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The Five Laws of Choosing Toys for Blind Dogs

By Edited Jun 22, 2015 1 2

Finding good toys for blind dogs is easier than you think.  

Our cocker spaniel McCloud went blind two months ago from glaucoma.  Since we've owned a blind canine before we knew what we were getting into, but the first time around was a little scary.  If your dog is losing her sight, this article help. 

Follow these five laws and you'll know how to buy toys like an experienced blind dog owner:

1. (Blind) Dogs Just Gotta Have Fun

Every Dog Loves to Play
Are you wondering why a blind dog would even need toys? After all, it's not like the dog can really do anything, right? Wrong! Blind dogs love to play as much as any other canine.

They may go through a depressed period at first, just like a human would, but you can help them through that by reminding them of the joys of life.[1]

Think of play as therapy in those early days.

Once your pet has made the basic adjustments to life without sight, she will enjoy playing with you. Time for toys!

2. Chewers are Still Chewers

Was your dog a chewer before he lost his sight? Trust me, that hasn't changed.

If you have a “chewer” you'll need to keep that in mind when choosing toys. Many toys for blind dogs rely on sounds, and those sounds usually come from “squeakers” or other types of noise makers. Your dog may find he enjoys “de-squeaking” his new toys now.[2] It'll be up to you to keep an eye on the toy and make sure no dangerous parts get swallowed.

We're fortunate that McCloud isn't too into chewing up his toys. He reserves his serious chewing for antlers and nylabones.   Here's a picture of McCloud sleeping after a busy day chewing his bones.

Relaxing after a chewing session

3. Send Scent Signals

As I described in my article about blindness in dogs, dogs' sense of smell is amazing. Even sighted dogs use their nose more than their eyes. McCloud can find his toy box almost entirely by smell. But what does this mean for toys?

Where did that toy go now?
For starters, if your dog is hesitant to try new things you can seal the toy in a bag with one of his blankets for a couple days to “scent” it. Also don't worry overmuch about whether your pet can find his toys. Once they've been played with a couple days they acquire a scent that he will find.

McCloud has a favorite “squeaky fish” (don't ask) that he can always manage to find, no matter where our sighted pug has left it.   

4. Sounds May Surprise

Noisy toys are a mixed blessing. Sounds give your pet something to track. Our dog McCloud absolutely LOVES toys that squeak, and a noise-making ball seemed like the logical next step. After reading glowing reviews about the Pet Qwerks Animal Sounds Babble Ball we decided to bring it home. To our surprise McCloud runs away from it; the animal sounds freak him out. Our sighted dog Gigi loves the Babble Ball though and chases it around the house. McCloud is not amused, and has proven to be a confirmed “squeak” chaser.

Unpacking McCloud's latest squeaky toy, the Kyjen Plush Puppies Squeaker Mat:

New Squeaky Toys!

 

Moral to the story? Your vision-impared pet will appreciate sound cues in her toys, but it will take some trial and error to figure out which cues she likes. If at first you don't succeed, try again with a different sound.

The Squeaker Mat below was a hit with both dogs, while only our pug loved the Babble Ball.

Every Dog Loves to Play
  
Mom can I keep this ball?

5. Remember the Tasty Classics

Ah, Kongs. For times when you want your dog to be busy and occupied without running around the house, a Goodie Ship or Biscuit Ball from Kong can't be beat. Kong rubber is virtually indestructable for all but the most aggressive chewers. Animal behaviorists will tell you dogs actually enjoy the challenge of working to get their food.[3]

McCloud loves his Goodie Ship. It takes him about 20 minutes to get the last crumbs of his biscuit out – which buys me some uninterrupted time to work with our sighted dog. Everybody wins.

KONG Biscuit Ball Dog Toy, Large, Red
Amazon Price: $19.99 $9.29 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 22, 2015)

Wrap-Up: What You've Learned

Now you know the five key laws of chooosing a toy for a blind dog. Your pet still wants to play and is still as much of a chewer as she ever was. She will appreciate use of smell and sound in her toys, though some sounds may not be a good fit. And lastly, the classic Kong toys are still a go-to favorite for any dog, blind or sighted.

Armed with these guidelines you now know enough to find the right toys for your four-footed family member.

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Comments

Apr 17, 2013 4:15am
chopsooy
My dog isn't blind but her eye sight is not great. She's the only dog I've owned who has absolutely no idea how to catch something...she doesn't follow the flight path of an object at all...She loves her toys though and happily throws and chews. She has a cross shaped kong treat toy which is one of favourites. Thanks for the article!
Apr 17, 2013 5:29am
Breidbe
Sounds like she has a great time with you! I know what you mean about dogs who don't catch. We used to have a dog who chased shadows across the yard. We never could get her to look up.
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Bibliography

  1. "Tips & Help." Blind Dogs.net -- Where Dogs See with Their Heart. 15/04/2013 <Web >
  2. "Sprong Hexagon Dog Toy." Blind Dog Toys. 15/04/2013 <Web >
  3. DR. PAMELA REID, PH.D., ASPCA VP BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES "Keeping Your Dog Busy." Pet Finder. 15/04/2013 <Web >

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