Homemade Dog Toys

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 05 Oct, 2010

As you are no doubt well aware, purchasing dog toys can be expensive, and many of them don't last very long. You can create homemade versions that cost you little or no money, often using recycled items you already have around the house. Here are ten of my favorite ideas to keep your pooch busy and happy...

1.   Recycle an old rope . If you have a large rope, you can simply cut a length of it and tie a few knots in either end. This is one of the simplest and most inexpensive dog toys for chewing and fetching. There can be endless variations to this, you can create loops in the end to create a great tug toy if you have two dogs. You can combine the rope with a sewn dog toy by sewing the stuffed piece onto the rope.

Be careful of what type of rope you use for this, if your dog happens to swallow long, stringy strands of the rope you could have a medical emergency on your hands. So just be aware.

2.   Use your sewing machine to make dog toys . If you have a sewing machine it is a snap to make a simple dog toy. Use scraps of heavy duty fabric, canvas, old clothes, jeans or fleece, and cut squares or other shapes. With the wrong sides of the fabric facing outwards, stitch around the edge of three sides. Turn the fabric inside out so the right side of the fabric is facing outward. Stuff the opening with soft stuffing material and sew the open edge shut. You can get creative with shapes and stuffing material... try stuffing with crinkled newspaper or bubble wrap for a "crunchy", noisy toy. These toys can be made very quickly by drawing a pattern on the fabric and cutting through several layers of fabric at once.

3.   Tennis Ball Toys . You can cut two holes in a tennis ball, thread a rope through and knot the ends of the rope. Now you have a fun rope/tennis ball toy to throw or tug. Or, after threading the rope through, tie both ends of the rope together up close to the ball and you have made a great toss toy. Soak any tennis ball in chicken or beef broth and let it dry, your dog will love chewing on it.

4.   Hose Toy . This is a great way to use up a leaky garden hose simply by cutting it into lengths for your dog to chew on. You can use a small stick that fits tightly into the hose end and join the two hose ends together into a loop. Or just tie a single knot in the center of a long piece of hose.**
**A word of caution on hose toys... On 3/28/12 a reader contacted us saying that her pediatrician informed her that hoses, even those made in USA, have a moderate amount of lead in them. This has not been confirmed, but you might want to check it out in concern for your dog's health and safety.

5.   Sock Toys . You can put a tennis ball inside a sock and tie a knot to secure it, this makes a great toss and fetch toy. Or take a plastic water bottle or pop bottle and place it inside the sock, tie a knot, and you have a fun crunchy toy. Or snap a carrot in half and place inside the sock. A sock ball can be made out of 2-4 long socks. Use one sock as the base and stuff other socks into it. Tie a firm knot in the base sock above the stuffed area, double the end of the base sock back over the entire ball, tie a knot above the stuffed area again. Continue repeating these steps until you can't anymore, then cut the end of the sock just above the last knot.

When using socks, be sure to use new or very clean socks to avoid your dog associating your smell and assuming any socks are fair game. This is where good training comes in too, so your dog understands the difference between your socks and his toys! Yes, it can be done!

5.   Tug Toys . You can make a fast and fun tug toy out of any old fabric such as leftover fleece, old blankets, old towels or clothing, etc. Simply cut three long strips from the fabric, tie the ends into one big knot, then braid the three strips together, tie a final knot in the other end and you're done! You can even soak these in water or chicken broth and freeze for a great teething toy. I used an old dingy pillowcase and made a tug toy and my dog loves it! You can take this to another level and create several braids all tied together, connect the ends to form loops, or just simply tie the strips of fleece together without braiding.

6.   Plastic Bottle Toys . Plastic water bottles, milk or juice bottles, or two liter pop bottles make fun and noisy toys. Remove the lid, plastic ring and label for safety and you can place these inside socks, or just give to them as is. You can place several small treats inside the bottle to make it more challenging and give it a rattle. If your dog is very destructive, be aware that small pieces of the plastic could pose a choking danger, use supervision and discard when it starts getting torn up.

7.   Treat Dispensing Toys . You can take a plastic jar or bowl with a lid, or even a small cardboard box, cut one or two small holes in the sides and add some treats or kibble, taping the lid shut if necessary. Your dog will have a fun time trying to get the treats to come out the holes. Use supervision with this if they attempt to eat or destroy the plastic as that could be dangerous.

8.   The Whipwhir (stick and rope exercise toy) . This is a great idea to provide both fun and exercise for your high-energy dog. It requires your interaction though. Find a long stick such as an old broom or mop stick, or a dowel rod and drill a hole through one end. Get a 5-6 foot long cord or rope, form a large loop at one end, slip the looped end through the hole in the stick and pull the rest of the rope through the loop. You will end up with something that looks like a fishing pole. At the other end of the rope make a small knotted loop that will hold any of a variety of items. You can attach (tie or tape) a sock ball toy, a squeeky toy, strips of fabric, a stuffed animal toy, use your imagination here. Indoors or out, simply swing the Whipwhir stick around and watch your dog go crazy chasing it. Work up to it slowly so as not to injure your dog. More detailed instructions are on the  Make & Build Dog Stuff  website.

9.   Cardboard Tube Toys . Use your old and empty toilet paper or paper towel tubes, poke a few small holes, put treats inside and twist the ends shut. Your dog will be entertained by trying to get at the treats.

10. Noisy Blanket. I love this one! If you have a sewing machine and are crafty, buy a bag of the squeekers that are in dog toys, you can get them on the internet, get a couple large pieces of durable fabric like denim or remnant upholstery fabric, sew the fabric together, sewing squares into it, inserting a squeeky into each square as you go. When the dogs walk, sit or roll on the blanket it will squeek and they will stay busy looking for where the sound is coming from. I've seen fairly inexpensive remnant fabric often at craft or fabric stores.

You'll find lots more ideas, photos, and some videos at the  Squidoo  website and the  Make & Build Dog Stuff  website. And if you have any other great ideas, you can join us on Facebook and let us know about them!

While you are making toys for your dog, don't forget your local rescue group or animal shelter, they would always appreciate a few extra toys for the strays.

A word of caution!...  Choose materials carefully and be aware of safety. Strings can come off and get swallowed, buttons or other small items can easily be choked on. Always use common sense, and always supervise your dog with their toys.

Sources: ehow.com; squuidoo.com; prodoggroomingsupplies.com; buzzle.com; make-and-build-dog-stuff.com; thriftyfun.com; dogtopics.com; mevsthehouse.com; ezinearticles.com 

Originally Compiled by Kathy McRoberts  on Oct. 1, 2010

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By West Chester Pet Resort & Spa 20 Jun, 2017
Now that summer is just around the corner, family vacations are about to be in full swing. While traveling with your pet certainly has its benefits, there are things that you need to know before jet-setting with Fluffy in tow.

First and foremost, having your pet as your co-pilot completely alleviates the worry of who is going to care for them while you're away. This question is always an anxiety for pet owners. The option of traveling with them is especially beneficial if your pet has behavioral issues such as separation anxiety.

Crating your pet while driving to your destination is never a bad option. They're confined and safe, and you as the driver are less distracted. Just be sure to remove collars and leashes to prevent a strangling incident and keep the air flow on them.

If your pet has never been crated, you can find a great video here  by "Dog Guru" Cesar Milan on tome tips and tricks to crate training.

While the car is in motion, feeding your dog is one big "Don't!" If you are on an extended road trip and your pet needs a meal, the next time you stop, feed a small snack- preferably high in protein. And remember to never leave your furry friend in the car, especially during these warm months!

Now, traveling with your pet in an airplane is a much more complicated process as you will more than likely want to book a direct flight. Communicating with the airline prior to travel dates is absolutely imperative. Many airlines have strict regulations for canine and feline travel and their regulations may vary based on the airline and the destination.

However you decide to travel, always remember that if you are taking a not-so-pet-friendly vacation, we would love your pet to stay with us while you are away.  West Chester Pet Resort offers a variety of services to make your pets stay a fun- filled adventure. Call to book your pet’s adventure today!

-West Chester Pet Resort & Spa
By Kathy McRoberts 03 Dec, 2014

Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine

When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.

But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.

At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.

So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.

When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.

We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth:  The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.

Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing  earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.

“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.

So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:

  • You hear your Husky howling, and immediately storm in to reprimand her. How is this reinforcement? To many dogs, having a beloved human present (even a beloved yet annoyed human) is better than feeling lonesome. Your dog begins to think her howling is prompting you to chime in.
  • Your Lab whines pitifully as you begin to leave the house, so you return to take him with you. Over time, your dog starts believing that his whining causes you to come back for him (Pavlov’s theory, anyone?).
  • Your Westie mix cowers and growls behind the sofa whenever company arrives, so you pick him up and coo “Ohhhh, you’re fine, what a gooooood boy….” Soon, your dog begins to equate hiding and trembling with oodles of TLC.

“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.

Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.

The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”

Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.

Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress

The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )

Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.

Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.

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