Blindness should not stop your dog from playing, so in this post I’m going to be talking about toys for blind dogs.
I often use my senior dog Red and my life with her, as an example for many of my articles. Although she is blind, and has been since we adopted her almost 7 years ago, she doesn’t know how to play, and no amount of effort on my part has gotten her interested.
Having said that, I do have a lot of insight into life with a blind dog, and this topic is of great interest to me, so let’s see what we can learn.
A toy doesn’t have to be marked as suitable for a blind dog, it’s really a matter of trial and error. Since we know they rely heavily on other senses like smell and sound, keep that in mind when making your selections. Look around and choose toys that activate those senses.
Remember, blind dogs get bored as easily as any other dog that isn’t getting the proper physical exercise, or mental stimulation.
One other thing I’d like to mention, and this is obvious but I’ll say it anyway. Just like with sighted dogs, not every dog will like the same type of toys…
Treat/food dispensing toys
The one thing I can say is that Red is extremely motivated by food. Not much would stand in the way of her getting her little paws on anything edible, if I let her. A great toy for a blind dog is one that you can stuff with treats. Red’s inability to see in no way affects her finding that food filled toy, and licking every last morsel out of it.
Here are a couple of examples….
I use a Kong as an example simply because she has one, and it works for her. But there are so many styles of treat toys on the market, start with one and see how it goes.
Made of bite proof plastic, fill it with some of your dog’s favourite treats, and watch him have a great time. If he’s having trouble with it, you might want to try something with a stronger smell – hot dogs if he’s allowed!!
A great way to relieve boredom and help with oral hygiene, chew toys are fun it’s a matter of finding the ones your dog will enjoy.
Petstages ORKA StickStrong enough to withstand some tough chewing, this will give your dog something to keep him busy. The different textures massage your dog’s gums and, in conjunction with a regular dental care routine, will help keep his teeth nice and clean.
Another great chew toy, that massages gums and teeth, and good oral hygiene is critical in keeping your dog healthy. Durable, this toy measures 6″ x 5″ x 1.
Scented toys are another option your dog may like. Depending on how strong the scent, they can be easy or more challenging to locate, and a great way to involve your dog and keep her active physically and mentally. If the scent is quite faint you don’t want to put it too far away from her, because no matter how excited you’re sounding, she will likely get frustrated if she hasn’t found anything.
Made in the USA and 100% recyclable, it has a nice scent your dog might be able to follow. It isn’t recommended for heavy chewers though!!
A fun toy with an enticing strawberry smell, it is made of durable rubber, but best to keep an eye out if your dog is a heavy chewer.
Interactive toys with compartments that hold treats, in varying degrees of difficulties, is another example of a toy suitable for blind dogs. Again it uses their sense of smell to draw them to the toy, and to figure out the puzzle.
Not the most challenging toy you’ll ever come across, but that’s why it’s perfect for my dog Red. She doesn’t need to be able to see anything, she just nudges the parts out of the way to get to the treats she smells.
Toys that squeak, have bells, or even balls that make noise when they roll, can entertain your dog.
This 100% polyester plush toy comes with a chip inside that makes a quacking duck sound. Available in two sizes – Small 5″ and Large 7″.
Hide and seek
How about a game of hide and seek? Hiding close by, call your dog. If she’s having a hard time finding you, make a bit of noise to guide her – knock on the wall for example, and praise her like crazy when she finds you. A delicious treat is a great reward!! I do this with Red, and the more enthusiastic I sound, the more excited she is when she finds me.
A little advice based on my experience, which I know will differ with every dog… I do this with Red every once in a while, but I don’t drag it out too long because what started out as fun, just becomes annoying for her. Gauge your dog’s reaction and adapt accordingly.
Instead of you physically hiding, you could hide a treat very near to her, and let her sniff it out. Encourage her by using words like “where is it” or “go find it” to make the game a little more exciting.
The shell game
We’re all familiar with the shell game aren’t we? Hiding a small item under a shell, and having to pick which one it’s under!
So adapt it as a game to play with your dog, which I do. I take a plastic cup and put a smelly treat under it, and encourage her to “find it.” I did this right under her nose to begin with so she’d get rewarded quickly, encouraging her to want to play some more. I used one cup initially to help her get the hang of it, then upd (is that even how you spell it?) the challenge by adding another cup, then one more.
You could also try moving the cup(s) a little further away, then a little more just to make it more fun and challenging, but not so it’s annoying or frustrating.
Toys that talk
There are balls that talk when rolled, and plush toys that bark. If your dog is a chewer I would be careful since he could destroy the voice box, and you don’t want him swallowing any pieces. If your dog has never been a chewer, it doesn’t mean he won’t start now, so watch him when he’s playing. As I mentioned, not all toys will be suited for all dogs – your dog may love the sounds, and others may be wary so see how he gets on.
Made of tough plastic, it can take a beating from your dog, but still best to supervise him. The toy is very sensitive, so will talk not only when played with, but even if you walk by. Could be slightly annoying to the humans, but dogs love it!!
Make your own interactive toy
Grab a muffin tin and some tennis balls and put one in each space, hiding a smelly treat under one of the balls, then telling her to “find it.” If she’s having too hard a time, put the treat under a few. If that doesn’t work, hide a treat under a cup and let her find it.
Are you crafty?
Actually you don’t have to be terribly crafty for this next idea. You may be able to adapt some of the toys your dog already has by sewing a bell or noise maker inside.
Add scent to your dog’s toys
To help your dog locate her toy, a drop of essential oil or even a doggie perfume will help.
I am not too familiar with scents and safety, so I recommend you do a lot of research before using them. However, I do know that essential oils like Eucalyptus and Lavender, for example, are used in natural flea control mixtures so are safe for use around dogs. It is a whole other story when it comes to what’s safe if your dog licks.
Which hand is holding that tasty morsel?
Put a treat in one of your hands close to your dog’s nose, and say “find it” or “where is it.”
Pairing up words to an action will teach your dog what you’re expecting of her. When you say them often enough, just hearing those words will get her excited.
Cat dancer….for dogs!
Are you familiar with those dangly cat toys, you know the ones with the long handles with a toy dangling at the end of a string? Why not buy, or make, one for your dog? Add a bell, and maybe even a drop of scent and have her chase it as you pull it along the floor. I know my cats (well most I should say, some couldn’t be bothered and gave me that look that said “who are you kidding, you think I’m going to chase after that thing!!) were seriously amused by this, why not dogs as well?
Having just written this, I may try this on my sighted dog Jack and see if he likes it. He may only be motivated if food was tied to the end of it, but who knows, it’s worth a try!
Treat in a bag
Rather than buy any more toys, what about putting a treat inside a paper bag, and letting her tear her way through it. Some dogs will chew the paper, which you don’t want to happen so if that’s the case, it may not be the right “toy” for your dog.
Make your own “milk jug” toy
Have you ever seen how much some dogs love playing with an empty milk jug? You spent a small fortune on toys, and he’s happiest with that!
Put some small cookies in the jug, leave the cap off, and shake it to attract your dog’s attention. Once she’s come over she will smell the food and hopefully start batting it around. Finding food coming out of it, will keep her even more motivated to play. If your dog isn’t particularly food motivated, that’s okay because the toy itself will keep her busy.
Toys for blind dogs – conclusion
Whether your dog is blind, partially sighted or even fully sighted, you should supervise your dog when playing, especially with toys that have squeakers, bells, noise makers or batteries. Your dog could start chewing, swallow something and choke.
Whenever you’re playing with your blind dog, always pay attention to how she’s reacting. What I mean by that is, if it’s too complicated or too challenging she may end up agitated and frustrated. When playing games with toys for blind dogs, make it fun and make it rewarding, and your dog will have a ball (no pun intended!!).