Yes. There is such a thing as needing dog toys stat. I just lived it and will lay out my first ever attempt at making DIY dog toys for you. I learned some fine points that I did not see on online tip posts that I am sure you will want to know.
First, why would someone ever need an emergency dog toy?
Because bitter cold winter + young bored dog = shenanigans.
I’m pet sitting a pack of three right now that you have actually met here before. We will just focus on the two who needed my help because the third is just happy to have a pile of blankets to burrow in.
Now, these dogs have mostly been a dream to pet sit for the last couple days. In fact, they all went back to bed after walks this morning because they LOVE cuddling so I’m free to type this for you now while they hibernate.
Before we get to the toys, there are a couple points every pet sitter needs to know when they take on jobs sitting multiple dogs for families with multiple people:
You will never match the fun and excitement of a full family as just one person.
Don’t take that personally. This is NOT an ego thing. Yes, the dogs may super like you, but they are still going to be off their game because suitcases get them worried and they have just watched their family haul several out to the car and drive away.
What that looks like in this pack is that their queen, Sadie, just isn’t really in to playing with her brother Arnold right now as much as she normally would. She just wants to snuggle and be reassured that everything here is going to be just fine.
The good news is that Arnold is all about the snuggle, too, but after a day of sleeping, followed by a couple hours being crated while I went out to dinner with my honey, he had some energy to burn.
Arnold is a big puppy, emphasis on big and puppy both. When he got out of his crate, he was a whirling dervish trying to grab kids’ toys that were not meant for canine consumption so I kept taking his fun away. Sadie didn’t want to play with him because she was nervous while I was gone and she just didn’t want to deal with him. Normal ‘big sister’ stuff.
There are a bunch of chews around but they aren’t novel so he didn’t really want them. So, that basically left ME as a potential playmate. Me and my sleeve, more specifically. Mama don’t play that tune but I saw that he was genuinely needing some help to tap off some very normal energy.
I actually did think about this as I was returning and got them some chews on my way home but they were gobbled so fast they didn’t help.
What to do…what to do…I knew running out would mean re-crating him and that was only going to get him more goofy in his current state.
So I combed through cabinets and the recycling bin and I found:
2 empty plastic bottles
2 empty granola bar boxes
5 cardboard toilet paper tubes
My hunting around was all very entertaining for the dogs who seemed to understand that things were about to get awesome…eventually. Arnold had easily forgotten about my sleeve with all me chatter and poking around because I had gotten him so darned curious.
Note: It is important to be cheerful and positive but not over excited when you are dealing with an already excited dog. I didn’t want to ramp him up any more than he was, but simply to engage and distract him while I was thinking through my options. Calm cheerfulness is what you want.
Here is where I started:
When I started making the toys, I had a couple misconceptions. One, that the dogs, being heavy chewers, would immediately shred anything I did and in 30 seconds I’d find myself in the same spot. And two, that I had to make the toys complicated in order to them to be sufficiently engaging.
Wrong and wrong.
Let me add, Sadie can be a little competitive with Arnold for resources although that only tends to show up now when a new toy is on the scene. Arnold, being more enthusiastic in his toy engagement was making such a display over the fun he was having with his bottle that Sadie, who could not figure out what to do with hers, was convinced he had gotten the better toy since hers seemed to be broken or something. So, NO need to panic, just a need to engage her before she engaged him and modify so that each dog is getting what they need. (Knowing how to read canine body language is essential to head off skirmishes smoothly and gracefully.)
Here is where we go back to “watching people make toys is fun.”
I got down on the floor with Sadie and we rolled her bottle around and I just reassuringly said, “Come on, I can fix this for you” and we went off to the kitchen. My cheerful engaging attitude got her to focus on me and not her clownish brother who was throwing his bottle around and happily playing away.
Sadie’s bottle was a very thin water bottle (since that was what I could find) so cutting a hole in it was not working until I reinforced with duct tape. She was watching me make the video above and you can hear Arnold in the back crackling away on his.
As for the issue of complexity…you will see the box and toilet paper tube puzzle in this next video while Arnold continues to work on his bottle. Because I was sure that Sadie would shred a box with half open flaps in no time flat, I followed a DIY article I saw that said you should duct tape the box ends. Basically all that did was make her think the whole thing was a hoax and got her wondering why Arnold always gets the best toys.
No problem. I just examined it with her, told her I knew a way to fix it and she followed me and my plucky ‘can do’ attitude to the kitchen to watch me tear all the tape off and toss a couple more cheerios into the box. It took her quite a while to tear the boxes to bits but she had the confidence to keep at it.
Here are the modifications I had to make on the bottle situation…
And finally this is where we ended up. With just a very few recycled items these DIY dog toys kept them entertained for a full two hours between my making them and their playing with them. I’ll leave you with this final view of them with the final version of the toys for the evening.
We slept like babies after and they are still snoozing now.
And that reminds me…tonight I expect this to be replayed. I’ve noticed that the dogs I sit tend to spring to life in the evening. That makes sense because the family is all home then and they are used to playing then. I know this sleeping stuff is just getting them ready to see what fun awaits tonight. And that reminds me. I’m going to call my husband to see what we have in OUR recycling bin! I may never throw out a cardboard tube or box again…
Post Script: I was completely right about the high energy when I came back from dinner the second night, but I was prepared. We were able to scround some orange juice bottles from my house and they worked great. We left the heavy duty lids on (Simply Orange brand bottles) and while Arnold eventually worked it off, it took a good long while. I think I’ll duct tape the lid on with the bottle I give him tonight. Even after the bottle was empty of kibble, he continued to play with it with the same enthusiasm.