10 DIY Dog Toys You Can Make for Pennies

by Paul Michael on 14 March 2011 46 comments

Dogs. These days, it seems like man’s best friend is an even better friend to the retail outlets. If you can think of a dog accessory or toy, it’s out there, and often at a whopping price tag. I sometimes scratch my head in the aisles of Pet Smart and PetCo, thinking “Really, $8 for a tennis ball and a white cord? Wow, you really can get money for old rope!” (See also: Homemade Dog Food: Recipe and Cost)

So I looked around for ideas that I could make at home quickly, easily, and without spending more than a couple of bucks on any one toy. Ideally I was looking for toys I could make without having to buy anything. And as my big pooch doesn't know the difference between brand new and homemade, all I really had to do was make sure she liked playing with them.

It's worth noting that although socks and jeans are mentioned in here, it's best not to use ones that have been worn already. You don't want to associate your scent with something the dog is allowed to chew, or you could be in for a world of ravaged clothing and shoes. Socks can be picked up very cheap, as can jeans, from your local Goodwill or second-hand store. If you must use an old sock or piece of old clothing, try soaking it in something that will eliminate any smells.

Anyway, here are the winners, in no particular order.

1. The Sock ‘n’ Ball

You will need:

  • 1 sturdy sock
  • 1 old tennis ball

Place the ball inside the sock to the toe-end, and then tie a knot just above the ball to seal it inside. Probably the cheapest, easiest, and handiest DIY pet toy you can make.

2. The Snack Sock

You will need:

  • 2 sturdy socks
  • Small dog treats

Place the snacks inside one sock and then ball it up (the usual way you do when you put socks in a drawer). Then, put it inside another sock and tie a knot in the sock to seal it inside. Your pup will smell the snacks inside and love the challenge of getting them out.

Dog with toy

3. The Rope Ball

You will need:

  • A piece of old rope
  • 1 tennis ball

Drill or cut a hole in each side of the ball, big enough for your piece of rope to squeeze through. Put the rope through it until the ball is central, and tie knots either side of the ball to keep it in place. Tie knots at the ends of the rope for grip. You now have a killer tug-of-war toy that is also good for fetch and chewing.

4. Kitchen-Towel Braids

You will need:

  • 1 old kitchen towel

Take your old, gnarly kitchen towels and put them to good use. Cut two slits along the length of a towel, equidistant from each other, and stop cutting about an inch from the top. Then braid the towel as you would hair. Knot the loose ends and you have a tough dog rope toy that’s way cheaper than the ones in the stores.

For a tougher toy, or for bigger dogs, braid three complete towels together and tie the ends or sew them up. NOTE: Old jeans can be used to make an even hardier braid.

5. The Empty Cuddly Toy

You will need:

  • 1 old cuddly toy (bit obvious?)

Don’t buy one of those expensive dog toys that look like a Build-a-Bear before it got stuffed. Just take an old stuffed toy (one that your kid doesn’t want any more, or buy one for pennies at Goodwill) and remove all the stuffing. Then sew it back up. My dog loves her unstuffed raccoon. She’s had it for years.

6. One Big Knot

You will need:

  • 1 long strip of fabric

Tie a knot in the center of the fabric. Then a knot around that one. And repeat the process until you have one giant knot. Cut off the excess from the ends, and roll it for your dog for hours of chewing madness.

Option: When you’re done, soak the knot in water (or beef stock if you’re feeling generous) and put it in the freezer. If your dog’s like mine, chewing at the ice will make it extra fun.

7. Milk-Bottle Madness

You will need:

Remove the plastic cap and throw it away. Put a dozen or so treats inside and then give it to the dog. Your pooch will bite and scratch and throw around that bottle until the last treat has fallen out, which could take hours.

8. Garden Hose Hoopla

You will need:

  • 1 piece of old garden hose
  • 1 small stick or branch

This one is easy-peasy. Take a section of garden hose and put a 3-inch long piece of branch in one end. It must fit very snugly. Curve the hose around and put the open end over the exposed piece of branch. You now have a great throwing hoop.

Other garden hose options include tying a sheet of nylon around the hoop to create a flying disc, and simply knotting a piece of hose. The video below shows you more.

 9. Crackling Sock

 You will need:

  • 1 empty plastic bottle, small
  • 1 sock

Another very simple but effective toy. First, take the cap off of your plastic bottle and throw it away (it's a choking hazard) Now squeeze all of the air out. Put this inside of an old sock and tie a knot in the end of the sock to keep it in place. The sound of the crackling plastic, and the texture, will be something your pup will go nuts for.

10. Cardboard Tubular

You will need:

  • 1 cardboard tube (the center of a roll of kitchen towel)
  • Dog treats
  • Duct tape

Flatten one end of the cardboard roll and seal it up with duct tape. Pour some of your dog's favorite treats inside. Flatten the other end and seal it up. Now wrap the whole thing in duct tape for strength. Your dog will love the rattling sound and try for ages to get the treats out.

If you don't want to use treats, or have none available, simply flatten the tube and wrap it all in duct tape. This makes a good alternative to those rawhide chews.

Those are the top ten toys of my pet pooch Zoe. Do you have any great ideas for cheap dog toys? Let us know.

Additional photo credit: Cogdog
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Guest's picture
100indecisions

I've used #6, "One Big Knot," for a few years now after buying a fleece one that had been marked down after Christmas. Fleece is always readily available in the remnant bin at the fabric store, and even when it's not marked down it's typically less than $5/yrd, which can make at least 10 toys.

My dog destroys squeak toys in record time (5 minutes is average), but I've discovered if I drop a squeaker refill (http://www.amazon.com/KONG-Squeaker-Refill-Small-Pack/dp/B000E91NUS) or cheap squeaky toy inside and keep wrapping/knotting it in fleece, I can usually stretch the life of the toy to at least a week.

Guest's picture
Lichilippr

My parents dog, who is a 4 y/o Golden Retriever, destroys any type of store bought toy given to him. He loves to chew on sticks (or, where I'm now living, old palm wood/bark) so I've found it's generally cheaper to let him chew on those and he's had no ill effects from them. A side benefit is he uses them to take out frustration and boredom.

Re: SQUEAKER. If your dog pulls the squeaker out of a toy, you can save it and play with it by squeaking it (without letting the dog take it) or pretending to throw it, etc. It's good for HOURS of fun.

I've also found that cat toys work when used with him, too. There's a remote control mouse I got from the supermarket that Sammy (my parents golden) just loves. He reacted just like a cat would, pouncing on it. A "spotlight" pen also works, as well as what I refer to as the "cookie game." First, I break the biscuits into pieces, map out where I plan to put the pieces, put Sammy in a room saying "cookie game!" then "hide" the biscuits. He LOVES it. He comes out of the room looking and sniffing. Note: Best way to do this game is to place the treats on top of things and not really hidden. At least at first. Walk around with him/her in case he/she needs help finding a treat, but let them find it. If Sammy has trouble, I usually sit near it and then use verbal help.

Guest's picture
Guest

Tennis balls are not recommended for dogs

Guest's picture
Trixielikafox

It's funny that you would say that about tennis balls because they are in the top ten of toys sold in pet stores. One of the best ways to play fetch (especially if you can't throw a frisbee) and give your pup needed exercise. I suppose there is a little difference in a squeaker tennis ball and one that you might use for actually playing tennis but they aren't different enough to be dangerous especially if you inspect them regularly to make sure they are still in good shape and not splitting open anywhere.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is a great article, Ive made quite a few of these before. Another thing that works well besides socks is old pant legs. Ive recycled a couple pairs of old carharts made out of their duck fabric into some incredibly durable dog toys. I just gotta find a good cotton rope wholesaler, my dog shreds rope toys instantly but she loves them so much.

This person is correct in saying that tennis balls are not recommended for dogs! Of coarse tennis balls are frequently used, but this doesnt mean they are good or recommended for dogs. The problem with them is the abrasive fuzzy felt that covers them. It rubs the enamel off the dogs teeth incredibly quick which leaves them unprotected. This is why I always try to keep some of the chuckit balls on hand like these: http://www.amazon.com/Chuckit-Medium-2-Inch-2-Pack-Colors/dp/B00280MUXA/... or the ultra balls like these http://www.amazon.com/Chuckit-Ultra-Ball-Medium-2-5-inch/dp/B000F4AVPA/r...
they are super expensive compared to regular practice tennis balls but they are easier to keep track of because of the color and they dont destroy they dogs teeth like tennis balls.

Guest's picture
Guest

This is where you have to do your research....decent companies sell dog friendly tennis balls that do not have the same materials as a normal ball (hollow) and the teeth destroying adhesive is also removed. One company off hand is Kong. Thanks for all the ideas though!

Guest's picture
Guest

yeah... i never give my dog a tennis ball because she could swallow it down(easily)

Guest's picture
Guest

Cheap tennis balls are covered with 100% polyester but good match balls are covered in genuine wool felt and shouldn't harm your dog's teeth.

The best dog toys are obtained from the International Dog Ball Collective (IDBC) which is operated by the dogs on an entirely altruistic, non-profit basis. It works thus: you buy your dog a toy or ball and it insists on taking it out on its regular walk or visit to the park. Inevitably this toy or ball will be lost while you are not looking. However, the ball has now entered the IDBC and will inevitably be found by another dog soon enough and, indeed, your dog will soon enough find a another similarly 'lost' ball. The true genius of of dogs is, of course, that none of these toys or balls are lost, they are simply being shared. Any ball or toy can be taken by any dog on the basis that once it has been used for a while it will be 'lost' somewhere for another dog to find in due course, preferably somewhere exciting like in a hedge.

It has been suggested that the dogs manage the IDBC system so efficiently that there is precisely one more ball or toy than there are dogs at any one time, thereby ensuring that no dog goes without a toy or ball. Of course, only they know if this is true... All I know is that the rubber ball on a rope we found on our walk today will be gone from us sometime in the future and another dog will find it.

Guest's picture
BettyZiesger1952

Dogs have been eating tennis balls for 75+ years . You are apart of a new generation of dog owners I like to call a helicopter dog owners. Helicopter don't let their dog's act like dogs. Did your breeder also tell you that your dog shouldn't eat bones? If a dog was in the wild s/he would gnaw on bones all the time. Do any of these dogs in the wild develop strange human diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cancer at alarming rates? No... They don't. But dogs who only eat processed manufactured dog foods robbed of living enzymes and play with mass produced toys constructed of polyester do. It's like feeding a child Kix cereal all their life. This child will have serious health problems. In my day we fed our dogs bones (cooked and uncooked), scrapes from the table and let them play with tennis balls and the never had these new-fangled now dog diseases such as diabetes. I have been letting my dogs play with tennis balls for years and they are fine and there teeth are strong as a mule's foot. What are breeders going to tell dog owners now? That if they run to long there could wear out their paws ; so we should stop letting our dogs run around. The result would be obesity. Or maybe they will tell them if play too fast their bones will shatter under pressure. Let your dog be a dog. I feel like this breeder of yours is just trying to convince you to buy mass-produced dogs toys and spend more money. This reminds me of all those fad studies in the 80s that made people paranoid and were proven to be wrong today. I love this post. These toy ideas are so useful for my 4-year old golden retrievers Bertha and Buster.

Guest's picture
Katie

It's true- orange hockey balls (the hollow ones) are a good cheap alternative.

Guest's picture
Guest

Our vet told us that all tennis balls no matter what brand, even if made specifically for dogs, is like steel wool on their teeth. The fuzzy material will tear them up no matter what.

Guest's picture
Lichilippr

BETTYZIESGER1952 - I had to laugh when I read your post. How true is that!!! I've heard that dogs shouldn't chew on sticks, but seriously - that's one of the things things they'd be chewing on out in the wild, too, like bones.

Your post reminded me of something I read online a couple of months ago about how we never wore helmets, we ate fatty things, etc, and we're still here. We were allowed to be kids (I'm not giving the right examples, but you get the idea).

Something that never ceases to amuse me is how most animals are on diets and most of the human population is obese. It's interesting when a heavy set person will look at some dog and say "[he/she] needs to go on a diet..."

Guest's picture
Guest

All of these ideas seem like a trip to the vet for a stomach x-ray and/or intestinal blockage waiting to happen. Using a sock is a mixed message, if you don't want your dog to chew your other socks. At the very least one should supervise your dog with these homemade toys.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you monitor your dog when it plays, like you should ALWAYS do, then there is no risk here. NO toy is safe for any dog to play with when alone, not even an extreme kong. I've seen dogs choke on those when left unsupervised, they're not shred-proof, just shred-resistant.

Read the intro, the author says not to use *your* sock. My GSD has no problem differentiating between a toy sock and my socks.

Guest's picture
Razztjazz

Interesting ideas. I do agree that with all toys, dogs will need supervision.
I think I would substitute garden hose with clear tubing that is found at home stores. (cheap) Garden hose often has lead in it and the clear hose used for drinking water or similar is available easily in different sizes and would be safe if a dog chewed on it. (Clear hose is usually found in the plumbing and is used for refrigerator or other water purposes)

Guest's picture
Guest

My favorite chew toy is frozen bagles...

Guest's picture
Viki

I love the plastic hose idea. I am planning on making a bunch of these toys to bring to our local animal shelter.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I can use the hose? I'm thinking put a treat inside but haven't thought of the best way to seal the ends...(help)

Also if anyone else has ideas that I can use to make toys for shelter dogs, please send them over. itsallfurthem@yahoo.com THANKS!

Guest's picture
Guest

LOVE THIS BLOG! Great timing as we were heading out to purchase new toys today. Instead we will try the Empty Cuddley Toy, Garden Hose Hoopla, Cardboard Tubular and Milk Bottle Madness to start! Yes, I do plan to supervise all play with creations. Thank you very much, P. Dog and M.

Guest's picture
Guest

These toys are not safe at all. Socks and ropes are terrible dog toys and are easily the top 2 items a veterinarian would say NOT to give to your dog.
I have seen too many socks pulled out of dog intestines and the suffering of themselves and their owners to agree with this. Think, 10 dollars for a toy or a 1,000$ for a exploratory laparotomy. Owch.

Guest's picture
Trixielikafox

I can see your point with the socks especially certain breeds such as our precious boxer but supervised play can eliminate a lot of the risk. As for ropes if made properly can provide an excellent toy especially if made from strips of fleece or like material, they are even better than the string they use with store bought ones which shred a lot after hard play.

Guest's picture
Kimberly

save the non eaten socks that the washer hasn't eaten yet and you don't have a match too and stuff them inside another unmatched sock, knot the end, and have hours of fun

Guest's picture
Guest

socks and rope are not reccomended for dog use. YES i know ropes are sold in pet stores but they are still not safe. My dog was playing SUPERVISED and still managed to swallow a SMALL peice of string from the rope (the rope stayed in tact he just managed to pull a small peice out of it) this small string literally tied his intestines in a knot and almost killed him. It was a difficult diagnosis as string and small bits of fabric do not show up in an XRAY. it was an exploratory surgery that found it and a large portion of his intestines had to be removed. You can watch your dog play all day long but swallowing something tlike that can happen in a split second and there is nothing you can do about it. Our vet told us that rope is one of the most common causes of blockage in dogs...just throwing that out there.

Guest's picture
Guest

Love these. I have been confused about the safety of toys in the stores too. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/dog_toys.html (still a bit vague) Tips to reliable information about safety of toys would be great.

Guest's picture
Guest

A word on the garden hose idea- most common hoses contain lead. That's why your parents never wanted you drinking from the hose. If you use a 100% rubber hose, you'll be fine. But that green vinyl species is not good for chewing.

Guest's picture
soulwaylass

I think there are some great money saving ideas for creating your own pet toys here, many of which have been used over the years. I agree the garden hose is not a wise choice, as they do contain lead. (Drank out of the hose my entire childhood to no avail, yet I wouldn't want my beloved canine chewing on it, potentially breaking off fragments.) And I don't agree with the duck taped cardboard tube or sock knots with treats "locked" inside, as aggressive chewers will chew through and swallow dangerous materials in an attempt to get to the trapped treats, and all dogs will simply be frustrated at not being able to get to them (which could possibly encourage destructive behavior). As for the "safety" of the rest of the toys, all I have to say is, use common sense. Virtually ALL toys (for humans or animals) are dangerous. (This is why we've adopted "safe" boring playgrounds for kids.) If you have an aggressive chewer, don't give s/he toys they will break apart or destroy, potentially swallowing obstructive pieces, and supervise or engage in as much play time as you can -- accidents will happen -- but ALWAYS use the best possible judgment.

Guest's picture
Guest

I love this post!
The snack sock worked a treat for my puppy, he is teething at the moment, so anything to encourage his mouthing else wear is welcomed! I've spent all morning making the toys you've talked about in this post and my puppy has been amused for hours! Much better than the pricey toys you can get at the pet shop I haven't spent a penny!
Thank you so much :)

Guest's picture
mstine

haha like these a lot!

Guest's picture
Guest

My family had a dairy farm for years. The best dog toys we have found are used rubber teat cup liners from the milking machines. The dogs love them and they last for a LONG time!

Guest's picture
Laura

I actually just discovered the idea of homemade toys last week when my dog got ahold off tennis ball tied in sock while I was washing/drying our pillows. I made me wonder why I spend so much on toys. I will definitely be making some of these!

Guest's picture
Guest

I get a small piece of fleece from the clearance bin at the craft store. Cut 3 long pieces about 2 inches wide, braid them all together and tie a knot at both ends. It makes one of those fleece "bones" that are like $8 at Petsmart. I can usually get 2 or 3 from one piece of cheap fleece.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just in case it wasn't suggested before with #5 Empty Cuddle toy try to find a stuffed animal with embroidered eyes and nose not the plastic ones. Dogs tend to love eating the plastic eyes and nose which can pose as a choking hazard and probably not digestible if swallowed. I either cut them off first or look for a toy with embroidered eyes rather than plastic button eyes and nose.

Guest's picture
PittyLover

They really should add all of these safety tips into the article. There are a lot of people who will read the article and go out to make these toys not realizing the hazards that some of them pose. Some people are just unaware of the dangers or don't realize that they have to be cautious about certain things. For some people the lead in the garden hoses and the button eyes would NEVER cross their minds. I didn't even know there was lead in the hoses until I read the comments... That being said, Most of these are AWESOME ideas for small dogs and a few are good for bigger breeds/more aggressive chewers.

Guest's picture
Guest

Having worked for a veterinarian and having seen the misery dogs and cats that eat inappropriate items go through (as well as the massive vet bills), I would caution pet owners against teaching their pets that textiles such as socks and towels are OK to chew. Your dog cannot tell the difference between a sock meant to be a toy, and a sock that you wear on your foot. If you're going to provide these toys for you pets, do not leave them unattended with said toys.

Guest's picture

Alot of these DIY Dog toys require socks and sadly my dog tears right through them like a hot knife through butter. I have made several of these DIY toys and all the ones requiring socks she just rips open. Tried the tennis ball in the sock ... rips open the sock, puts the tennis ball aside, and continues to shred the sock into bits that look as if you stuck it into a paper shredder.

Milk bottles now are usually made outta very flimsy and cheap plastic that they crush easily. I found using gatorade bottles more durable and if you don't have treats on hand a small handful of kibble works.

As for the paper towel cardboard ... she lights up soon as she sees one in my hand. It's by far her favorite toy but it don't last long. And can take awhile to stock up a bag of them.

A tip for the crackly water bottle ... if you got a dog like mine who'll rip open the sock take toy #5 and place the crackly bottle inside then super sew the sucker with a sewing machine several times to hope she can't rip open. (-_-) Sadly she ripped open a spot that wasn't the sewn seam.

Still trying to find a DIY dog toy that Leila cannot rip open or destroy. Even store bought toys don't last with her. (n_n) She needs to apply for a job at a Dog toy factory as Quality tester. If she can destroy it ... go back the drawing board. L0L

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm the proud mummy of two very busy American staffies, and have not to this day found a toy that they cannot destroy! I've found two things that provide them with a few hours of enjoyment:
1. Fill a used CARDBOARD milk carton with water plus abit of milk/stock/grated cheese/dog treats and freeze it solid. I give them the whole thing, and they have fun ripping off the cardboard and then demolishing the frozen goodies inside!
2. A coconut makes a really good durable ball - ok, obviously not for throwing and fetching, but my girls have fun scooting it around the yard with their noses, as they work out how to get to the edible bit inside! And yes they do demolish the coconut eventually.
I'm going to buy some fleece and try to make one of those huge knot ropes, they sound really good! (although I don't know how long it will last - worth a shot!)

Guest's picture
Wendy Brown

Have you ever turned a pair of jeans into shorts?? Take the legs that you cut off and knot them. I have pits, labs, pit/lab mixes, and my foster muttley's, none of them have been able to destroy them. And they eat everything, including walls.

Guest's picture
Guest

What kind of dog is the one with the ball rope toy?

Guest's picture
Guest

I'm going to have to make some of these. A favorite for my dog is taking a small cardboard box, putting some treats in it, and sealing it up. It's a great way to put those boxes you get off of Amazon and the like to good use.

Guest's picture
Guest

I took an old plastic peanut butter jar to make a treat dispensing toy. Filled the jar with treats and duct taped the lid on, because my dog can figure out how to get it off. Cut a small hole in the side of the jar for the treats to fall out and let her go for it. Entertains her for hours!

Guest's picture
Guest

If it hot just get a large pot put a variety of treats toys and balls freeze for around a day and hay presto your dog will have hours of fun,i find it best when you are out but BEWARE not great if you leave it inside or you will arrive home with a rather LARGE puddle!
ENJOY

Guest's picture
CC

Lacrosse balls are the best "doggie" balls! Tennis balls last less than a day with a larger dog, but other than losing a few - a lacrosse ball bounces, doesn't have parts to break off and basically lasts forever!

Guest's picture
Guest

Some dogs will swallow some of the fabric and that can turn into a serious problem. My dog ate a piece of a blanket and spent 3 days at the vet trying to pass the foreign object (the piece of blanket). Luckily it went through her and she didn't have to have surgery to remove it. We dodged a bullet but others may not be as lucky so supervise your dog when they play with any type of toy for the first time to make sure they are safe!

Guest's picture
chey

I used to make home made toys out of hemp, her fav was a bunch of it in a big knot ball. I never liked the thought of socks and other things with plactic or man made fibers. A dog would eat grass and plats in the wild but not plastic, there gut cant deal with it, goes in and comes out the same. What does every one think of hemp or nature made toys like just a sick? I was really wondering what everyone thought of hemp? I just got a new puppy and want to make sure it doesnt hurt him?

Guest's picture
Guest

Never use rope as a dog toy...if they eat it it gets wrapped in their intestines and they die a miserable death.

Guest's picture
Lichilippr

This is the dog toy I'm dying to make... But I'm not too handy. lol Looks like the dog totally LOVES it though. :)

(Found it on Facebook)

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10203350977628488&set=vb.1032474638...

Guest's picture
All Pets Vet

These are great! Which dog wouldn't want to get any of these as a gift this holiday season!?