DIY Ball for Blind Dogs
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.
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.
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!
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?