Are you looking for fun toys for a blind dog? This guide will help you select safe and enriching toys for dogs that are blind or have visual impairments.
- Why Toys Are Important for Dogs With Visual Impairments or Blindness
- What Makes a Fun Toy for a Blind Dog?
- 5 Best Toys for Blind or Visually Impaired Dogs
- Other Tips for Entertaining a Blind Dog
The best toys for blind dogs activate your pet’s other senses. They often use sound, scents, and novel textures to provide mental stimulation for dogs that can’t see.
This guide explains why playtime is so important for dogs with visual impairments and the types of toys that work best. I’ve also listed five of the best blind dog toys to help you choose the right option for your pet.
Our #1 Pick: Ethical Pets Sensory Ball
A wonderful toy that activates multiple senses
My favourite toy for dogs who are blind or have visual impairment is the Ethical Pets Sensory Ball. The combination of textures, noisy bell, squeaker and beef scent make it brilliant for activating your dog’s other senses.
Why Toys Are Important for Dogs With Visual Impairments or Blindness
Dogs are adaptable creatures, so blindness or a visual impairment shouldn’t stop them having a fantastic quality of life.
Regular play has many physical and mental benefits for dogs. Some of the benefits for blind dogs include:
- Mental stimulation. Playing with toys can boost cognitive function and encourage natural behaviors. This is perfect for tiring your dog in a healthy way.
- Promotes confidence and independence. Blind dogs can sometimes become withdrawn and depressed. Playing with toys encourages them to interact with people, other dogs and their environment. It also helps them to develop independence, so that they can enjoy activities on their own.
- Additional physical exercise. Playing prevents your blind dog from becoming too sedentary between daily walks.
- Can help prevent problem behaviors developing. If your blind dog is bored and understimulated, they may resort to finding their own amusement. You might find they start to become destructive, noisy or obsessive. Regular mental stimulation helps prevent this.
- Creates a stronger bond between you both. Playing with your dog helps to foster trust. Your pet will associate you with fun and rewarding activities that can strengthen your relationship.
- Builds confidence in other senses. By using toys with different sounds, scents and textures, you’ll be encouraging your dog to hone their hearing and sense of smell.
- Can help with training. Using a toy that your dog is fond of can be a great motivator and reward when working on new cues or commands.
Helping Blind Dogs Adjust to New Toys
Some dogs are born blind, and, as they don’t know any different, learn to rely on their keen sense of smell and hearing.
For dogs that lose their sight as a result of an illness, degenerative condition, or injury, you may need to help them more with adjusting. A sudden loss of sight can be confusing and disorientating. However, with some adaptations around their immediate environment and the right training, they can still lead a happy and fulfilled life.
Supervising your blind dog’s play with toys is important – and not just from a safety perspective. It will also allow you to see if they’re really enjoying the toy, or becoming frustrated or stressed. It may take some trial and error to find a safe toy that your pet enjoys, as every dog is different.
What Makes a Fun Toy for a Blind Dog?
What works for one blind dog could be totally different from the next. A lot will depend on their age, breed and natural drives.
All dogs have a sophisticated sense of smell, and this becomes even more sensitive and important for blind dogs. Visually impaired dogs also rely on their hearing more than dogs with full vision.
While you generally won’t find toys marketed specifically for blind dogs, selecting ones that harness your dog’s sense of touch, smell and hearing will be most beneficial. The toy could have a strong scent, make noises or have interesting textures.
Studies show dogs are ‘neophiles’ when it comes to toys. They love new things. Consider rotating toys rather than giving your blind dog access to all of them, all the time. This can keep your dog more stimulated, challenged and engaged.
Balls or Toys That Make Noises
Selecting a ball or other toy that makes a sound when moving can be a good choice, especially if your dog loves a game of fetch. Noise allows the dog to track the position of the toy and improves their auditory skills.
Continuous noises work best, such as a bell, rattle, or motion-activated sound. Squeakers only make a noise when the dog presses down on them, so they’re not such a good choice.
Unless you know your dog is confident with loud noises, don’t select anything too noisy initially. As their available senses can be heightened, blind dogs can sometimes be sound-sensitive. A loud toy could be startling or anxiety-inducing.
If you’ve selected a battery-operated toy, these will require careful supervision. You don’t want your dog to ingest any of the electrical components.
Don’t underestimate the power of your dog’s nose. It’s thought to be at least 10,000 times more sensitive than a human nose – and your dog will rely on their scenting abilities even more when visually challenged.
Encouraging natural foraging behaviors can be enriching and helps to keep your dog mentally and physically active. Treat-stuffed toys, snuffle mats, and scent games are all excellent options.
Some toys also have a built-in scent, although the strength and aroma can vary greatly. You’ll need to experiment to see which scents capture your dog’s interest.
When using scented toys, always start with them close to your dog. You can gradually increase the challenge by moving them further away. It’s important to make sure that the scent has been generated using non-toxic materials.
Treat Dispensers, Puzzle Feeders, and Interactive Toys
Blind dogs are just as food driven as any others. Providing them with puzzle toys or treat dispensers can be a great way to get their brains working on overdrive.
While any food can work, peanut butter, meat pastes, and other smelly foods can be particularly motivating. You may also want to give your dog his meals using a simple puzzle toy – especially if he tends to eat too fast.
Some treat dispensing toys, such as snuffle mats, stay in one position. These are often easiest for blind dogs, while still providing a mental challenge.
Others interactive dog toys, like the popular Kong Wobbler, rely on your dog moving them around to dispense treats. These puzzle toys are noisy and have unpredictable movement, which can be intimidating for blind dogs. Make sure you introduce new puzzle toys slowly and check that they aren’t causing stress, anxiety or frustration.
Chew Toys With an Interesting Texture
Most dogs love to chew, but blind dogs are often stimulated by exploring interesting textures in their mouth. Opting for toys that have a variety of textures can be useful for keeping your dog’s interest.
Squeakers can also appeal, especially if your dog has a high prey drive. Just be aware that squeaky toys don’t tend to be as robust.
5 Best Toys for Blind or Visually Impaired Dogs
As with any dog, you’ll need to experiment with various toys to discover what your blind dog enjoys. Here are five of my favourite toys for blind or visually impaired dogs.
1. Ethical Pets Sensory BallVIEW PRICE
The Ethical Pets Sensory Ball is my top pick for blind dogs, as it offers several types of sensory engagement. These include a beef smell, multiple textures, squeaker, and noisy bell.
The beef smell is great for scentwork and making the ball more interesting to your dog. The Sensory Ball also has a jingle bell, making it easy for your dog to hear where it’s rolling, along with a squeaker for when he catches it.
The ball has a pimpled texture with several different patterns. Blind dogs often love exploring with their mouths, so these textures make the ball much more interesting.
It isn’t the most durable toy though. Don’t expect it to last long against a power chewer – especially if he tends to aggressively chew scented toys. You may want to look at our guide to chew proof dog toys instead.
For most blind dogs, however, the Sensory Ball is a highly stimulating dog toy that’s great for activating multiple senses.
Note: The Sensory Ball is available in two sizes, so it’s suitable for most dog breeds. For tiny toy breeds, however, even the smaller size may be a bit too large.
The Ethical Pets Sensory Ball is a wonderful toy for blind dogs. It combines noise, textures and a scent to activate a variety of senses, which is why it’s my top pick.
2. JW Hol-ee Roller OriginalVIEW PRICE
If you have a sound-sensitive blind dog, the JW Hol-ee Roller Rubber Ball could be a quiet alternative. It doesn’t have a bell or squeaker, but the irregular shape and open design make it interesting for your dog to explore with their mouth.
The large holes also allow you to stuff the ball with treats or chews. If you want to use smaller treats in the Hol-ee roller, you could wrap these in pieces of scrap fabric first.
It comes in five size options to suit all breed sizes. If you opt for a jumbo size, you can also squeeze smaller balls or noisemakers in through the holes. This will provide additional enrichment for your dog.
The Hol-ee Roller isn’t too heavy, and it’s easy to scrunch the ball down to fit in a pocket or bag. Importantly, the rubber is non-toxic.
The downside to this ball is that it’s not suited to aggressive chewers. The material isn’t the toughest, and it’s easy for your dog to get their jaws around the mesh-like pieces.
The JW Hol-ee is a simple rubber ball that doesn’t have a built-in scent or noise. It’s great for blind dogs who are over-sensitive to noise, however, as it’s soft to pick up and can be stuffed with treats.
3. Pet Qwerks Talking Babble BallVIEW PRICE
The Babble Ball is a favorite among blind dog owners. The various sounds are activated by motion, and it’s pretty sensitive – even the vibration of walking closely by the ball can be enough to set it off.
This makes it easier for your dog to track and find the ball when playing. Don’t worry, though, it doesn’t keep making noises all the time. Once still, it deactivates and will only start up again when moved.
The ball is programmed with humorous phrases, or you can get one that makes a variety of animal sounds to keep your dog’s interest. It has a good battery life and, if the ball survives, these can also be replaced once they run out.
It isn’t suitable for all blind dogs though. Those who are sound-sensitive, for example, might find it overwhelming or scary.
Some dogs may also not like the lack of give in the hard plastic. There’s even a small risk it could damage your dog’s teeth if they tried to catch it mid-air (although this is unlikely for a fully blind dog.) It’s best rolled along the floor for your dog to retrieve.
While tough, it isn’t indestructible, and overly rough treatment can result in it breaking apart. Because it contains battery components, these could pose a health risk for your dog if ingested, so supervised play is always recommended with this toy.
The Babble Ball is a motion-activated toy that plays sounds when your pet is nearby. This makes it a good choice for blind dogs, as they just need to disturb the ball for it to make a noise.
4. PAW5 Wooly Snuffle MatVIEW PRICE
The PAW5 Snuffle Mat is a great toy for encouraging natural foraging and scenting behaviors. It’s a stationary item, making it perfect for blind dogs, and doesn’t generate noises that could frighten sound-sensitive canines.
The tightly woven, grass-like fabric allows you to hide treats or kibble for your dog to sniff out. This forces your blind dog to activate their powerful sense of smell. As it’s not designed for active play, it’s also an excellent choice for elderly dogs with joint pain (or just keeping young dogs calm!)
Additionally, the mat is machine washable, so it’s easy to clean.
Keep in mind that this snuffle mat isn’t designed for chewing. You should supervise your dog, as they may try to eat the “grass” once they’ve found all the treats. It’s also more expensive than the average dog toy – although I think it’s worth the extra money.
The PAW5 Snuffle Mat is great for activating your dog’s sense of smell. This has a variety of benefits for all dogs, including mental enrichment, but is particularly important for blind canines.
5. Multipet Deedle Dude Singing Shark Plush Dog Toy
If you have a blind dog that loves soft toys, then the Multipet Deedle Dude Shark could be a good choice.
Okay, so you may be driven bonkers by the annoying song this toy plays when pressed, but a lot of dog’s love it.
A ball with a bell, for example, doesn’t make any further noise once it lands. The song on this toy keeps playing for a while after it’s activated. This makes it a great choice for helping your dog locate it when playing fetch.
If you have a power chewer, or a dog that plays with their toys aggressively, don’t expect this toy to last too long. It’s best suited to soft mouthed dogs that like to baby their toys.
Because it has battery components inside, you should closely supervise play as it could cause a serious problem if these parts were to be ingested.
The Multipet Deedle Singing Shark is a great soft toy for blind dogs. It has a plush exterior, plus it plays a song when activated.
Other Tips for Entertaining a Blind Dog
There are lots of other ways to keep your dog stimulated and enriched alongside toys. Some examples include:
- Treat hunts. Set up a trail of treats for your dog to find in the house or garden. This can be a great way to harness your pet’s natural scenting abilities and build confidence in their environment. Make sure you set them up for success and don’t make it too challenging right away though. Start with just a few of their favorite, very smelly treats located close by, before gradually increasing the difficulty level.
- Hide and seek. This is a lovely game for building confidence and your bond. Your dog needs to have mastered a solid ‘wait’ command. Hide somewhere and call your dog to find you, using vocal prompts to help them if required. Build up the distance and challenge gradually, but only play this game if your dog already has a solid mental map of the house.
- Muffin tin game. This is a great do-it-yourself option for an interactive treat toy. All you need is a muffin tray, some balls and yummy food rewards. Put food rewards in all the tray’s holder slots and cover these with balls. Your dog can then try to lift the balls and find treats underneath. Once they have the hang of it, you can reduce the number of treats for them to find, making it more of a challenge.
- “Which hand” game. This is another great choice for getting your dog to use their nose. Make sure you use a smelly treat your dog loves. Cover a treat with one fist, but put both fists out for your dog to smell. When they show interest in the correct hand, reward them. You can progress to only giving the reward when they give a specific cue. Maybe you want them to bark at the fist, touch it, or sit in front of it. You could even up the ante, by getting more family members involved.
- Clicker training. A clicker is a tool used to precisely mark when your dog has performed a desired behavior. Immediately after making the click sound, your dog is given a yummy food reward. It’s an effective, gentle, and simple way of teaching your dog. The precise sound marker works really well for blind dogs too.
- Tug-of-war. Playing tug with your dog, if done properly, can be a great way to build their confidence, teach impulse control and strengthen the bond between you.
Helping your blind dog develop a mental map of their surroundings, through trial and error, builds confidence and familiarity. Don’t be tempted to change the layout of your furniture unless you have no choice. Using baby gates to block off stairs or other hazards can also be a useful management tool.
Tip: For more ideas, check out our article about indoor activities for dogs.
By providing consistency, familiarity and plenty of enrichment, blind dogs can lead just as happy lives as sighted dogs.
Having a variety of toys for blind dogs can build confidence, encourage physical activity, provide mental stimulation and strengthen bonds. The best options activate your dog’s other senses, such as touch, hearing, and smell.
My top pick is the Ethical Pets Sensory Toy. It has lots of features that make it a good choice for a blind dog, including a bell, squeaker, multiple textures, and a scented design. If you want a toy for activating multiple senses, it’s a brilliant choice.
Do you have any questions about choosing toys for blind dogs? Or do you have other recommendations that I haven’t included? Please let me know using the comments form below.