DIY Dog Toys for Mental Stimulation

Snuffle mats provide enrichment

As pet owners, we know a happy and mentally engaged pup is a joy to be around. We’ll look at creative and cost-effective ways to provide your furry friend with hours of entertainment through do-it-yourself dog toys. Discover how you can turn everyday items into stimulating playthings that not only keep your dog physically active but also engage their sharp minds. Get ready to embark on a journey of crafting fun and mentally enriching toys that will make playtime a true paradise for your canine companion!

Article by Clara from We Want Dogs

Dogs are intelligent animals that have evolved from wolves, who are natural hunters and explorers. They have a strong instinct to investigate, learn, and adapt to their environment. They also have a high level of social intelligence, which enables them to communicate and cooperate with other dogs and humans.

However, many dogs today live in a domesticated setting, where they have limited opportunities to exercise their natural instincts and abilities. They may spend most of their time indoors, with little variety or challenge in their daily routine. They may also lack adequate social interaction with other dogs or people.

Doggy boredom, frustration, and stress can develop, which can manifest in various behavioural problems, such as:

  • Excessive barking, whining, or howling
  • Destructive chewing, digging, or scratching
  • Aggression, anxiety, or fearfulness
  • Hyperactivity, restlessness, or pacing
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviours, such as licking, spinning, or chasing shadows
  • Depression, lethargy, or loss of interest

Mental stimulation can help prevent or reduce these issues by providing your dog with positive outlets for their energy, curiosity, and creativity. It can also enhance your dog’s cognitive functions, such as:

  • Attention span and focus
  • Memory and recall
  • Learning and problem-solving
  • Logic and reasoning
  • Self-control and impulse regulation
  • Confidence and self-esteem

Mental stimulation can also improve your dog’s physical health by:

  • Reducing stress and cortisol levels
  • Boosting immune system and resistance to diseases
  • Increasing blood flow and oxygen to your dog’s brain
  • Promoting healthy weight and metabolism
  • Preventing or delaying cognitive decline (pet dementia) in senior dogs

Finally, mental stimulation can also improve your dog’s emotional and social well-being by:

  • Increasing happiness and joy
  • Strengthening bond and trust with you, especially during interactive activities like bathing with the best portable dog washer.
  • Enhancing communication and cooperation skills
  • Developing social and emotional intelligence
  • Reducing loneliness and isolation

As you can see, mental stimulation is essential for your dog’s overall health and happiness. It can make your dog more balanced, calm, and content, as well as more fun, playful, and engaging.

How to Make DIY Dog Toys with Household Items

make your own Christmas snuffle mat. This mat is from QD
Fun snuffle mat

Making your own DIY dog toys can be a great way to provide mental stimulation for your dog, as well as to save money and reduce waste. You can use common household items that you may otherwise throw away, such as old clothes, bottles, socks, or cardboard. An alternative is to recycle items that you no longer need, such as tennis balls, ropes, or plastic containers.

Here are some examples of DIY dog toys that you can make with household items, along with the instructions and materials needed.

T-Shirt Tug Toy

A tug toy is a classic toy that most dogs love to play with. It can provide physical exercise, mental challenge, and social interaction for your dog. It can also help your dog release their natural instinct to bite and pull, as well as to learn self-control and manners.

To make a t-shirt tug toy, you will need:

  • An old t-shirt
  • A pair of scissors

Here are the steps to make a t-shirt tug toy:

  • Cut the t-shirt into three long strips of equal width
  • Tie a knot at one end of the strips and braid them together tightly
  • Tie another knot at the other end of the braid and trim any excess fabric
  • Your t-shirt tug toy is ready to play with!

You can also use other fabrics, such as jeans, towels, or fleece, to make a tug toy. You can also add more strips or braids to make a thicker or longer tug toy.

Bottle Crunch Toy

A bottle crunch toy is a simple toy that can stimulate your dog’s senses of sight, sound, and touch. It can provide a satisfying crunch sound and texture for your dog to chew on. It can also help your dog relieve their boredom and anxiety.

To make a bottle crunch toy, you will need:

  • An empty (thin) plastic bottle
  • A sock or a piece of fabric
  • A needle and thread. Alternatively, a glue gun

Here are the steps to make a bottle crunch toy:

  • Discard the cap. Remove the label from the bottle. Rinse well – soak in white vinegar, hot water and washing up liquid for 24 hours which can helping remove a sticky label
  • Put the bottle inside the sock or wrap it with the fabric
  • Sew or glue the ends of the sock or fabric to secure the bottle inside
  • Your bottle crunch toy is ready to play with!

You can also use different sizes and shapes of bottles to make different crunch toys. You can add some treats or kibble inside the bottle to make it more enticing for your dog.

Cardboard Puzzle Toy

A cardboard puzzle toy is a clever toy that can challenge your dog’s brain and reward them with treats. It can help your dog improve their problem-solving and logic skills, as well as their patience and persistence.

To make a cardboard puzzle toy, you will need:

  • A cardboard box – cat food or Gousto box is ideal
  • A few cardboard toilet roll tubes
  • Some treats or kibble
  • A knife or scissors

Here are the steps to make a cardboard puzzle toy:

  • Cut a few holes on the top and sides of the box, large enough for the cardboard tubes to fit through
  • Insert the cardboard tubes through the holes, leaving some space inside the box
  • Fill the cardboard tubes with treats or kibble and close the box
  • Your cardboard puzzle toy is ready to play with!

You can also use different sizes and shapes of boxes and tubes to make different puzzle toys. You can also vary the number and placement of the holes and tubes to make the puzzle more or less difficult for your dog.

The Best DIY Dog Toys for Different Breeds and Sizes

When choosing or making DIY dog toys for your dog, you need to consider their breed and size, as well as their personality and preferences. Different breeds and sizes of dogs may have varying needs and abilities when it playing with toys.

For example, small dogs may prefer smaller and softer toys because they are easy to carry and chew, while large dogs may prefer bigger and tougher toys that can withstand their powerful jaws and teeth. Similarly, active and energetic dogs may enjoy toys that involve movement and exercise, while calm and lazy dogs may enjoy toys that involve relaxation and comfort.

Here are some general tips and recommendations for choosing or making the best DIY dog toys for different breeds and sizes of dogs.

Small Dogs

Small dogs, such as Chihuahuas, Poodles, or Shih Tzus, typically weigh less than 11 kilograms and stand less than 16 inches at the shoulder. They are often adorable, affectionate, and loyal, but they can also be feisty, stubborn, and vocal.

Small dogs may enjoy DIY dog toys that are:

  • Small and lightweight, so they can easily pick up and carry them around
  • Soft and plush, so they can cuddle and snuggle with them
  • Squeaky or crinkly, so they can make noise and attract attention
  • Interactive or treat-dispensing, so they can keep their minds busy and stimulated

Some examples of DIY dog toys for small dogs are:

  • A sock stuffed with a tennis ball and a squeaker
  • A plastic bottle wrapped with a fleece blanket and a crinkle paper
  • A cardboard box with holes and treats inside

Medium Dogs

Pet Remedy calms a border collie

Medium dogs, such as Beagles, Corgis, or Spaniels, typically weigh between 11 and 22 kilograms and stand between 16 and 22 inches at the shoulder. They are often friendly, playful, and intelligent, but they can also be energetic, curious, and mischievous.

Medium dogs may enjoy DIY dog toys that are:

  • Medium and durable, so they can withstand their moderate chewing and tearing
  • Rope or tug, so they can exercise their muscles and teeth
  • Ball or fetch, so they can run and chase
  • Puzzle or brain, so they can challenge their skills and logic

Some examples of DIY dog toys for medium dogs are:

  • A braided rope made from old t-shirts or towels
  • A tennis ball inside a sock or a fabric

Large Dogs

Large dogs, such as Labradors, German Shepherds, or Golden Retrievers, typically weigh between 22 and 45 kilograms and stand between 22 and 28 inches at the shoulder. They are often loyal, friendly, and energetic, but they can also be strong, protective, and adventurous.

Large dogs may enjoy DIY dog toys that are:

  • Large and tough, so they can handle their powerful chewing and biting
  • Fluffy or furry, so they can satisfy their hunting and prey instincts
  • Frisbee or flying, so they can jump and catch
  • Hide and seek or scavenger hunt, so they can use their nose and senses

Some examples of DIY dog toys for large dogs are:

  • A denim toy made from old jeans and a plastic bottle
  • A fleece toy made from old sweaters and a stuffed animal
  • A plastic lid with holes and treats attached to a rope
  • A cardboard box with treats hidden inside and under shredded paper

Giant Dogs

Rescue dogs enrichment north yorkshire moors
Teddy – Moiritic Shepherd

Giant dogs, such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, or Saint Bernards, typically weigh more than 45 kilograms and stand more than 28 inches at the shoulder. They are often gentle, calm, and affectionate, but they can also be clumsy, drooly, and stubborn.

Giant dogs may enjoy DIY dog toys that are:

  • Giant and sturdy, so they can match their huge size and weight
  • Soft and cushiony, so they can rest and relax
  • Chewy or edible, so they can satisfy their appetite and dental health
  • Interactive or social, so they can bond and communicate with you

Some examples of DIY dog toys for giant dogs are:

  • A pillow toy made from old pillows and a duvet cover
  • A tire toy made from an old tire and a rope
  • A frozen treat toy made from a plastic container and a broth

Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Dog Engaged and Happy

Making your own DIY dog toys is fun and can be a rewarding activity for you and your dog. However, you also need to follow some tips and tricks to keep your dog engaged and happy with their toys.

Here are some of them:

  • Rotate your dog’s toys regularly so they don’t get bored or lose interest in them
  • Supervise your dog when they play with their toys, especially if they are new or have potential choking hazards
  • Praise and reward your dog when they play with their toys so they associate them with positive emotions and experiences
  • Play with your dog using their toys so they enjoy your company and attention
  • Challenge your dog with different levels of difficulty and complexity so they keep learning and improving
  • Repair or replace your dog’s toys when they get damaged or worn out so they stay safe and functional

How to Clean and Store Your DIY Dog Toys

Cleaning and storing your DIY dog toys is also important to maintain their hygiene and quality.

Here are some steps to clean and store your DIY dog toys:

  • Wash your dog’s toys regularly, using mild soap and water or a washing machine, depending on the material and durability of the toys
  • Dry your dog’s toys thoroughly, using a dryer or air-drying, depending on the material and durability of the toys
  • Store your dog’s toys in a clean and dry place, such as a basket, a bin, or a closet, away from direct sunlight, moisture, or dust
  • Discard your dog’s toys when they are beyond repair or pose a health risk, such as mould, bacteria, or sharp edges

Well, That’s a Wrap

In conclusion, transforming playtime into a paradise of DIY dog toys is not just a crafty endeavour but a rewarding one for both you and your furry friend. 

By incorporating mental stimulation into their play routines, you’re not only keeping them physically active but also enhancing their cognitive well-being. 

From simple household items to creative crafting, the possibilities are endless.

Your bond will strengthen, and your dog will thank you for the love, engagement, and tail-wagging fun you’ve brought into their life.


This article has been Ai-generated

Clara is a guest writer from We Want Dogs UK.


The reason I write and make YouTube videos is to help you and your pets from my experiences, and to take you through a journey of Green Living from worm composting and bokashi.

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