Chihuahua playing with a recycled tennis ball

How To Make DIY Homemade & Recycled Dog Toys

Written By Eloisa Thomas | Canine Coach, Double M.A in Anthropology.
Edited & Fact Checked By Renae Soppe | B.A Journalism & Science. 
Last Updated: 18th January 2024

Is your dog tearing through their toys in no time? Then these DIY dog toys might save your budget.

Using common items you already have at home, these simple toys will give your pup hours of entertainment, at a fraction of the cost!

Here are our favourite make-it-yourself dog toys.

Two dogs playing with a DIY rope toy

How To Make DIY Dog Toys Fun

We’ve all been there: a full afternoon spent making that cute Pinterest dog toy... only for our pup to have zero interest in it. While we can’t promise your creation will be the best dog toy ever, there are a few things you can do to make them more appealing to your dog:

  • Include sound. Things that crinkle or squeak are very attractive for dogs. Check out our first suggestion for a homemade version!
  • Add ‘tentacles’ or braids. These features make the whole toy visually appealing to your pup and add some extra chewing surface. Just make sure the braids are strong to hold up to your dog’s shenanigans.
  • Use something your dog loves. This one will depend on your individual dog. Some pups enjoy the visual stimulation, or the sound. Others are only motivated by food. If that’s your case, it’s best to try the stuffed toys first. We’ve got some good ideas to keep your dog entertained trying to pry treats out of toys.
  • Make games harder. Some dogs are too smart for simple toys and get bored easily. In those cases, try to offer interactive dog toys. These are harder to solve for your dog, and will pose more of a challenge. While most of these are called puzzle toys because your dog needs to solve a problem to get their reward, others just involve adding edible treats to keep your dog focused.

    Related: How Do You Recycle Dry Dog Food Bags in Australia?

DIY Dog Toys: A Word Of Caution

Homemade dog toys can be a lot of fun, but they also have some dangers. In general, store-bought dog toys are made of non-toxic, sturdy materials designed to handle a dog’s mouth. On the flip side, some common items we have at home can have dangerous dyes, or have small parts that your dog could choke on. Here are a few general guidelines:

  • Make sure you use non-toxic, solid materials. While this isn’t always possible, try to follow common sense. If you can easily tear something up with your hands, don’t use it to make a DIY dog toy.
  • Avoid classic tennis balls. According to different experts, the fuzzy texture in these tends to be too abrasive on your dog’s teeth, causing sensitivity and dental troubles. Tennis balls also have more parts per million of lead than what’s allowed on children’s toys. Not good!
  • Never leave your dog unsupervised with a DIY toy. While this is advisable even for regular toys, it’s especially important for recycled dog toys. Most DIY dog toys are less sturdy, which can pose a choking risk if your dog breaks off smaller pieces. Stay in the same room whenever you give your dog the DIY toy, and keep an eye on them. As soon as you see the toy ripping or breaking, take it from your pup.

10 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make At Home

Now for the fun part! Here are some of our favourite DIY dog toys. Read them all, you’ll probably find the right choice for your pup!

1. Homemade Crinkly Dog Toy

Homemade Crinkly Dog Toy

Photo by Ammo the Dachshund

This one is really as easy as it sounds. Just take an old t-shirt and wrap it around an empty water bottle. Carefully rip out one side of the t-shirt to secure the whole thing, and then take out the excess fabric to make braids. The end result will look somewhat similar to a colourful octopus. Check out the full instructions here

2. Surprise Box

Perfect for pups that love to destroy stuff, this one is a super easy DIY that will offer about an hour of fun. The principle is simple: take a cereal box and put some treats your dog will love inside. We recommend sticking with dry treats, because anything wet will weaken the box and your dog might have a harder time taking it out. Then, give it to your dog. In theory, your pup will destroy the box to get to the food inside.

3. Treat Puzzle Made From PVC Pipe.

Treat Puzzle Made From PVC Pipe

Photo via New Leaf Nickie

This one is a great option to keep a smart pup entertained. The mechanics are similar to a Kong, but slightly more difficult. You’ll be poking holes into short PVC tubes, using plugs or connectors to close the sides.  Then you can stuff these with dry treats, small enough to pass through the holes you made. In general, this is great if your dog loves kibble, since it’s the easiest stuffing to use. You can get the full instructions here.

4. Frozen Sock.

Frozen Sock

This one might sound a bit weird, but bear with us. Teething puppies love to scratch their gums, and this period last almost a year, especially among smaller breeds. While this happens, your puppy will probably tear apart your home, chew on everything in sight and destroy their stuff. Frozen socks can be a satisfying, safe way for them to scratch their gums without destroying your home.

Here's what you should do: first, tie a knot with one sock. If you have a large pup, maybe tie together several socks to make a bigger knot. Then, soak the whole thing in water. Once the whole sock is saturated, simply put it in the freezer. When the sock is thoroughly frozen, you can offer it to your puppy.

Keep an eye on your dog and once the sock has completely thawed, just soak it and freeze it again.

5. Chase & Fetch Toy.

Chase & Fetch Toy

This is basically a giant version of a cat toy, and it’s great for those lazy days where your dog needs some exercise but you don’t want to move. Simply put, it’s a long stick with a dog toy tied at the end. The best thing about it is that while playing, you’ll be teaching your dog impulse control and have them panting in no time.

Some trainers call this a flirt pole, because the point is riling up your dog, and teaching them to release on command. The parts are easy: one-metre-long PVC pipe, a long rope, and an attractive dog toy. Then tie the toy, thread the rope through the pipe and then tie it either to the pipe or over itself. The point is to keep the rope from falling through the pipe again.

To play with this, you should make your dog sit or lay calmly before releasing the toy. Then, you fling it around so your dog wants to grab the toy. Let them run around, and eventually catch the toy. Then tell them to release. You’ll repeat the process a few times until your dog is tired. Here’s the full rundown, with an in-depth explanation of the training side of the exercise.

6. Knotted Ball

Knotted Ball

A simple toy that’s great for pups of all ages, and you can make it as sturdy as you need it to be. It’s really as simple as it sounds: just tie several ropes together until the main knot is big enough for your pup’s mouth. In general, you’ll want to choose a sturdy rope that won’t fall apart the second your dog starts chewing.

For an in-depth tutorial explaining how to make an especially sturdy knot, visit this site.

7. Denim knot

Got old tattered jeans? Here’s a simple way to upcycle them. It’s a very similar idea to all other rope-type dog toys, but sturdier. Jeans tend to be strong, so you can expect these to hold up slightly longer than the typical ripe knot toys.

You can make these jean knots by simply tying two strings together and over each other. On the other hand, you can also make them sturdier by using rope and jeans at the same time, or even tie several straps together.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to guide you.

Denim knot

8. Complex Treat Puzzle

Complex Treat Puzzle

This is an amazing option for smart, active breeds like border collies or shepherds. These dogs need consistent mental stimulation, and many times a few runs around the block won’t be enough. Enter this puzzle! This one is a more complex version of a stuffed toy, and your dog will have to work slightly harder to get their treats.

To build this puzzle:
1. Take a large plastic jar with a lid, and make holes large enough for treats to fall out.
2. Put 3 or 4 toilet paper rolls in and finally the treats. You can use kibble, chopped up sausage, chunky dog treats or anything else big enough to go through your little holes.

The point of the game is that your dog will have to roll the whole plastic jar around until the treats start falling out. This will tire and entertain them at the same time! You can check the full how-to here .

9. Dog Toy Storage

Dog Toy Storage

This is really more of a training exercise than an actual toy. Simply put, it’s having a designated box to keep your dog’s toys in. Then, you have to train your dog to learn to take out and put back their toys on cue. It will be a fun activity for them, and you’ll have a place to store all your pup’s stuff. It’s a win-win!

10. Wrapped Bouncy Ball

Wrapped Bouncy Ball

Photo via Ammo the Dachshund

Got an old ball? Then you can spice it up for your pup! This is a great option if your dog tends to destroy balls in no time, and you can even upcycle "damaged" balls and use them for a little more time. The mechanics are simple: take the ball, and wrap a sturdy shirt or rag around it. take some ribbon and use it to secure the ball in place. Then just cut and braid the remaining fabric. Here are the complete instructions.

My Final Thoughts

Making homemade dog toys isn’t as difficult as it might seem, and you can even reuse some old t-shirts lying around! Keep in mind DIY toys tend to be less sturdy than regular toys, so if your dog is a heavy chewer, you might want to look into ready-made indestructible toys, or take a look at our ultimate list of the chew dog toys

In any case, DIY toys are a good option to give some variety, even if they’ll only last for one or two days. Have you ever made your own dog toys before? Let us know in the comments below!

Eloisa Thomas

Eloisa Thomas is Gentle Dog Trainers Canine Coach & Anthropologist.

With a double master's degree in Anthropology and awarded a Chancellor's International Scholarship to pursue a PhD in History at the University of Warwick (UK), she's well equipped to write well written and factual canine information that will actually help people understand their dogs better.

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