Dogs love to play. Some are fetch maniacs, others love a good wrestle. But what about your blind dog?
She loves to play just as much as the next pup, but probably won’t be able to play fetch safely and might be too easily startled for a rough-and-tumble wrestling match.
That said, there are plenty of creative toys and games out there so you can satiate your blind pup’s need for playtime.
Benefits of Playing with Your Blind Dog
At K9 of Mine, we love playing with our dogs. There are nearly countless benefits to playtime, which is why we talk nonstop about the best games and sports to play, how to play tug, and the best toy subscription boxes.
Playtime can help you and your dog:
- Build confidence. Playtime helps build dog confidence and teaches your dog that the world is a fun, safe place. This is especially important for blind dogs, who often are more tentative than their sighted siblings.
- Strengthen your bond. Playing with your dog helps strengthen your relationship. Collaborative games like tug and training-based sports like Rally Obedience are particularly good at teaching you and your dog to work together.
- Alleviate boredom. It should go without saying that playtime is the highlight of many dog’s days. A good bout of play goes a long way in keeping your dog happy and healthy.
- Teach impulse control. Structured playtime helps your dog learn when and how to play, and when to “turn off.” If you use playtime as a reward for good behavior, you’ve got more tricks up your sleeve to keep your pup interested in training!
- Teach bite inhibition. Many games involve dog teeth near human hands. Playing these games with your dog will help teach your pup how to control her mouth around hands, keeping everyone safe and happy!
Don’t be discouraged if your blind dog is a bit hesitant about playing in comparison to other dogs you know. It’s possible that she just hasn’t learned to play because many toys are meant for dogs that can see! That’s why it’s so important to find the best toys for blind dogs.
What to Look for in Toys for Your Blind Dog
No two dogs are alike. That means that not all blind dogs will love the same things. That said, blind dogs are likely to rely on their senses of smell and hearing more than your average dog. Luckily for your, dogs already lean on those senses much more heavily than us primates.
If your pup is only partially blind, it’s a good idea to stay away from toys that have flashing lights. Dogs with limited vision are at higher risk for becoming fixated on lights and flashing toys only encourage this unwanted behavior.
There are a few components to look for when choosing the best toy for blind dogs.
Noisy toys are great for blind dogs. Since blind dogs rely on their other senses to move around the world, it’s smart to look for toys that are fun because of how they sound, not how they look! Toys that make longer noises rather than a squeak when squeezed will help your dog find them during searching games.
Caution! Some blind dogs are very sensitive to noises and might find loud toys very scary. If you know that your blind pup is noise sensitive, you might want to steer clear of these toys, or opt for ones with quieter noises like toys that make crinkle sounds.
Treat dispensing toys are a hit with blind dogs. Most dogs love toys that dole out goodies. Why wouldn’t they? But puzzle toys and interactive dog toys are especially great for blind dogs, who might need an extra nudge to enjoy playtime as much as their sighted pals! Plus, packing in some stinky treats will make sure your dog can easily find and play with those treat-dispensing toys.
Scented toys help blind dogs play harder. There are some really cool toys out there that have special scents. These toys might smell like vanilla or lavender and help keep your dog interested for longer. Again, tapping into your blind dog’s heightened sense of smell will keep her interested for even longer.
While blind dogs might love any toy that is made for dogs, there are certain traits that are more tempting to a blind dog. If your pup is a reluctant player, start out looking hard for toys that match one or more of these characteristics.
I know several blind dogs who absolutely love plain old tennis balls, but I know many more who might never play with anything but a treat dispensing toy.
The Four Best Budget-Friendly Toys for Blind Dogs
Now that we know what we’re looking for, let’s look at some winning toys for blind dogs.
It’s a cute soft toy with a twist – it sings. This highly-rated sound toy plays a catchy song when squeezed, keeping your blind dog interested for longer than a plain old squeaky toy.
Our Rating: 4 / 5
- Soft plushie body. Many of the noisy toys available are hard rubber or plastic, which keeps the sound box safe. However, many dogs prefer soft plushie toys to chew on. Plus, they won’t bother your downstairs neighbor as much when they bounce around!
- Multiple shapes. This product comes in mouse, cow, monkey, rabbit, shark, and more. The myriad of cute shapes will keep both you and your pup entertained!
- Bounce-proof. Unlike some singing toys, customers found that this toy stood up to tossing and bouncing well. It’s a plushie toy, so don’t expect it to stand up to heavy chewers any better than your average teddy bear! Still, for most dogs, it should last quite a while.
Pros: This toy keeps dogs entertained and can double as a plain old teddy bear when the sound box dies. It also stands up to chewing surprisingly well and many users reported that the singing toy lasted at least a few months.
Cons: The sound box is not battery charged and will die after enough use. Some users were also disappointed in the variability from one toy to the next. One user reported owning several, with lifespans of the toys ranging from a few days to four months. However, users reported that their dogs loved the toy so much that they just kept buying more. If you’re easily annoyed by repetitive singing, this toy might drive you nuts.
If you were a dog, what would you like your tennis ball to smell like? If you said bacon, you’re on the right track.
The Dura Play Ball is a safe rubber ball (none of the abrasiveness of a tennis ball) that smells like bacon. The scent will help your blind pup find the toy if it rolls away and keep her interested for longer!
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5
- Floats in water. Even if your blind pup doesn’t like water, it’s nice to have a toy that’s easy to clean and won’t disappear in the neighborhood ditch. Users loved how easy it was to clean this ball!
- Soft and flexible. This is especially important for senior dogs, puppies, and dogs who tend to chomp on their balls. Tennis balls are made of a gritty rubber under the felt, which is damaging to teeth. This toy is safe for chewers and their pearly whites!
- Squeaker inside. You heard that right. This ball smells like bacon, is safe for teeth, and has a squeaker inside. What more could you want in a toy?
Pros: This toy is safe for moderate chewers with its flexible rubber. The ridges along the side makes it bounce in erratic patterns, which is much more challenging for your dog. Plus, that delicious bacon scent will help your blind dog track it down!
Cons: Some users found that their mega-chewers were able to destroy the toy quickly. If your dog is known to dissect toys to extract their squeakers, she’s likely to do the same with this toy. Other users had a hard time choosing the appropriate sized ball that wasn’t a choking hazard while still fitting in their pup’s mouth!
Looking for a ball that also makes noise? Look no further.
This toy is a fun mix between the first two toys – a bouncy ball that makes fun sounds! It’s made of hard plastic instead of soft rubber, so it’s not as safe for your pup to chew on than the Dura Play Ball.
It’s still a great toy, but you’ll want to only play with it while supervising your dog to make sure they don’t chew at it too much.
Our Rating: 3.5 / 5
- Over 20 different animal sounds. Keep your pet guessing with different sounds coming from the ball.
- Motion activated. Instead of having a pressure-activated sound box, the Babble Ball makes noise as it bounces around your home.
- Replaceable batteries. Unlike the Deedle Dudes toy, the Babble Ball has replaceable batteries. This means you don’t have to toss it out after just one round of use! Just make sure that you have a screwdriver to get to those batteries.
- Variety of sizes. The Pet Qwerks Babble Ball comes in three different sizes, ensuring you’ll find one that fits comfortably in your pup’s mouth.
Pros: Users love the different sounds from this toy, and most folks seem to find these sound less annoying than the repetitive song from the Deedle Dudes toy. The sounds keep going for long enough after a toss to really help your blind pup track down the toy! Dogs seem to love the assortment of sounds, keeping them intrigued for hours!
Cons: Amazon users didn’t love the hard plastic construction. They found that it didn’t bounce well, their pups didn’t enjoy chewing on it, and it was a rather loud bounce for apartment dwellers and their downstairs neighbors.
The Kong Mike Dog Toy is gentle on your canine’s teeth as she chews on it, tosses it, and paws at it to get her breakfast to emerge.
We’re big fans of puzzle toys at K9 of Mine, and this one is a relatively easy, safe, and cheap introduction to puzzle toys for your blind dog.
Our rating: 3.5 / 5
- Connects with Kong Genius for extra challenge. If you’ve got a real blind dog Einstein, you can buy extra attachments for this toy that makes getting at the treats even more challenging.
- Good for average chewers. The toy can withstand some abuse from your dog’s jaws, but is not made to hold up to dogs who really gnaw on their toys like shredding machines. Since there’s food inside, it’s smart to supervise your dog at first to make sure she doesn’t just rip it apart to get at her breakfast in a minute flat!
- Erratic bounce when tossed. My border collie loves tossing this toy up in the air to get his kibble out. Because of its shape, this toy bounces unpredictably, keeping him entertained for longer.
Pros: This toy is much more compact than many other puzzle toys, which makes it easy to take with you to the vet or on a trip to keep your dog entertained. Also unlike many other puzzle toys, this toy doubles as a fetch toy when empty. You’ll love being able to roll or toss the toy to burn off extra calories for your blind pup. Since there’s food inside, it’s also smelly enough to help your blind dog sniff it out when it rolls away.
Cons: It’s hard to find the right size kibble that’s challenging to get out of the toy without being impossible. Many owners found that their dogs simply couldn’t get the kibble out of the toy, especially at first. It’s not as quick and easy to fill as some other puzzle toys on the market, either. As noted above, it’s not made to withstand mega chewers who will shred toys to get to their meal.
Other Fun Activities For a Sightless Dog
Dogs already are masters in the scent-sniffing department, and blind dogs even more so!
Try some of these smell-based skills when you think your blind pup is ready for a challenge. A huge proportion of your dog’s brain is taken up with scent (between ⅛ and ⅓, depending on which study you look at). That means that solving sniffing problems is a great way to tire your dog out and enrich her life!
Some studies also show that scent and sniffing activates some pleasure centers in your brain, helping to soothe your pup’s nerves.
Hide Treat Toys Around The House. This is my favorite way to keep dogs from getting bored, because it’s so cheap! Hiding treats, piles of kibble, or even tiny pieces of cooked chicken around the house is a great way to exercise your blind dog’s sense of smell.
Start out easy, with treats in or around the area your pup hangs out. You can slowly level up to hiding treats under or behind objects. Just be sure to double-check that you don’t have last week’s treats lying around!
Feeding By Hand. While hand feeding won’t exactly fulfill your dog’s need for the thrill of the hunt, it’s an excellent way to bond with your dog.
This is especially great for puppies or mouthy dogs, as it will help teach them how to control their teeth around fingers.
Try Truffle Hunting. If you’re lucky enough to live in a region where truffles grow, you can put your blind pup’s super sniffer to work. Training a truffle dog can take a lot of work, but these tasty underground fungi can fetch up to $2,000 per pound.
Hunting for truffles is a great way to build your pup’s confidence in unfamiliar areas. Since truffles grow underground, a blind dog is no more disadvantaged than a sighted one!
Scent-Based Games. If you’re getting a bit bored of hiding treats around the house, you might want to take a crack at teaching your pup to sniff out non-food scents. It’s easiest to do this with the help of a professional trainer at first, but here’s the basic gist:
- Go back to basics. Hide your treats in very easy-to find spots. Only this time, pair the treat with a tiny tin of q-tips dipped in an essential oil. Traditionally, trainers use birch, clove, or anise oil. Just hide the smelly tins with a tiny treat placed on top of the tin.
- Jackpot your dog. When your dog finds the treat on top of the tin, give her a few more treats. That will help solidify the concept in her mind that finding those treats on tins is a great idea!
- Slowly fade out the treats. Gradually, make those treats smaller and smaller. Be sure to keep the problem really easy at this point! Keep “jackpotting” your pup whenever she finds a scent tin.
- Gradually make it harder. As your pup gains confidence in sniffing for birch oil in a scent tin (with treats coming as soon as she finds it), you can gradually make the problems more and more challenging. It’s hard as owners not to push our dogs too far too fast, but be sure to go slow! You want your pup to be totally confident with this fun game, not exhausted and frustrated.
Blind Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun!
Like almost all dogs, your blind dog will love puzzle toys. Be sure to check out our lists of the best puzzle toys and treat dispensing toys for more great ideas. Looking for smelly our noisy toys will also help keep your pup entertained!
What are your top picks for toys for blind dogs? Share your thoughts in the comments below!