DIY Ball for Blind Dogs

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If you follow our blog, you know of our dog Tino and the fact that he went blind around age 9. His blindness never stopped Tino from doing any of the things he loved, including an occasional game of fetch. We searched high and low for a ball that would make a continuous sound and eventually found one made for blind children. The noise it made was pretty obnoxious, so we used it only occasionally.
 
One of our readers wrote to us recently asking where we had found this ball. Since it was so long ago, I couldn’t really remember, but this dog lover was determined to find a solution for his newly blind companion, Wrigley. We exchanged a few emails and I thought that was the end of it.
 
So I was pleasantly surprised when I received this letter from him about a week ago, sharing his journey with us. It’s dog lovers like this that make me love what I do. Kudos to you Jeff for sticking with it and being ingenious in finding the right toy for Wrigley so that she could continue to enjoy her daily fetch.
 

 Wrigley2
Dear Kate,
 
I promised you an update on my surprisingly-difficult search for an effective fetch ball for Wrigley, my newly blind Golden Retriever. As you know, a few people who have had blind dogs have taken the time to provide valuable information about their experiences on the web, yet I was unable to find anyone who could provide a solution to my exact need for a fetch ball that could be thrown a long ways and be retrieved. After trying a number of approaches and failing several times, I am very happy to say that I have finally found a unconventional solution that works really well for Wrigley.

1) I first tried all the normal pet retail outlets and pet internet stores, and was unable to find a fetch ball that beeps constantly (as opposed to stopping after a set amount of time) and at the correct pitch/tone (more on this in a moment).

2) I then bought a National Beep Ball Association ball from an online resource for blind humans. While this ball does beep constantly when a pin is pulled out of the ball, it unfortunately is slightly larger than a softball and is simply far too large to fit in Wrigley’s mouth. It was also very loud and drew unwanted attention (think ticking bomb…)

3) Getting desperate, I then bought some Radio Shack-type electronic computer chip devices that emit a high-pitched beep when a switch is flipped. Thinking I finally had the solution, I cut a hole barely large enough in a regular size tennis ball, placed this computer chip device in the hole, and stuffed the remainder of the hole with cotton. I then flipped the switch and used duct tape to cover the hole. Very frustratingly, I then learned the lesson that my dog (and maybe all dogs?) have a difficult time tracking any pitch/tone that is too high. The beeping ball would roll past my running dog, and she simply wouldn’t be able to track the ball or even find it once it had stopped rolling.

4) I went to a Michael’s craft store and bought two different sizes of Christmas-style jingle bells: one bag of medium size and one bag of large size. I cut holes in regular sized tennis balls and also in larger sized Kong-brand “Air Dog” tennis balls (which are bigger than a regular tennis ball but smaller than a softball). Finally, success! I was thrilled when my dog, with a running start, was able to track the ball thrown some 50-75 yards. After experimenting, I noticed a few interesting things. If I used multiple jingle bells stuffed into either size ball, the jingle bells were too cramped and didn’t jingle enough when thrown. If I used one jingle bell (of either size) in a regular size tennis ball, my dog could track if for a good distance but the ball, due to its size and light weight, would stop rolling too soon and my dog wouldn’t be able to find its final resting place. Finally, I found the solution that works: a large size jingle bell stuffed into the Kong-brand “Air Dog” oversized tennis ball. The larger ball, combined with a jingle bell with enough room to jingle for a long time, would roll long enough and jingle long enough that my dog would arrive at the ball some 50-75 yards away while it was still rolling and jingling, allowing her to find it. As long as I throw the ball roughly over her head in the direction she is running, she finds it about 95% of the time. I also make things a bit easier for her by putting a few drops of vanilla scent on the outside of the ball before each play session. Now Wrigley can get her favorite exercise again! I have attached a picture of my recommended solution. Note that the jingle bell does not fall out of the hole in the ball even when the ball is thrown or is in my dog’s mouth–just don’t make the hole too large.
Fetch Ball for Blind Dogs
I can’t guarantee that this solution will work for every dog, and a dog owner needs to watch in case a dog is tempted to try to chew out the jingle bell, as it could cause choking (my dog, for whatever reason, doesn’t try to do this even though she chews the squeakers out of squeaker toys without fail). The Kong ball can be found online or at most pet stores, and the jingle bells can be found at any craft store. Good luck!

Jeff T.

 
Thanks again Jeff for sharing your story. Do any of you have a DIY tale to tell about a homemade toy or solution you designed specifically for your pet?

 

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We are joining the Thursday Barks and Bytes Blog Hop Co-hosted by our friends at 2Brown Dogs and Heart Like a Dog. Grab the badge and join the fun!

 

 

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27 Comments

  1. That is a cool idea. Mom says after doing nose work with us, she is no longer real worried about our eyesight as we look right at the odor and if we don’t smell it, we go on. She says she would like to blind fold us and throw a ball to see if we could find it. This would be a great experiment, but we might not leave the blindfold on, and we could care less where the ball landed. Cousin Lena would be great to try it, but she won’t wear a blindfold. We never thought about blind dogs wanting to play fetch, though.
    Emma recently posted…Dog Days of SummerMy Profile

    • Yeah, it was pretty ingenious. Tino continued to want to play and we did toss just a regular squeakie toy for him and if I didn’t through it too far, he could still find it with just the scent. I bet the girls could do it.
      mkob recently posted…DIY Ball for Blind DogsMy Profile

  2. What a great solution. I am glad that Wrigley’s people were able to figure something out.

    Thanks so much for joining the hop!
    2 brown dawgs recently posted…Thursday Barks And Bytes–More Heeling And SteadyMy Profile

  3. What a good idea! I hope for a lot of comments with great ideas for new DIY projects (even when my staff has 10 thumbs)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog SHOW AND TELL with BACONMy Profile

  4. That was a awesome story thank you for sharing. What people won’t do for their family members.

  5. It’s so wonderful how people will work to find a solution so their dogs with various physical challenges can lead happy lives without missing out on their favorite activities. When I was reading this, I was thinking about those cat balls with bells in them, which is along these lines. The addition of vanilla was brilliant! 🙂
    Daisy recently posted…Thursday Barks and Bytes: Ribbon Girl DaisyMy Profile

  6. Determination for a solution, heartwarming….

  7. Necessity is the mother of invention. A great idea, brilliant in its simplicity.

  8. Isn’t Wrigley lucky to have someone like Jeff who wouldn’t give up on finding a solution so he could play fetch! Very creative!
    Jan K recently posted…Summer Pet Safety Series – Swimming (& Giveaway!)My Profile

  9. Kudos to Jeff for not giving up on finding a solution! Wrigley is very lucky to have such a loving and dedicated pet parent. He should contact the folks at KONG to tell them or enter it in the BlogPaws invention ideas submission. Thanks for sharing his journey, it will help other blind dogs be able to continue playing.
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Wrestling SmackdownMy Profile

  10. What a great idea!! And now we know what to do if we happen to be in the same situation or something similar. What a great owner! I love how so many of us will do anything we can to insure a great quality of life for the ones we love 🙂
    Christine & Riley recently posted…5 Reasons to Seek Emergency Vet CareMy Profile

  11. That’s AMAZING! Good for him, making his own solution! Don’t you just love your job? 🙂
    Flea recently posted…Jones Natural Chews, Of CourseMy Profile

  12. Oh wow! What a great idea! I’m glad you shared it!
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Delivery husky? – Bark Box!My Profile

  13. I love this! I never even gave it a thought that blind dogs may need something like that to find a ball. Wow! I’m trying to think if I’ve ever come up with something that clever and I can’t say that I have…

    His perseverance really paid off!
    Blueberry’s human recently posted…Winner Announced!!!My Profile

    • You don’t think of the changes you need to make until it’s required. We did a ton of things around the house to help Tino. Probably none of it was necessary he adapted so well, but it made me feel better.
      mkob recently posted…DIY Ball for Blind DogsMy Profile

  14. We love to hear stories where human ingenuity helps their beloved furry friend to live life to its fullest. We’ve noticed that blind dogs don’t seem to mind their disability at all.
    jan recently posted…My dogs don’t know what you mean when you tell them to “Lay” downMy Profile

    • Tino certainly didn’t – after about 2 days, he was totally back to normal.
      mkob recently posted…DIY Ball for Blind DogsMy Profile

  15. What an ingenious idea!! He should be looking to patent this idea as I’m sure he’s not the only one with a blind dog that likes to play fetch. 🙂

    Thank you so much for joining the blog hop!!
    Jodi recently posted…Fun With FruitMy Profile

  16. What a clever idea.

    It wouldn’t work for fetching long distance but Honey can find her lost balls by smell. It’s a different kind of game but it might also be fun for blind dogs.
    Pamela recently posted…The Sound Of His BarkMy Profile

    • That’s what Tino would try to do, but if my throw was bad (frequently) he’d have a hard time.
      mkob recently posted…Mythbuster | What’s in a Name?My Profile

  17. I’m sorry to hear Wrigley has lost her sight, but so cool that she still gets to play fetch.
    Lindsay recently posted…How no-kill shelters save more dogs and catsMy Profile

  18. This story warms my heart :)This is such a simple but fantastic solution. My old lab hasn’t lost his sight but his joints are starting to go and he can’t play ball as much so we have a new game where he rolls on his back and we play with the rope lol. Thanks for sharing your story!
    Katlin recently posted…How to Stop Dog SheddingMy Profile

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