While dogs can get bored and find their own fun by say chewing the table legs, most often this is a case of natural dog behaviour not having a outlet. 

It’s important for dog welfare to give them the opportunity to express normal dog behaviour. Things like chewing, digging, sniffing are all natural activities that most dogs enjoy to a greater or lesser extent. When we don’t provide our dogs with outlets for these behaviours (and others) then they either pop out at inappropriate times, or on inappropriate object, or we may see even bigger problem behaviours. 

Enrichment encompasses the whole of dogs’ lives and doesn’t just mean using toys and food. Having said that providing novel toys on the regular can help. Variety is the spice of life after all!

Dogs can get tired of the same old, same old—which is why DIY toys are a great way to keep things spicy for your dog. Making your own toys from stuff lying around is good for the planet, your wallet and you won’t be so frustrated if your dog repeatedly drops it in the water bowl or buries it in the garden. 

A quick word about DIYing dog toys: 

  • Supervise your dog during play. Your DIY toys won’t have rigorous testing for safety and destructibility. You’ll want to make sure that your dog isn’t swallowing chewed up bits etc. 
  • Don’t use materials that could hurt your dog, either because they are sharp or toxic. 

Check out these super fun, boredom-busting toys any dog will love…and your bank account will thank you, too!

T-Shirt Rope Toy

I have a problem with buying slogan/graphic t-shirts. I just don’t seem to be able to help myself when I see something that makes me snort. That means I’ve got a lot of them piling up that have seen better days. 

Making a rope toy out of t-shirts looks easy enough that I’m sure even I could manage it. Bonus is that you can make it just the right thickness and length for your dog, and even include a tennis ball if you want. 

If you were more ambitious about the braiding you could try this one. 

Soft drink Bottle Treat Dispenser

Save those 2-litre bottles and turn them into a treat dispenser. Daily Dog Tag has instructions for a fun looking dispenser that any dogs that enjoy bashing things with their paws would probably like. 

For something even more simple I just pop some dry treats or kibble into a bottle and let my dogs at it. They seem to like crunching and pouncing and flinging the bottle around. If they become particularly quick at removing the treats, I crumple paper (packing paper works wonders for this) inside the bottle so the treats can’t fall out so quickly.

Cocker spaniel sniffing a homemade DIY dog toy made from an empty plastic bottle, with scrunched up paper inside along with some delicious dried treats
Flint checking out the quickly put together DIY feeding toy. An empty drinks bottle with scrunched up paper inside makes it surprising hard for the treats to fall out.

Muffin Tin Game

Grab a muffin tin, tennis balls and your dog’s favourite treats! Randomly add treats and cover them with tennis balls. Your dog will need to sniff and paw out their reward! This is great for some bonding time and giving their nose a bit of a workout. And it’s often amusing to see the different strategies for removing the tennis balls. 

DIY Snuffle Mat

Snuffle mats are interactive feeding mats meets scent game. Dogs will need to use their nose to find the food and to move the strips of material out their way to access it. 

There are a lot of creative ones out there. Here’s a DIY Snuffle Mat that I thought looked different to the usual grid mats with knotted fleece strips. 

Or you can go old-skool with the tried and trusted rubber mat and knotted fleece strips – easier for those of us who don’t have the sewing skills.

I have made our own fleece snuffle mats, but sadly the dog it was intended for decided that the best most efficient way to find the food was to fling the mat upside down and shake it. Which was not the point. So for him, I made the next item on the list

DIY Snuffle Ball

Made in a similar way to the original snuffle mat, but with a hollee ball as the base. It’s more fiddly to fill with food, but for those dogs that take a more active emptying approach like our Breckin did, it’s perfect. 

Here’s how I made our snuffle ball. Breckin seemed to enjoy it at least.

Shoebox Hide and Seek

Take your dog’s favourite treat and hide them in shoe boxes, or any cardboard box for that matter.

Leave some boxes empty and place treats in others. Have your dog go around searching for the boxes with treats. Make it more challenging by putting the lids on or closing the flaps, or even leaving in some of the packing materials (if safe). 

Toilet Paper or Paper Towel Roll Treat Dispensers

Fill an empty toilet roll with treats. Fold down the ends. Cut a hole or two in the roll that’s big enough for the treat to fall out of. You can even leave out the hole and let them shred the roll to get to the inside. This is so easy to do, the hardest part is collecting the inner rolls. 

Personally I let my dogs shred them to get to the insides as they don’t eat the cardboard after tearing it up and it plays into the dissecting part of a dogs natural prey sequence. I’ll often put small chews like chicken feet inside than just small treats or kibble. And if I’m feeling especially inventive I’ll combine it with cardboard boxes filled with safe packing material so they have to work just that little bit harder.  

spaniels enjoying finding hidden treats inside empty toilet rolls
Empty toilet rolls make excellent treat packages that can be shredded to get to the goodies

Some signs of apparent boredom, like lethargy and lack of appetite, could be a sign of anxiety or an unseen health issue. If your dog acts disinterested, or doesn’t perk up when invited to play, it’s time to check with your veterinarian.

Got a cool DIY dog toy you think other dogs would go woof for? Tag me @tails_we_win on Instagram