Although dogs spend a lot of time sleeping, when they're awake they need to be occupied and entertained. Offering them DIY enrichment toys for dogs is a great way to provide them with healthy mental exercise, especially when you're not around to play with them. Learn how these toys can benefit your pooch and get some ideas for simple DIY dog puzzles and toys you can make at home.
What Are Enrichment Toys for Dogs?
Just as dogs need physical activity to stay fit and healthy, they also need mental activity to relieve boredom and keep their cognitive skills sharp. Puzzles and games help dogs release nervous energy and stave off mischievous behaviors that arise from boredom, says Puppy Leaks. And while all dogs can benefit from playing with enrichment toys, these toys can be especially important for senior dogs, who are at greater risk of cognitive decline and dog dementia.
DIY Enrichment Toys for Dogs: 3 Ideas
While enrichment toys might sound expensive, you can actually easily create DIY enrichment toys for dogs using materials you already have at home. Here are a few ideas for simple yet effective DIY dog puzzles and toys that can help keep your bored pooch stimulated and entertained.
1. Muffin Tin Puzzle
This quick and easy puzzle game is not only a great way to force your pooch to use reasoning skills; it's also a great way to slow down dogs who eat their food too quickly.
What you'll need: A muffin tin (a mini tin is best for small dogs) and dry dog food or dog treats
- Place the muffin tin upside down.
- Place a few pieces of dry dog food or several healthy dog treats in the middle of the tin, letting them fall in between the muffin wells.
- Let your dog figure out how to fish out each treat or piece of food.
Variation: Instead of placing the tin upside down, place it right side up, put the treats inside the muffin wells and cover each one with a tennis ball.
2. Stuffed Animal Surprise
Does your dog have a favorite stuffed animal that could use a little TLC? Give it a new life by converting it into an interactive puzzle treat toy.
What you'll need: An old stuffed dog toy and dry dog food or dog treats
- If your dog hasn't already torn the toy open, cut a hole large enough for treats to pass through.
- Remove any stuffing from the toy.
- Fill the toy with dry dog food.
- Give the toy to your dog and enjoy watching them try to extract the food.
Variation: If you're comfortable using a needle and thread, you can sew on a fabric scrap to create a hidden pocket for treats.
3. T-Shirt Tugger
This DIY toy will not only provide hours of interactive play with your pup, but it's also a great way to recycle old T-shirts.
What you'll need: An old T-shirt and a pair of scissors
- Lay the T-shirt out on a flat surface.
- Starting just below the sleeves, cut the shirt straight across. Discard the neck and sleeves.
- Cut the remaining fabric into strips. For small dogs, make the strips about one inch in width; go wider for larger dogs.
- Gather three of the strips together and tie a knot at one end.
- Braid the strips together and tie them off at the other end.
- Enjoy endless games of tug of war with your pet.
Variation: For very large dogs, double the number of strips to make a thicker and sturdier toy. You can also tie a knot in the middle of the rope to make it easier for your dog to grab and hold onto.
As you can see, it doesn't take much time or money to provide your dog with some enrichment. With everyday items and a bit of creativity, you can provide a great outlet for your dog's energy and curiosity.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.