We all want the best for our dogs. And, when we go to the specialty store to buy the best organic and high quality dog food, we also see all of the latest dog toys that can help stimulate our dogs mentally and physically.
But before you spend your money on a brand new toy (often wrapped in hard-to-recycle packaging), consider making your own safe and fun toys from materials otherwise destined for the trash. The folks over at WileyPup.com offered these great ideas for upcycled dog toys.
Upcycled Tug Braid
Sure, donating or buying used clothing is an important part of making sure we get the full use out of clothing that still has plenty of wear. However, eventually, T-shirts, jeans, and other clothing (or fabrics such as sheets or fleece blankets) are worn past the point of repair. You can give these fabrics a new life by upcycling them into a fun dog toy.
One of the easiest dog toys to make is a tug toy. Simply cut fabric into strips, lay three next to each other, tie a knot to connect them at the top, and braid, leaving enough at the end to tie a second knot. For a big dog, you probably want a thicker tug toy, so you might use two strips of fabric for each strand of the braid.
If you want to get fancier, consider using some more advanced braiding and knotting techniques commonly used in macramé. For example, try the four-strand braid, also known as the Lanyard Stitch. This creates a wonderfully rounded rope that makes for a neat and durable tug toy for your pup. Again, for a thicker rope, use two strips of fabric in each strand.
Natural fabrics such as cotton and wool make for the best tug toys. However, fleece is also a soft and safe option. Avoid fabrics that easily shred into fine threads; they can be dangerous if swallowed. If you use denim, keep any loose threads trimmed as the toy ages to prevent the dog from swallowing long strings, which can be harmful to your dog’s gut.
Hide-a-Treat Dog Mat
The same fabrics that make for a great tug toy also work well for a slightly more complex DIY dog toy — the hide-a-treat mat. You can find some great instructions on The Honest Kitchen or this YouTube video.
Start by cutting your fabric into strips that are approximately 1-2 inches wide by about 7-9 inches long. (Your dog isn’t measuring, and precision is not required!)
Once you have a large collection of fabric strips, it is time to find a base for your mat. Just about anything that provides some rigidity and has regular gaps will do. Avoid plastics that have had contact with toxic materials such as cleaning products and herbicides. The purpose of this base is to provide the structure into which you can push and tie strips of fabric to make a dense mat. Here are a few examples of materials that you may already have around the house:
- A old dish mat that has small drainage holes
- A square of plastic fencing, such as snow fence, or even wire hardware cloth
- A piece of rigid and flat plastic or an old area rug; you’ll need to cut small holes the plastic or rug every 1/2 inch in a grid pattern
Once you have a suitable material for your base, you are ready to start making your mat.
- From the top of your base, push one end of a fabric strip through a hole.
- Bring the strip back up through an adjacent hole from the bottom of your base.
- Make both ends approximately even and tie a knot. The knot and loose ends of fabric go on the top of the mat.
- Tie on your strips as densely as possible.
This creates a thick, soft mat that is perfect for hiding small treats or bits of dry kibble for an engaging dog toy.
Dog Puzzle Toys
One of the latest trends in dog toys are those that help your dog to get the mental stimulation they need to be happy. These toys hide treats, or even regular dog kibble, requiring your canine sleuth to take some action to get the reward.
Let your creative juices flow when creating food puzzles that will get your pooch thinking. However, make sure to use materials that will be safe to chew. All of the pieces need to be larger than what your dog can swallow, sturdy enough to not break with use, and nontoxic. For example, avoid painted items because paint is a potential poison hazard.
Here are a few ideas to get your imagination flowing:
- Place a treat or piece of kibble into each cup of an old muffin tin. Cover all of the cups with used tennis balls. Tip: Tennis players only use balls for a short time until they get too flat. You can often find used tennis balls destined for the trash at tennis courts and local thrift stores.
- Wash old plastic drink bottles and stuff them with crunchy food. Cut holes slightly larger than the food. Your dog will enjoy figuring out how to get the treats out of the holes.
- You can drill holes in old PVC or other tubing and then cap the ends to provide a rolling tube that is sturdy and durable. Fill it with kibble at dinnertime, and you get the double benefit of entertaining your dog, while slowing down dogs that usually eat their food too quickly.
Safety Considerations: Be sure that items for your doggy Einstein toy are clean and free of glues (such as those that affix labels), which can be toxic. And if your dog is a strong chewer, choose materials that your dog won’t be able to chew into smaller pieces. These could be a choke hazard and create digestion problems if pieces get stuck in the dog’s digestive track.
About the Author
Sharon Elber is a professional writer and regular contributor to WileyPup. She received her M.S. in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech. Sharon has worked as a professional dog trainer for over 10 years.
Feature image courtesy of Didgeman on Pixabay
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