If you’ve gone shopping for dog toys recently, you may have noticed they can be a little on the expensive side, relatively speaking. Of course, spending $6 on a toy is not big deal, but when you consider that it’s a dog toy, i.e., something that will be eviscerated by their teeth, paws, or a combination of the two within moments of receipt, it hardly seems worth spending more than a dollar on the things. When you multiply that by two (because we have two dogs!), this can really add up.
Here’s an example of team work a la Margeaux and Nola Donahue:
(I don't normally believe in clothing on dogs, but their grandpa was visiting for out of town, and I couldn't resist.)
FIVE MINUTES LATER
Behold the carnage.
We’re always searching for ways to provide the same kind of “play” and mental exercise that a toy can provide dogs without the high cost. Well… Josh, my husband, who works as a freelance dog trainer and handler, recently picked up some great, free dog toy tips from a colleague, and we just had to share!
And yes, in case you are wondering, the same husband-Josh who is a stage and camera actor and singer is also a dog trainer. He wears many hats. (Honestly, you think there’d be a law against being that multi-talented? Gross.)
Today, we’re going to show you the first of a few tips, thanks to Josh’s colleague, Benedetta (of PetPRO, an Italy-based dog walking and training company – they’re kind of a big deal). Today is also another first, as it will be our first
feeble charming attempt at a vlog.
(And because I know my parents are reading this, I’m gonna offer a little cyber lexicon help: Vlog, short for “ web video log.” You’re welcome.)
Please bear in mind because of our not-so-fab camera: the lighting is bad, the sound is bad, and the jokes are bad – we know, we know. However, we thought this particular post was best served in video form so we proceeded anyway! It resembles a home movie from the 80’s, but it stars the beautiful and talented Nola Donahue, so that should sweeten the deal!
Watch, enjoy (to the best of your ability), and in case the video isn’t clear, you can read the instructions below!
and if that was as clear as mud . . .
How to Make a FREE Dog Toy out a Plastic Bottle and Pencil:
- Take an empty, clean plastic bottle and remove the cap (you won’t need this).
- Poke two holes in the mid-section of the bottle – scissors should work fine. Make sure a pencil, stick, or the handle of a wooden spoon can go through the bottle (so, in one hole and out the other). You want to do this so you are able to hold the bottle upright by holding either end of the pencil/stick/whatever.
- Fill the bottom of the bottle with dog food. Obviously, this needs to be some sort of solid kibble-type dog food.
- Insert pencil and hold at either end so that bottle is upright.
- Present the food to the dog. This is as simple as putting it in front of the dog’s nose, allowing them to sniff it and ascertain what it is, then putting it into the opening of the bottle, so they can understand that their food is in this bottle.
- We recommend sitting on the floor, but perhaps if you have a Great Dane, it’s be smarter to sit in a chair. Simply hold the bottle by the end of the pencil, and let the dog begin to work out “the puzzle.” It may take some time, by they will eventually learn through trial and error that if they hit the bottle with their nose (or paws), they can tip it over, spilling the contents onto the floor.
- While the dog is working out the problem, try to say as little as possible, until they have some success in moving the bottle. OF COURSE, as soon as they knock over the bottle, they are welcome to eat all of the food – it’s like a piñata for dogs!
- Offer praise and encouragement after they have succeeded. This step should not be underestimated in its importance. Not only does this stimulate their brains, but it also helps build confidence – ALL good things for dogs!
If you watched the video, you probably noticed that Nola pretty much got it the second or third try – this wasn’t her first rodeo. Don’t be discouraged if your dog doesn’t get it right away. Our other dog, Margeaux, is an example of a dog who struggles with this puzzle and has never really been able to do it on her own; this doesn’t mean she’s stupid, nor does it mean your dog’s stupid for that matter. It’s just that some dogs have different personalities that have been shaped by their experiences (and in Margeaux’s case, her experiences were less than awesome before we found her). Her confidence level isn’t high-in-the-sky and the idea of a plastic bottle swinging like a pendulum (“Burn the witch!”) can be a little scary. Keep working with your dog (as we will do with Margeaux) – the more they try it, the more confident they will become and eventually they will get it!
This game is particularly good for dogs when they can’t get much exercise during the day because of inclement weather or a crazy work schedule. Benedetta tells us that this particular game gives dogs the same mental stimulation in fifteen minutes that a walk would offer in an hour!
Hope you enjoyed our first vlog and our first in a series of FREE dog toys and games. Let us know what you think!
Do you have a game that you like to play with your dog(s)?
Do you have any jerry-rigged dog toy ideas that you have tried or would like to try with your dog(s)?
What do you think of Josh and my mad improvisational singing skills at the end of that video? Pretty boss, huh?