Dogs love to play, regardless of their size or breed. Play is an essential part of a dog’s life; it’s how they burn off energy, bond with us humans, and socialize with other dogs. In addition, play is a real confidence booster for dogs. So if your dog suddenly loses sight, relearning to play will help boost their confidence. Of course, a dog who is born blind will not know any different but will still want and need to play.
Luckily for us, dogs rely more on the sense of smell and hearing than the sense of sight. Obviously, your dog will have a big adjustment if it loses sight, but it will be able to cope with your help and guidance. And the best and easiest way to help your dog adjust is through play.
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Do Blind Dogs Get Bored
Like sighted dogs, a blind dog who is understimulated will get bored. So it’s normal to worry that you won’t be able to do things with your dog now that they can’t see. Let me tell you that nothing can be further from the truth. A blind dog can do as much as a sighted dog.
My Husky Luna completely lost her sight before she was five years old. However, I can tell you that her life has barely changed since she went blind. Luna loves her daily adventures. She treks through woods, swims in rivers and Lochs, and as long as the environment is safe, she can go off-lead. We go to new places to explore, and she loves it. You can see some of her adventures on my Facebook page here.
The worst thing you could do for your blind dog is treat them differently from how you would typically treat them. So yes, you must make some adjustments, but they aren’t significant. Your dog can still live a full life of fun with you. The main change is you need to vocalize more and use a gentle touch instead of hand signals for cues.
Can A Blind Dog Still Play
A blind dog can still play and will still want to play. Playing with your dog yourself is an excellent way to help your dog regain confidence and adjust to blindness. Start with some basic training games at home; this will allow your dog to relearn training cues and build their confidence back up.
Blind dogs can play almost the same as sighted dogs. The only limit is your imagination. But, of course, every dog is different, and they all enjoy different things, so it’s trial and error to find out which games your dog enjoys more. The main aim is to let your dog do something that they enjoy.
If your dog enjoyed playing with other dogs before losing its sight, it might eventually want to play with other dogs when it’s blind. This will depend on your dog’s confidence level, as it won’t be able to read the other dog’s body language.
I was a bit nervous at first when Luna wanted to play with other dogs, but she was happy to play. Luna vocalized and used her paws more to play than she did previously. I think she does this to locate where the other dog is. Her regular play buddies tend to be more vocal around her too.
How Do I Interact With A Blind Dog
Interacting with a blind dog isn’t much different from interacting with a sighted dog. The main difference is talking more and announcing yourself when you enter their space—verbally letting them know you will touch them. I have written another article about living with a blind dog. You can read it here.
What Games Are Best For a Blind Dog
A blind dog can play any game that a sighted dog can play. There may be some minor adjustments to the game, but if your dog enjoyed it before it lost its sight, it would enjoy them being blind too.
My Husky loves playing find it. I will hide her treat somewhere and tell her to find it. She will then sniff around to find her reward. The treat can be hidden in an empty toilet roll tube or a treat dispenser toy. The find it game encourages your dog to use their sense of smell and touch.
Playing Hide and Seek with your dog encourages them to use their hearing and sense of smell to find you. For example, go into another room and call your dog. They will follow your voice and scent to find you, and you can reward them with a treat or favorite toy. My Husky is now confident enough for us to play hide and seek outside.
If you play fetch, you can start with a ball with a bell that your dog will hear or a toy with treats that your dog will sniff out to find – just because your dog can see it doesn’t mean that they can’t find it!
All dogs enjoy a game of tug, including blind dogs. Employ a gentle low down left and right motion rather than a rough up and down motion. This reduces the risk of startling your dog. Allow your dog to win and have a chew at the toy. A good toy for this is the chaser tug toy; they can follow it, pounce, and play tug.
The Best Toys For a Blind Dog
You don’t have to spend a fortune on toys for your blind dog, but some good toys are available. Your dog will probably mouth and paw things more, so this should be considered when buying toys.
A lot of people recommend noisy toys, but your dog’s hearing will sharpen along with their sense of smell, so you may find that they are sensitive to noises. For example, your dog can track the sound of a ball kicked softly through the grass. A very noisy toy might scare or upset your dog.
Some scented toys that are commercially available may be too scented for you and your dog. And your dog already recognizes each of their toys by scent. So using your dog’s favorite treats is a sure winner.
- Kong Wobbler – this is robust and can be used in playing fetch or independent play for your dog
- Kong Wubba – ideal for playing fetch and tug
- Lickimat – ideal for keeping your dog entertained or slowing down their eating
- Snuffle Ball –add some favorite treats and allow your dog to figure out how to get the goodies out
- Chaser Tug Toy – encourages your dog to follow the toy, pouncing and playing tug
These can be found in local pet stores or on Amazon.
Training a blind dog
The idea of training a blind dog may seem daunting at first, but I can assure you that it’s not much different from training a sighted dog. Sometimes, it’s easier as the dog has no visual distractions. A blind dog can learn the same things as a sighted dog. The only difference is that you use vocal cues rather than hand gestures. You can also incorporate touch cues, such as a touch to the lower back to associate with sitting or touching the left shoulder to go left.
A gentle hand and plenty of rewards will encourage your dog’s confidence and eagerness to learn more. The main thing to remember is that your dog can no longer see your face or read your body language, so you must keep your tone light and happy when communicating with your dog. It will reassure your dog that you are pleased with them and that they are doing the right thing. So the training is two-fold: to boost your dog’s confidence and re-establish the basic training essentials.
Once you are more confident in training your dog and your dog is feeling more confident in itself, you can progress the training. The extra training also has the added benefit of boosting your relationship with your dog and strengthening your bond. This is extremely important as your dog will listen and respond to you better when you are out and about with them.
You will reap the rewards quickly if you do a few five-minute training games throughout the day.
I can honestly say that when I found out my dog was going to be blind, I was devastated and initially thought that she wouldn’t be able to do anything. And because she was so young, I didn’t know how she would cope. A young Husky has a lot of energy to burn off.
After my initial panic, I reached out to people who had been through similar. Some were more helpful than others. A common theme with the more helpful people was training.
So I went back to basics with Luna and found that it helped me as much as it helped Luna. I used verbal directional cues around the house, out on walks, and everywhere. I got myself into the habit of constantly giving her directional cues. It also meant that Luna was used to hearing these cues and responded quickly.
I can’t stress enough how amazingly dogs adapt, don’t give up on your dog; take your time and let your dog amaze you! It may take a few tries, but a blind dog can and will play.
I hope that you found this article helpful.