Occasionally you find a dog that is content with one toy that they will cherish and take care of, but most dogs will destroy a new pet store-bought toy within a couple of weeks unless they’re made of solid chew-proof rubber (maybe even then). If you’ve got a dog with the uncanny ability to tear a new store-bought soft toy to shreds in a couple of minutes, it may be worth you looking for an easy, cost-effective way to keep them entertained using the stuff you already have at home. Handmade dog toys are a fantastic last resort before your dog turns on the furniture.
Homemade dog toys can be extremely simple to make, or there are some more complicated designs if you’re feeling crafty. Pretty much all of the toys we have listed below are designed around items you are likely to find lying around the house. Knowing how to make dog toys out of basic materials should help you in the long run, especially if you’ve got a new puppy, and you should be able to find at least one toy on our list that you can throw together in 5 minutes.
Why Do Dogs Destroy Their Toys?
People have been wondering for years why dogs like to destroy their own property, and there are several reasons deduced by animal psychologists as to why this might be.
Depending on the toy, soft squeaky toys can trigger a natural hunter response, which can easily get a pup overexcited and cause them to destroy it in the process, with the intention of “killing” whatever is squeaking. We wouldn’t recommend a squeaky toy for breeds with high prey drives.
The Wrong Toy
Some dogs are heavy chewers, these dogs simply require a more durable toy design, this is where the more chew-proof designs can come in handy, or where having easy and cheap homemade dog toys could save you money.
Not only do puppies have to go through teething, which is notoriously a very mouthy phase, but puppies also use their mouths to explore and can get a bit carried away when they’re playing. Additionally, if you respond to your puppy’s destruction with laughter as opposed to discipline then you are providing them with positive reinforcement for destructive behavior, so they will likely continue their destruction thinking it makes you happy.
Excess Energy / Boredom
You may well notice that your dog destroys its dog toys more often when it hasn’t had its usual level of outdoor exercise, or if you haven’t been engaging with them as your normally would. Dog owners always need to ensure that their dog has the correct amount of exercise or its breed to avoid behavioral problems. The more intelligent dog breeds are known to become chewers when their mind is not being stimulated properly, as a way to pass the time they decide to figure out how best to gut a dog toy instead.
Just For Fun
Sometimes they simply do it because they can. Have you ever say around picking at a threat sticking out of your sweater just because it was there? Dogs can be just the same. By providing them with homemade dog toys, at least you won’t feel so bad when they decide to pick it apart, if anything you should be flattered! That means you’ve made a dog toy fun enough to keep them entertained, even if the entertaining part is destroying it.
What Kind of Toys Do Dogs Like?
When you’re looking at toys you can make at home, you’ll want to think about the type of toys your dog seems to like, to give you some ideas before making a decision.
A Puzzle Toy
Interactive dog toys or games that have a puzzle element are extremely well suited to highly intelligent breeds, mental stimulation is essential for an intelligent dog to keep them from developing bad habits as a way of engaging themselves.
A Tug Toy
A lot of dogs very much enjoy the type of interactive dog tug toy that requires a bit of strength, such as playing tug-of-war with their owners. Tug-of-war requires a lot of strength and energy and a great way for them to work through some of their built-up energy if you’re unable to get out and about, though it shouldn’t be used in replacement of regular exercise.
A Toss Toy
Toys that can be thrown long distances are great for fast dog breeds with a lot of energy, or sprinting dog breeds like Greyhounds. That is because, by cover a lot of ground with minimal effort to yourself, you can be sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise in a shorter space of time.
A Chew Toy
For those well-known chewers, chew toys are ideal as they are specifically designed to be durable and withstand their rough playing style. Though specifically designed extra-strong chew toys are not indestructible, they stand a pretty good chance. A Homemade dog rope toy, for example, will be made to hold up to being thrown around and pulled at, but it should not be expected to outlast a rubber toy. Check out our guide on the best chew toys for puppies for more info.
Top 12 DIY Homemade Dog Toys
Homemade dog toys serve several great functions; first and foremost they are a source of entertainment for your canine friend that you don’t mind having ruined, secondly, they recycle old items that would otherwise have gone into the trash, and thirdly they teach you some handy craft tips that you could possibly use a later date.
Towel Tug-of-War Dog Toy
This dog toy uses old tattered towels, fashioning them into an interactive dog toy that is ideal for teething puppies or dogs that like a good game of tug-of-war.
- 1-2 clean old towels
- Take whichever towel(s) you will be used, and cut three long strips from them, approximately 12 inches long and 4 inches wide.
- Cut an additional 2 thinner strips of around 6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
- Place the 3 large towel strips together in a group and tie them off at one end using a piece of the thinner strip.
- Braid the 3 large strips in a simple bit tight braid.
- Tie off the opposite end using the second 1-inch-wide strip of towel.
- Give it to your dog!
If you live in a hot climate or have a dog that is prone to overheating, you can wet the towel rope dog toy first and place it in the freezer overnight for a nice cool, hydrating dog toy. This will get your house wet but will help to keep your pooch cool.
Tennis Ball Tug Dog Toy
A twist on the standard tennis ball, if you’ve got an old T-shirt lying around the house that you don’t mind ruining forever, then this DIY dog toy is a great way to refresh an old ball and make it something new and interesting for your dog with a ball tug design.
- An old shirt
- A tennis ball (or a balled-up sock)
- Take the old shirt and cut out 2 strips across the middle (left to right) of around 5-6 inches in width.
- Cut an additional thinner strip across the middle about 2 inches in width.
- Once the strips have been put they will look like large tubes of fabric, cut the tube so that they turn into long strips: 2x 5 to 6-inches wide, 1x 2-inches wide.
- Lay the two larger strips out in an X shape (one overlaying the other) and place the tennis ball into the center.
- Wrap the tennis ball in the material by gathering up the surrounding fabric from the two large strips.
- Tie the gathered fabrics tightly where it meets the tennis ball using the thinner strip of fabric.
- Cut one of the large strips into three thinner strips of even width (roughly 2 inches), and then braid the three thinner strips together and tie them off at the end.
- Repeat step 7 for the remaining 3 large strips.
- Give the new dog toy to your pooch.
The Weighted end of this dog toy (thanks to the tennis ball) makes it great for using to play catch as you can swing it first for momentum and throw it with much less effort.
Take a look at our review of Dog Toy Boxes for more info.
Plastic Bottle Dog Toy
This is a twist on the tennis ball dog toy to save your pup from boredom, which uses a plastic bottle instead of a tennis ball. DIY toys are loved because of their utilization of common materials whilst avoiding making unnecessary waste. We all know plastic is one of the world’s biggest threats, so before throwing your water bottle in the bin, think about getting a little bit more use out of it with this DIY water bottle toy.
- An old plastic bottle
- A yard of old bed sheet
- From the edge of the sheet cut out four strips that are about 1-inch wide, these will be used as ties.
- Wrap the remaining fabric tightly around the water bottle, with the excess material hanging from the bottle cap end. Imagine you are wrapping the bottle as you would a hoagie.
- Use three of your thin strips of fabrics to secure the wrapping fabrics to bottle, be sure to tight the thin strips very tightly to ensure a snug fit.
- Use the fourth strip of fabric to tie off the material just after the bottle cap with a large knot. (The bottle cap itself can be a choking hazard, so be sure to tie the toy tightly at this point)
- Cut the remaining fabric hanging from the end of the bottle into roughly 2-ich wide strips, and braid the fabric using 3 strips at a time.
You could put a small amount of uncooking rice into the bottle beforehand to create a rattle-effect for a more interactive dog toy experience. Uncooked rice is not toxic for dogs, but is undigestable (like sweetcorn for humans), so be sure to only use half a teaspoon or so. You could also use PVC pipe instead of a bottle for extra durability.
Denim Dog Toy
One of the most simple DIY tug toy designs on our list to please your canine friend, all you need is an old pair of jeans you don’t use anymore (or even a pair from the thrift store, they don’t need to be fancy). Denim is made to hard-wearing, so this is a great material to use for a tug toy for mouthy pups!
- An old pair of jeans
- Take an old pair of jeans and cut off the legs as close to the top as possible (ideally at an angle to get the maximum amount of material).
- Lay the fabric out with one leg crossed over the other in a + formation.
- The material will be knotted in a weave formation;
- Cross the piece from left to right.
- Cross the piece from the right to the left.
- Bring the piece from the top to the bottom, laying it over the first piece of fabric that you folded and tucking it under the second.
- Bring the piece from the bottom up, laying it over the second piece of fabric that you folded and tucking it under the second.
- Pull all 4 pieces tightly to get a square-shaped knot.
- repeat for a bigger knot if you have enough fabric.
- You will be left with a large central knot in the denim and 4 pieces of loose fabric sticking out of the sides for your dog to chew.
- Give the new denim chew toy to your dog.
If you don’t like the excess fabric looking the way it does when you are done, you can also cut this fabric into threes and braid it to form several ropes instead for a tidier finish.
Sock and Water Bottle Dog Toy
Another one of our incredible simple DIY dog toys you can make, provided you have a sock you are willing to part with. Dogs are easily pleased, for the most part, when it comes to new entertainment, and this is a fantastic way to show you how not to overthink or over-engineer your DIY dog toy designs.
- 1x large sock
- A plastic bottle
- Take an empty water bottle, with the cap either on or off, whichever is your preference.
- Grab a sock that will fit the bottle inside (fleecy socks work quite well for this).
- Push the bottle into the sock as far down as it will go.
- Tie the sock off at the cap-end.
- Give the new boredom-buster to your pup.
If you choose to leave the cap off the water bottle, it will make a lot more of the crinkly noise as your dog chews on it, a great additional sensory application for an otherwise super simple DIY dog toy. The use of PVC pipe in replacement of the water bottle can also help with durability.
Soft Heart Plushie Dog Toy
This is the type of toy you would not want to give to a destructive dog but is best suited for dogs that like to have a soft toy to squeeze in their mouth or use as a pillow. It is a design that does require a bit of skill with either a sewing machine or a needle and thread, if you are not particularly adept at either of these things then we’d recommend scrolling to our next DIY toy.
- Fleece fabric/denim/T-shirt
- Extra leftover fabric (for stuffing)
- A pen
- Cut out 2 identically sized large hearts from the fabric you are using.
- Keep all excess fabric to one side to stuff the toy (socks can also be added to stuff if needed).
- Lay the two pieces of fabric on top of one another, lined up perfectly.
- Sew around the edge, leaving around 2-3 inches of space before the end.
- Using the space you left, turn the fabric the correct way out through the hole.
- Feed the excess fabric that you have to one side into the heart through the hole you left until it is stuffed to a point that you are happy with.
- Sew up the hole either by hand or using a machine.
- Give your new DIY toy to your pooch.
If you manage to get hold of a squeaker (perhaps from an old toy), you can put it into this toy as you stuff it to turn it into a squeaky DIY dog toy instead of just a plushie dog toy.
Tennis Ball Treat Dog Toy
Who doesn’t love an easy design? This is another that you can throw together in a matter of minutes, which can keep your pup entertained for hours, depending on just how clever or determined they are. Inspired by KONG treat dispenser toys, this is a fun and delicious new game for your dog.
- A tennis ball/several tennis balls
- Dog Treats
- Using a sharp knife, or scissors, carefully cut a tennis ball roughly 1/3 of the way through.
- Place treats inside the ball by squeezing the ball to open the hole.
- Give your dog their new interactive dog treat toy.
You can give your dog a choice between longer and shorter treats. If you choose longer dog treats to put into the ball they are less likely to fall out easily when your dog squeezes it, presenting them with more of a challenge.
Cereal Box Destruction Treat DIY Dog Toy
Now for a toy that is completely designed to be utterly destroyed! Of the many DIY dog toys and games we have listed, this particular toy is made using easily damaged material that dogs are known to enjoy ripping up – cardboard. Many dogs become destructive out of boredom, but providing them with an outlet for that destructive behavior CAN help protect your furniture from the brunt of it.
- An empty cereal box
- Dog Treats / dry dog food
- Place a handful of treats or dry dog food inside an empty cereal box.
- Using minimal tape, tape the top of the box closed to stop the treats from falling out.
- Give the taped box to your dog to rip their way inside to reach the treats.
If you’re looking for extras ideas on how to extend the life of this game, you could use a small amount of peanut butter to get some treats to stick to the inside of the box so that they have to forage more for their reward.
Frozen Knot Sock DIY Dog Toy
When looking after a dog, especially a fluffy dog breed or any dog breed that struggles to regulate its temperature, it is extremely helpful to know DIY ways of keeping them cool. Families located in the hotter states would greatly benefit from learning cooling techniques due to their warmer weather conditions.
- A sock
- Space in the freezer
- Take a sock and knot it 2-3 times across the middle (you could also use a second sock and follow the Denim DIY Dog Toy design).
- Soak the toy in water.
- Place the wet sock in the freezer and leave for 8+ hours until fully frozen.
- Given the freshly frozen toy to your dog on a hot day as a way to cool down.
If you don’t have an old sock to hand in order to create a cooling toy, you can freeze a banana to cool your dog down as well, however, this will cause more of a mess and will no stay cold for as long. You should take care to avoid giving dogs ice as it can crack their teeth.
Muffin Tin Tennis Ball Puzzle Game
This is more of a game than a toy but has proven to be extremely entertaining for dogs all over the world owing to its simple, yet puzzling nature. It is a great DIY way to exercise your dog’s mind.
- An empty muffin tin
- A pack of tennis balls (or equivalently sized balls)
- Lay a large empty muffin baking tin on the ground where your dog can reach it.
- Place a tennis ball in each of the muffin holes in the tray.
- Let your dog spill, nose bump, paw, and scratch at the balls as they figure out ways of moving the balls without their teeth.
In hot weather, you could place water into the muffin trays before placing the balls in to give your dog a hydrating and cooling game to play.
T-Shirt Rope Knot DIY Dog Toy
The thing with rope toys is that they are immensely popular with mouthy dogs, but also love to shed all over the house. By creating a rope toy from fabric like a t-shirt or old towels, you are less likely to find shredded rope string covering your living room floor; dogs don’t care about what they’re chewing with a rope toy, just that they are allowed to chew it.
- Several old T-shirts
- Cut up the t-shirts you have set aside into 12 strips roughly 2 inches in width and around 1-2 yards long (depending on how long you want the final result to be and the length of the shirt in question).
- Divide the string into three groups of four, this will make three rope toys in total.
- Tie one of the groups of string together and being braiding them with the Scoubidou method.
- Once you have finished braiding, tie off the end of the toy tightly.
If you have a mixture of fabrics available, e.g. denim, cotton, fleece, flannel, you could mix the different fabrics together to provide a nice mix of textures in your DIY tug toy for your dog to experience. This would be particularly interesting for a teething puppy that is still exploring its home.
PVC Pipe Dog Treat Puzzle Toy
When it comes to creating DIY dog toys, dog preferences can vary greatly. If you have a playful dog it may appreciate a tug toy, whereas an intelligent dog would enjoy a puzzle toy. This is the only one on our DIY dog toy list that requires power tools, but the design is so clever that we couldn’t resist!
- PVC pipe
- PVC pipe ends
- A drill
- Cut the PVC pipe down to the desired size.
- Using a large drill bit, brill holes into the pipe of varying sizes large enough to fit a treat or piece of kibble through.
- Clear out any pipe shavings from inside the pipe and pour in a handful of small treats or kibble biscuits.
- Securely plug the ends of the pipe with the pipe caps.
- Give the puzzle to your dog to figure out how to shake loose the treats.
This toy can come in all shapes and sizes! If you have a large dog breed, you could purchase a bigger PVC pipe for them to play with to match their size. And if you purchase corner pieces to go with the pipe you can shape it into a more interesting puzzle to switch things up (such as making a “U” or “T” shaped treat toy).
DIY dog toys are a cost-effective, fun way of extending your dog’s toy collection and spoiling your pooch without spending an inordinate amount of money at the pet store! Not only that, but it helps you to pick up a few thrifty tricks and a new way of thinking that may help you to save money in the future.