Do-It-Yourself Dog Toys
If you find your dog looking a little more bored than usual, you may be tempted to run out to the store and buy some new fancy toys! And while giving your pup something shiny and new to play with can be awesome, there are times where it just isn’t practical. Well, this week I have got some treats for you and your dog!
There are lots of ways to use your imagination or some basic materials to make the best new plaything for your dog! You probably have some knick-knacks and doodads laying around that you can use to improvise an interesting experience for your dog. Here are some do-it-yourself toys and puzzles for you and your pup!
First Things First- Safety Tips
I know that starting off with a little bit of a safety lesson isn’t the most fun, but it’s important to make sure that your dog is not going to be harmed by a DIY toy. Choking and other hazards are possible with store-bought toys (especially for rough-and-tough dogs), but being aware of certain potential problems ahead of time can help you make more informed decisions about the things you give your dog to play with.
#1 rule- Always supervise your dog with new kinds of toys, especially those that can be torn apart.
You can focus on giving your dog toys that are safer- materials that aren’t easy to choke on, won’t make dogs sick, and are safer if they were to be ingested. If your dog is a destructive chewer, you may need to keep a closer eye on them. It’s a good idea to know some doggy first aid and the Heimlich maneuver for your specific-sized dog. Just be sensible when it comes to what you allow your dog to play with- just because your dog is enjoying itself doesn't mean it should be chewing on shoes or empty water bottles.
Finally, choose toys that are the appropriate size for your dog. Even when you’re buying toys from the store, a big dog like a mastiff shouldn’t be chewing on something meant for a chihuahua. Toys that aren’t the right size can present another choking hazard, or problems like getting their lower jaw stuck in a puzzle-toy hole. Again, this is a reason to keep an eye on your dog when they’re playing with toys- they may find creative ways to get into trouble!
And now, with that safety talk out of the way, let’s talk toys!
Before we get to making the toys, make sure you select good starting materials. While it may be tempting to reach for that cheap, dusty nylon rope that’s been sitting in your attic for ten years, it’s important to remember that these toys will be in your dog’s mouth as they chew away at them. The last thing you want is your dog destroying and swallowing massive amounts of plastic strands, which can wreak havoc on their digestive tract or even cause blockages. The best rope that you can use for these toys are hemp or jute, which are a little more on the durable and natural side.
Smelly T-shirt Rope
If you are the proud owner of some old t-shirts a little too worn to donate, consider making a rope toy out of them! Your dog loves the way you smell, so before you go cutting them up, wear them one last time without washing them. When you’re ready, cut them into strips and tie them together into a rope!
Just be sure to select shirts that aren’t absolutely falling to pieces or shredding into strands very easily. Don’t expect this particular rope toy to last forever, and supervise your pup a little more closely than usual. The fabric won’t last as long as a durable rope and can cause more harm if ingested. As always, when it starts coming apart to the point that your dog may be able to swallow pieces of fabric, it’s time to swap it out for another toy.
Basic Hand Tied Rope Toys
For smarter, tougher, or more persistent dogs, you can try different kinds of knots to find one that is trickier to unravel. Just be sure that you don’t tie them so tight that your dog hurts its teeth while chewing, and don’t make it so loose that it’s easy to destroy and ingest the strands of the rope. There are lots of great visual tutorials on tying all kinds of knots, so there are plenty to try. Who knows- maybe you’ll find your new knot tying ability useful in other situations too!
Sweet Potato Rope
Last week’s blog mentioned the sweet potato rope, which can be the ultimate delicious, chewy, brain-teasing time sink for the extra-special dog. It features yummy, enticing yet healthy dried sweet potatoes sneakily secured onto the rope with multiple knots. Your dog will have to take its time working away at this special toy-and-treat, and will love every minute of it.
You make the dried sweet potatoes by slicing them and cutting holes in the middle, and baking them at 250 degrees for about 5 hours or until dry. Let them cool, string them onto your rope toy, and tie knots in between each potato. Voila! You have a superpowered chew toy! You could probably also find some other healthy fruits or vegetables (here's a whole list of dog-safe foods!) to use for this project- just make sure you share these snacks in moderation!
Last week we talked about how important it is to work your dog’s mind and some easy ways to do so. Here are a few more puzzles you can set up at home for your pup!
Tennis Ball Treat Dispenser
Tennis Ball And Muffin Tin Shell Game
Step up your shell game by combining tennis balls and a clean muffin tin! A regular muffin tin is just the right size to set multiple tennis balls inside, and you can hide one or more treats underneath them. If your dog is watching you hide the treat, just spin the tin around a few times before letting them try to sniff it out! This puzzle is two-in-one: not only will your dog have to sniff out the treat, but they will also have to figure out how to get the round balls out of the divots of the muffin tin!
Shoebox Hide And Seek
If your dog is already a hide and seek pro, and you have some shoe boxes lying around (or another fairly easy-to-open container), this is a good one for you. Not only can you try hiding treats inside of or underneath boxes, but you can also do this with something like your dog’s favorite toy! Your dog will have to sniff out the treat or toy, and then they’ll also have to find a way to open or turn over the box to reach it.
By the way, if your dog seems to be having trouble with any of these puzzles, you can always help give them hints or show them how it works yourself!
Frozen toys are great for helping relieve the discomfort a young dog may experience when its teeth are first coming in. Much like a human baby, puppies also go through a period of teething. Frozen toys can also help your dog stay cool on a hot day. If nothing else, giving your dog something cold to chew on is an interesting way to mix things up for them.
My dog Cookie loves chewing on ice cubes- any time I go to the freezer for some ice for myself, he’s waiting at the kitchen door for me to share! But you don’t have to stick to plain old ice- you can take it a step further! If you want to give your dog an extra-special treat that will keep them busy for a while, you can come up with a fancy popsicle treat. You can make it as simple as freezing one of their normal treats in ice, or you can go as far as finding a fancy recipe that uses bigger molds or lots of yummy ingredients!
Just make sure that any ingredients you use are dog-safe. One more popular trick is to use broth instead of water, but you should be a little picky about the kind that you use. Normal stock often contains ingredients like onion or garlic, which are toxic to dogs. If you’re going for something store-bought, bone broth is a great choice- it’s jam-packed full of nutrients and often contains fewer extra ingredients. Make sure you always read the ingredients before feeding your dog something new.
If you’re really in the mood to go all-in, you can make your own bone broth at home- and it’s good for you too! You can find lots of recipes online, but at the most basic level, you would simmer raw bones and marrow in water for a long period of time, adding in a few dog-safe veggies if desired for flavor.
Frozen Chew Toys And Puzzles
Otherwise, you can always toss one of your dog’s more beloved chew toys in a bag in the freezer for a while. Maybe one of those rope toys you made!
What’s Your Go-To Dog Toy?
Does your dog have a favorite stuffed animal they’ve had since puppyhood? Maybe one of their newest toys is their favorite. Or, maybe you have a fantastic pupsicle recipe of your own! Let us know your favorite way to entertain your dog! And, as always, I hope you and your pup are staying happy and healthy, and I look forward to writing for you again next week!