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
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.
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. 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.
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?
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.
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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:
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.
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.
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.
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.