Just about everyone into upcycling already knows the standards: a dog tug made from braided strips of denim or fleece, a crinkle tug made with a plastic bottle stuffed into a sleeve that has been tied at both ends, even a ball stuffed tug made with an old T-shirt. They are all great ways to make use of things destined for the trash.
However, what about dog toys that stimulate your pooch’s mind? Professional dog trainers agree on the fact that both mental and physical stimulation are important to keep our dogs balanced and happy.
This article takes a look at 8 upcycled dog toys, from simple to more complex, that you can make from common household items to get your K9 thinking. If you’re interested in other toys and everything dog-related then check out wileypup.com.
1. PVC Pipe Hide-a-Treat Roller
If you happen to have some extra PVC piping laying around from that last plumbing project, then a great way to use the scraps is to make this fun treat dispenser. Just drill some holes slightly larger than your dog’s favorite treats (or for especially food motivated dogs, you can just put their regular kibble in it) and cap the ends.
Don’t have any PVC? This project works equally well with hard plastic containers that have lids that will also roll. Make sure they are from food safe products and are cleaned thoroughly. For example: Large spaghetti sauce containers, a plastic coconut oil jar, that huge container of vinegar you just polished off during canning season, etc.
Fill up your PVC pipe or large round plastic container prepped with some holes and put it on a smooth surface for the best effect. Voila! An easy and fun toy that engages your pooch’s sense of smell, taste, spatial reasoning, and motor skills.
2. Muffin Tin Treat Puzzle
Forget those expensive doggy Einstein puzzles. If you have an old muffin tin that has seen better days, then just drop a treat in some of the cups and cover with a tennis ball. Yes! It is a perfect fit and an ideal way to get your canine companion thinking.
3. Speaking of Tennis Balls…
And by the way, we hope you are not running out to the store to buy brand new tennis balls. Turns out that tennis players go through balls at an extraordinary rate. They are tossed as soon as they are even a little bit “flat,” offering a great chance for dog lovers to give them a second life as a beloved dog toy. Visit your local tennis courts or thrift store where you can often find these dog toy staples for pennies on the dollar.
4. Hide-a-Treat Snuffle Mat
Remember those old hook rugs you could buy a kit to make with yarn? Okay… maybe you don’t if you are under 40. Well, turns out that pile of old T-shirts or fleece scraps from your last sewing project can find a second life as a fluffy mat perfect for hiding dog treats or kibble in to engage that scent hound in a fun game of “Find the Treat.”
Cut your strips into 2” wide by 8” long (or thereabouts) strips. These will be tied with a simple knot to your base. Once you have a pile of strips saved up all you need is a firm but flexible grid base to tie the strips to until they are dense and matted. Some people use an old dish mat, but you can also make your own grid by cutting holes every ½” through a piece of flat plastic cut from something about to land in the recycle bin. (Avoid any plastics that once held potentially toxic cleaning materials, herbicides, pesticides, etc.)
Source: Michelle Stern/Youtube
5. Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Tube
Once that roll is gone, you have a perfect 2-minute shred toy. That’s it. Just act like it is the greatest thing since sliced bread, invite your dog for a fun game of tug, then give it a toss on the floor. Most dogs love a chance to shred something and as long as you praise them for a job well done, this little game is a quickie go to for a little excitement on a rainy day.
6. What’s in That Box?
If you have some packing boxes destined for the paper recycling box, there is no reason to toss them until they have had a second life as one of the easiest and most satisfying doggy Einstein games that’s not on the market!
Have your dog sit and wait while you make a big production about placing some of her favorite items in the box – a favorite toy, a tug, some extra special treats. Then close the box up using the fold-a-flap technique.
You might have to encourage your dog to know it is okay to go crazy on the box – but once they get the idea, many dogs will simply go ya-ya for a chance to pounce on that cardboard and go to town. Be sure to give lots of praise and reward after they get to the goodies on the inside just to reinforce this fun game.
7. Plastic Bottle Spinner Hide-a-Treat
Similar to the PVC pipe hide-a-treat, this upcycled dog game works by cutting holes near the bottom of a plastic bottle just a little bigger than what you plan to fill it with. However, instead of just putting it on the floor, you can hang the bottle at dog nose level on a dowel rod or other thin round piping you may have. A simple frame will hold the rod in place, creating a toy that allows your dog to get their reward by spinning the bottle around the rod.
Like other toys, you might have to give your pooch some hints on the first round. Once they get the hang of it, expect hours of fun before you have to replace the plastic bottle with another one destined for the recycle bin.
For an extra challenge, don’t make any holes in the bottle, forcing a full spin for the bottle to release a treat. Here, let Bella show you how it is done:
Source: Eveline Poot/Youtube
8. The Humble Blanket
It is going to seem so obvious once you give this fun upcycled dog toy a try. This super simple game made from an old blanket, sheet, or sleeping bag no longer in use can keep your dog thinking and moving for hours at a time, as long as you get in on the game and keep it fun and exciting.
Start with your pal’s favorite toys or treats (squeaky toys rule at this game) and let her see you place it inside the blanket, fold it over to make a challenge, then toss it on the floor. “Find it!” Be sure to reward your dog with lots of praise and something fun (such as a tug or a toss of the ball) once she finds it.
If your dog is a little confused at first, make it really easy to get the game started. Just lift a corner of the blanket and let her see you put a treat there before laying the blanket over it. In time, your dog will build a whole new skillset…finding that toy even if you add multiple folds or even roll the blanket around the toy. It’s a great indoor workout to boot!
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