One of the first lessons I learned about life with a paraplegic dog was the importance of playtime. I needed to find a way to keep Sophie stimulated mentally and physically so she didn’t get depressed. The idea about playing games initially came from my dog Cody. He loved to roughhouse with Sophie before she got sick and he didn’t see any reason to stop just because she couldn’t walk.
One evening while the family was watching TV, Cody walked over to Sophie and gave her a gentle push with his nose. She immediately knew it was an invitation to play so she hoisted her body up as high as she could and she pushed her nose back at him. The two dogs had so much fun that night I knew I had to find toys to entertain a paralyzed dog.
I’m sure some of you are scratching your heads right now wondering why I was worried
Some paralyzed dogs are able to scoot around the house with great ease. And other disabled dogs can fly through the yard in a wheelchair. If your dog can do this, consider yourself lucky. There are lots of other paralyzed pups who are unable to move around much and Sophie was one of them. The ability to be ambulatory has a lot do with the cause of a dog’s paralysis and where the damage to their spine occurred.
Sophie’s disease followed the path of dogs with Degenerative Myelopathy which causes the protective coating around the nerves of the spinal cord to die off. She was able to sit up on her own, but she wasn’t able to scoot around without my help.
Here are interactive DIY and store bought toys I hope your “handicapable” dog loves as much as Sophie did.
DIY Interactive Dog Toys
Sock Wrapped In A Water Bottle – Let’s start with an easy DIY toy. All you need is an empty plastic water bottle and a tube sock. Remove the cap from the water bottle for safety purposes and slip the bottle inside the sock. Tie the top in a knot. Dogs love the crinkley sounds made by the bottle. Variations: Slip three tennis balls in the sock or freeze the sock and empty bottle for something cool to chew on in the summer.
Muffin Tin Puzzle – This is perfect for curious dogs. All you need is a muffin tin, tennis balls and treats strategically placed at the bottom of a few of the muffin Place treats or kibble in a few of the individual muffin cups.
Tennis Ball In The Hat Puzzle – This is kind of a variation of the Muffin Puzzle. Take a sturdy old hat and place a few treats at the bottom. Now fill it with tennis balls and let your dog use their nose to lead the way to the treats.
Store Bought Toys to Entertain A Paralyzed Dog
Sterile White Bone – This toy is simple, but one that works well for puppies and adult dogs alike. White Bones satisfy a dog’s instinct to chew while being a great way for them to expend energy. The bones are safe and are easily found at pet supply stores, grocery stores or online. They come in a variety of sizes. Add some peanut butter to one end and watch your dog have tons of fun removing the filling.
Kong Jumbler Ball – I love anything from KONG and the interactive Jumbler does not disappoint because it is three toys in one. The outer ball is made to chew, but your dog will quickly realize the goal is to release the tennis ball buried inside. The Jumbler has handles for you to play tug-of-war and the ball squeaks to give your dog further sensory enjoyment. The toy comes in lots of sizes and shapes. I like it because it gives a dog a goal.
Starmark’s Bob-a-Lot – This treat dispensing toy wobbles back and forth as your dog pushes it with their nose to release tasty bits of food. It’s designed to mentally engage your dog as they try to figure out the best ways to release the treats. I like the Bob-a-lot because a dog doesn’t have to stand up to play with it and the toy self corrects by returning to an upright position after it has been pushed. This will definitely keep a paraplegic dog from getting frustrated.
Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle – Outward Bound makes lots of durable puzzle games for dogs. I like them all because they teach a dog to solve a problem. Hide A Squirrel is especially clever because it has a variety of shapes, textures and sounds to stimulate your dog’s mind and senses as they learn to pull each squirrel from the tree. Keep the game going by stuffing the squirrel back in place after your dog has released them.
Multipet Talking Gorilla – Dogs are proud when they learn something new and your dog can be the one to teach this Gorilla how to talk. All they have to do is nibble on the Gorilla and he’ll say a few words. Multipet also makes a singing Shark.
Once you start thinking from the perspective of your dog you’ll see there are all sorts of games, puzzles and toys to entertain a paralyzed dog. Sophie and Cody played a seated version of tug-of-war and even took turns catching a ball. The important part is to keep your dog from becoming isolated and resigning themselves to sitting alone in a room. Use toys to stimulate their minds and bodies and your handicapable pet will be happy for many years.
Do you have special toy or game your dog enjoys?
You’ll also enjoy: Lesson 3, The Importance of Playing Games