A question often asked from blind dog owners is are there specific toys are available for blind/visually impaired dogs and where can they be found.  This is especially an important concern for owners of visually impaired puppies or those thinking of adopting. Here are some suggestions for toys that are available for sale. Keep in mind, all dogs are different and what works for one dog may not for another. Also keep in mind the size and tendency to be destructive....while a toy with bells in it might work for one dog, another may be enough of a chewer to free the bell and get it caught in his throat!  So you know your dog best, so supervise until you are sure a toy is safe.

For those that can sew or are "crafty" you may also want to consider altering your dogs present toys by either scenting them or by "safely" sewing bells or noise markers inside them. (When scenting anything make sure it is something that will not make your dog sick if licked and also be careful if your dog has a tendency to ingest flavored toys.  You don't need a blockage on top of his other problems!. Flavored extracts are something that is good to try if your dog is not one to eat his toys.

Games to Play with a Blind Dog

Balls:  Some people say their dogs used to be interested in chasing balls until they went blind, then lost interest. Some have had success with balls that jingle as they roll or make some kind of noise because it's easier for the dog to follow the ball. 

Rubber balls with bells:  Sturdy toys such as the Kong brand are good for larger blind dogs. Smaller dogs can use other brands.  You don't want a toy small enough that he get it stuck.  You might try rubbing some smelly treat on the outside of the ball and letting the dog sniff/lick.  You might say the word “Ball” and immediately present the ball in front of the dog’s nose for a good sniff/lick.  Praise any interaction.  Clicker training works especially well with blind dogs if you know how to train that way.  Place the ball closer to ground, then on ground, then add a little controlled movement (possibly just holding the ball on the ground and moving it an inch at first).  Progress is at whatever rate is successful for your dog.  Progress to rolling the ball to get the longest tracking time.  You may be able to throw the ball in time.  As with all toys for blind dogs, it can be useful to add a drop or two (at most) of an essential oil to help the dog track the toy with his nose or use balls with bells inside..

The Touch Game  Happily say, "Gonna Touch Ya Toes/Face/Leg/Hip/Tail (pick one)" and gently touch that body part.  Immediately after touching give a great little treat.  Do it again and again.  Goal is to give the dog a verbal cue that it is about to be touched and where.  This is not just a game, but a good de-sensitization exercise. Gradually lengthen the time of the contact and make it more and more firm.  Keep in mind the way a vet touches and handles during an exam and the way people pat your dog - that's your goal!.  You want the dog to enjoy this game.  Progress at whatever rate your dog is relaxed and happy.  In the same way, you can also teach a dog to happily accept mouth exams, ear exams, nail clips, ear cleaning, and restraint (ask the vet tech to show you the restraint holds they use so you can train to that). All important things to know, even for a blind dog.

Pick me up:   Similar to the touch game – this teaches the dog it is about to be lifted up.  A larger dog can be lifted by the front legs and then back legs.  Pick a fun word and use that as your que.  Be careful you lift the dog in a way that supports them and lets them feel secure - you don't want to scare them and it's important they go down gently. 

Where's the treat?:  Confidence building and fun, because he's ALWAYS going to win!!!  

The Shell Game:  There are many versions of this but basically it is where you take three empty plastic cups, let the dog sniff them and get familiar with them.  Then place the dog in a ‘sit/stay’ (at first, you may have to help the dog stay still, but it is a nice way to help your dog strengthen the ‘stay’ behavior and teach self control) then put a treat under one of the cups. If he chooses the right cup he gets it. Next put a treat under a cup and move them around and see if he can tell which one has the treat.

Find It:  Drop a piece food or a small treat on the floor and say "Find the Treat".  When she finds it, praise as she eats it.  You can start asking for a “sit” and a “stay” and release the dog to go find the treat.  This adds self control to the exercise!  Sometimes use a favorite toy.  Let your dog play games using his nose which builds confidence.

Tricks: Blind dogs can learn any trick a sighted dog can learn...just takes a bit more touchy-feely and patience. 

Hide and Seek:   Call from another room and give a good treat when he finds you.  You may have to help him at first by tapping your toe on the ground or clearing your throat to give her a sound to go by.  Your scent is all over the house so she'll have to use her ears if she's not a good scenter.  Always give an auditory hint if he becomes confused – but don’t help out too much – let her use her senses of smell and hearing and he will learn to develop those senses to the utmost.

Food ball/any toy that dispenses treats:  fill and put in an empty kids’ wading pool so the dog can chase it around without losing track of it.  Treats (ok to use kibble) will fall out gradually as dog pushes and paws at the ball, making it roll.  Initially help the dog learn what the object is by playing with it together to help the dog understand the sounds it makes predicts treats and isn’t scary.

Find it:  Put treats on a trail leading somewhere extra special or to a person.

Chase toy on a fishing line:   Cat toys with bells on the end of a thread and a pole are great for blind dogs.

Bags and Tubes:    Some dogs love to play with paper towel tubes or love ripping apart a paper bag to get at what's in it..  Monitor this play - you don't want your dog to eat the paper products rather than just play with them.

Shaping Game & Clicker Training:  Clicker trainers are very familiar with shaping games but everyone can play them with well timed verbal markers.  This link gives  step by step directions on how to play this game:  

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