Toys and play can be a vital part of both training your dog and improving your bond with her. Even if your credit cards are still recovering from the holidays, there are a number of toys you can make at home or make easily with inexpensive, easy-to-find materials. Make-and-Build-Dog-Stuff.com is a fantastic resource with lots of suggestions for how you can easily and inexpensively create a variety of toys and lots of other doggy items, from leashes to beds and clothes!
You can also make a very simple fleece tug relatively inexpensively. I always have extra fleece lying around, and it takes about ten minutes to braid a fleece tug toy for my dogs with leftover fleece. You can easily alter the length or size of your tug depending upon the amount of fabric you use.
You can make your own food dispensing toy by using a muffin tin, tennis balls, and your dog’s favorite treats. Simply fill each section of the tin with some treats, place tennis balls on top, and give to your dog! This game can be made more complex by leaving some of the sections empty, using balls of different sizes or textures, or flipping the tin upside down. You can see this toy in action in this video:
New mop heads – If you have a small dog or a dog that does not tug very intensely, brand new mop heads make great tug toys. When Cuba was a puppy, this was his absolute favorite! Note that mop heads are not intended to be dog toys and that your dog should never have unsupervised access to this toy. There is far too much potential for the dog to quickly chew off and ingest pieces which may cause digestive upset in some cases and be cause for a surgical visit to the vet in others.
Soda bottles – Two liter soda bottles can make great toys. Simply screw on the cap, drill some kibble-sized holes, fill with kibble, and give to your dog. They can see, smell, and hear the kibble rolling around as they try to empty the bottle. As with all of these toys, supervision is a must!
Antlers – If you, like me, have friends and family who are hunters, ask around and see if any have antlers they’d be willing to part with. You can purchase antlers on-line as well, but they can be rather expensive. If you give your dog antlers, be sure to saw off any sharp points.
Garden Hose – I’ll be honest, these may be Mokie’s favorite toys ever (and this from a dog that has played with virtually every dog toy on the planet)! She goes absolutely bonkers over two 18″ lengths of garden hose which make great tug toys and fetch toys. You’d also be hard pressed to find an easier-to-make toy, just cut extra hose up with some hedge clippers.
Flirt Pole – These are great for dogs that have a high prey drive/chase instinct and is a way for handlers to provide their dog with lots of physical exercise in a small space and amount of time. I like to use about a 4′ length of 3/4″ PVC. Take a 20′ rope (more or less according to your preferences) and tie a really big knot in one end. Thread your rope through the PVC and then on the end opposite the knot, tie something fun for your dog to chase. Mokie really likes Skineeez on the end of hers. On the flirt pole I keep down at the classroom, I have an old t-shirt tied to the end. These are used like the wands you’ve seen for cats that have feathers at the end, you can get your dog chasing and jumping after the toy. Before you use a flirt pole, talk with your veterinarian. Many dogs (especially large and giant breeds) should not be encouraged to participate in play which involves excessive jumping until their growth plates are closed. You may want to restrict your puppy to groundwork with the flirt pole until he is fully matured.
For dogs that like to dissect, give them legal opportunities. An empty paper towel or toilet paper roll can be a great toy. Fill with treats, tape the ends closed, and let your dog have a blast tearing it up! For more accomplished dissecters, consider making a nesting box type toy. Take a small box, fill with treats, wrap with masking tape. Place in a slightly larger box, adding treats to this box as well and taping up. Use as many boxes as you like! This obviously makes a mess, so be prepared for some clean up as you enjoy your happy, tired dog.
Sandbox – While not technically a toy, it’s always nice to give dogs that love to dig legal opportunities to do so. Those plastic turtle sandboxes with covers make great digging pits for small dogs that like to dig. When Mokie was a puppy, she liked digging. I dug a hole in the back corner of my yard, removed half the dirt and replaced it with sand. I then buried toys and treats in the sand and encouraged her to play with it. After two or three redirections, I never again had a problem with her digging holes anywhere else in the yard.
For dogs that like toys which rattle, take an empty water bottle and fill with dried rice or beans. Place the bottle in an old sweat sock, preferably a very long, stretched out one. Tie a knot at the end, voila! Lots of rattly, chasey, bitey fun – for free!
All of these toys can be made at no cost or for less than ten dollars. This list is by no means exhaustive – a google search on “home made dog toys” will give you plenty of ideas.
Do you make home-made dog toys? What are your favorites? Please share in the comments. Until tomorrow, happy playing!