Not long after my husband and I were told that our Springer Spaniel, Sage, would go blind due to Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), we needed to find appropriate toys for her. Our vet suggested KONG® Classic and other rubber toys filled with “smell-stimulators”.
What Worked for Us?
Sage’s hunting heritage opened the doors, so to speak, for using her incredible nose. She enjoyed finding things, including trailing the KONG® filled with biscuits, peanut better, and other yummy treats. We discovered that the KONG Classic® offered the stimulation she needed as well as provided the opportunity for Sage, though blind, to tap into her Springer Spaniel ancestry of sniffing and discovering upland game birds. Although no pheasants were found in our house or backyard, Sage enjoyed the chance to sniff out, investigate, discover and be rewarded.
We used biscuits bought at the store and also placed frozen peanut inside the toy’s hole. However, KONG® also makes a “goo” called Stuffn’Easy Treat. Similar to cheese-in-a-can, this treat comes in peanut butter, liver and bacon/cheese flavors. Simply squeeze the Stuffn’ into the KONG Classic’s hole and the scent will entice a blind dog to follow and find; the dog will be rewarded with a pleasant-tasting treat!
The KONG Biscuit Ball® provided “track and discover” experiences for Sage. I would often break square biscuits in half and place these inside the ball. Made of similar durable material as the KONG Classic®, the Biscuit Ball® features a hollow center and four bone-shaped ports on the side, providing a variety of vantage points for your blind dog to obtain treats. Sage’s nose followed the ball across the living room floor. When she captured it between her paws, she stretched herself lengthwise and licked and chewed until all of the delicious biscuits disappeared into her waiting tummy.
If your dog enjoys games of tug-of-war like Sage did, the KONG Tug® is another toy your blind dog will enjoy. Made of sturdy nylon-shaped rings and the KONG® company’s legendary rubber, this tug toy has both strength and flexibility. This was one of Sage’s favorite games, and playing with this toy gave us opportunity to share playtime together, helping our bond to strengthen.
More KONG® Options
As her vision decreased, Sage’s ears became more sensitive to noise; therefore, she disliked squeaky toys. But, if your blind dog doesn’t mind them, KONG® offers a variety of Plush Squeaky Toys. Made of high-quality plush material, these come in a variety of animal types, including frogs, ducks and beavers. Another plush item is called Squiggles®; theseare stretchy, squeaky toys that are not only great for chewing on, but that also can serve as a tug toy.
One of the great advantages of KONG’s plush and squeaky toys is that they are made with minimal stuffing – less mess in the house and yard and less chance for dogs to choke. Squiggles and Plush Squeaky toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
A new line of KONG(r) toys is called Funsters. These toys are made of canvas and also contain squeakers. They are considered soft enough to play inside the house, however, even with the squeaky, they may not be as appropriate for a blind dog as some of the other KONG products. A blind dog owner might just need to buy one and try it out.
Discover What Works for You and Your Dog
As with all toys and other dog products, find out what works best with you dog. Explore products at your vet’s office, talk with your vet, and investigate product lines at your local pet supply store. Don’t be afraid to try new things – just like your dog, you may enjoy the discovery!
KONG® products offer blind dogs the opportunity to play with different types of toys that stimulate their other, more acute senses. Engaging your blind dog’s senses such as smell and hearing keeps your friend mentally alert as well as keeps him/her physically active, good for both dog and owner. Learn more about KONG® and the company products at http://www.kongcompany.com/ and at www.kongtoys.net.
Gayle M. Irwin is an author, writer and speaker whose works center around her dogs. She and her husband adopted Sage, a Springer Spaniel, in 2001. Sage developed PRA and was completely blind by age 3. She died of cancer in 2012; however, Gayle continues her blind dog’s legacy through her writing: Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog (Cladach, 2012); Sage’s Big Adventure: Living with Blindness (Xlibris, 2007); Chicken Soup for the Soul: Finding My Faith (2012) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Lessons Learned from the Dog (2009). Gayle has a passion for pet adoption and supports various animal welfare organizations; she also enjoys encouraging blind dog owners. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.