally be seeing the world in a whole new light!
- Keep up with the encouragement and treats, and try going for longer stretches at a time with the doggles on. Jazzy is a therapy dog and is very patient with her doggles, but other dogs will need a lot of time and patience. Jazzy will still try and nuzzle up to us when she wants her doggles taken off.
- Soon enough your dog will be able to keep their doggles on while enjoying the outdoors even more than before!
Some dogs simply will never get used to wearing doggles. If that’s the case, it’s best for your dog to avoid extended hikes or adventures on bright sun or water in the middle of the day. It really depends on your dog and how well they can squint or tolerate the sun.
Fair warning – once your pup is wearing their doggles like a rock star, you’re going to get lots of attention! Jazzy always gets lots of pats around town anyway, but she gets asked for photos like the local celebrity she is.