Activities For Small Blind Dogs

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Introduction

All dogs need physical and mental stimulation, regardless of their size, and dogs who are blind are often able to enjoy many of the same activities as their sighted partners with just a few extra considerations. Finding distracting activities for your dog can help to ease their anxiety as well as instilling confidence in your canine companion. Some of the activities that can help keep your blind dog occupied and entertained can include games and activities like hide and seek, agility training, and even tactile obedience training.  

Hide and Seek

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Any Day
Free
Easy
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Rewards
Sound or scent lure (optional)
Activity description

Hide and seek has been a favorite childhood game that has been enjoyed by children worldwide in one form or another for hundreds of years, and it is a game that canines are uniquely equipped to play with us. Just because your pooch can’t see doesn’t mean that they can’t seek. While many dogs will use sight to help find you when playing this game, many dogs are more likely to rely on their sense of smell or sense of hearing to lead them to you. This game has the added benefit of helping your dog get used to navigating around furniture and other obstacles in their own territory in a fun and rewarding manner. 

Step
1
Choosing a reward
While it is only natural to reach for your pet’s favorite treats to reward them for activities and games such as these, it is not your only option when it comes to rewarding your dog. Many dogs will happily play this game for quite some time for nothing more than praise and joy from you, while other dogs will be satisfied with being tossed or given a favorite toy.
Step
2
Choose a hiding place
When choosing a hiding place from a blind dog, you don’t have to be hidden from view, making it much easier to assess their initial progress. If your dog is newly blind even just standing on the other side a hallway or empty room can constitute a game of hide and seek, while a dog that is accustomed to their blindness might prefer a greater challenge such as behind a new or unfamiliar (but stable) object, in a fenced backyard or in a room that is safe for your dog, but that they don’t tend to frequent.
Step
3
Start the game
There are several ways to get your dog to start seeking. Many dogs will start looking for you as soon as they realize you are not where they expect you to be, but others will need an initial verbal or auditory cue to give them the motivation to start looking for you. Celebrate with plenty of praise when your dog is able to locate you.
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Toy Time

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Any Day
Moderate
Easy
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Toys
Activity description

In most cases, dogs like toys. Sometimes they like to have toys that they can chew, other times they might prefer puzzle toys that make them think. Neither being blind nor small changes this desire and for the most part, doesn’t inhibit their ability to interact with the toy much at all. Dog toys not only entertain your dog, they help to stimulate their mind which can reduce anxiety and improve your dog's overall mood and disposition. This is often a good way to entertain your pup while you are busy attending to other things nearby and in some cases, toys can be comforting rather than stimulating. 

Step
1
Toys that taste good
Toys that taste good are a good choice for many dogs, sighted or unsighted. This can include toys like the Kong, that are designed so that chewing helps to release the flavor hidden in the toy or puzzle toys that require some sort of manipulation to release the kibble or treats. While there are many entertaining puzzle toys at the store, puzzles can also be created by using items you have around the house, like putting treats or kibble in a muffin tin and covering them with a tennis ball.
Step
2
Toys that smell good
While most dogs enjoy toys with some sort of light scent, it may be particularly helpful in comforting dogs that are feeling anxious, like a dog that has recently gone blind or who is slowly going blind. Dogs are much more sensitive to smells than humans are, and this can be used to their advantage. While well-designed toys that are based on the practice of aromatherapy are available at most stores, many dogs will be just as pleased with a shirt or sock that was previously worn by their favorite person and may find it even more comforting. Toys that smell good can also include fetch toys like scented tennis balls that may make it easier for your pooch to track the object by smell rather than by sight.
Step
3
Toys that make noise
While not all dogs are attracted to toys that squeak, most terriers and other hunting or pest control dogs will tend to respond to them. Other sounds that your blind dog may find interesting or stimulating when playing could include crinkling, rattling, or with some high tech toys designed for dogs, even animals sounds or human voices.
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Tactile Training

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Any Day
Free
Hard
5 - 30 min
Items needed
Treats or rewards
Activity description

In some cases, particularly with elderly dogs or dogs with merle coloration, you will have dogs that are either deaf or hard of hearing as well. While many trainers will focus on either visual commands for deaf dogs or auditory commands for a blind dog, what to do if your dog has lost both senses is often overlooked. Even if you have a blind dog who’s hearing is intact, this type of training can be useful in situations in which the dog's owner is temporarily unable to speak or be heard as well, as can sometimes happen with a simple case of laryngitis. 

Step
1
Clickless
One of the most popular and effective shaping tools for dog training is the clicker, a small, hand-held device designed to let out a sharp, easy-to-hear click when it is pressed. Deaf dogs would not be able to hear this, so the clicker is not used with tactile obedience training; instead, a clear tactile cue is chosen to replace the sound, such as a double tap with one finger on the chest area.
Step
2
Choosing cues
The cues that you choose as commands should be clear, and quite different in nature than the way you pet or touch your canine companion normally. Examples of cues that could be used include a double tap to the paw for lie down or a flat palm pressed gently but firmly on the muzzle to indicate that your dog should stay.
Step
3
Shaping behavior
Once you have decided on your cues, it is time to show your dog what you expect when you give them the cue. This should not be done by forcing your dog into the correct position but instead luring them into the correct position by utilizing high-value treats. While this generally starts with simple commands like sit or lie down, shaping can be used to teach your dog much more complicated tricks.
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More Fun Ideas...

Swimming

Many small dogs very much enjoy swimming and in most cases dogs who have lost their sight or who never had it can also enjoy swimming in a safe and controlled environment. Blind dogs may have more difficulty navigating in the water and should always wear a life vest designed for dogs when swimming.

Taking a Walk

Taking a walk can be just as enjoyable for your unsighted pet as for sighted pets. Blind pets, especially those who are newly blind, may be startled by loud or unexpected noises, so a fairly quiet walk in the park may be a better choice than walking near a noisy road.  

Agility Training

While it may seem like an activity that is beyond a dog without sight, several blind dogs have been taught to run an agility course either by vocal commands or in a few rare cases, by scent alone.

Conclusion

The quality of a dog’s life does not have to decline just because they lose the use of their eyesight. With just a few considerations, most blind dogs are able to do many of the activities that sighted dogs can by utilizing their sense of smell and sense of hearing to explore their world.