Got an avid chewer? A big mouth who’s likely to go through at least a couple of toys a month? Maybe yours are the fickle sort, always on the lookout for the newest bauble in the basket. Or perhaps you have a puppy with a thing for killing the plushies.

In any case, you’ll understand my predicament: A pet’s oral fixations can be pricey!

Discriminating Dogs

I knew all about this back when I had a pair of Boxers who terminated every toy with extreme prejudice. Though I tirelessly sourced all manner of so-called indestructible playthings, they made quick work of them all, nonetheless.

All, that is, except perhaps for the truly indestructible. I say “perhaps” because these were the toys they refused outright. The world may never know their true degree of durability, given that my dogs held them in such disregard. Consequently, these pariahs were the only imperishables to ever grace our home.

Fast-forward 15 years and now I have Violet, my mouthy Belgian Malinois pup extraordinaire. Since my Boxers I’ve not had the pleasure to handle such toy-directed obstinacy. Focused and frantic about most everything (not just toys), she has proved extra special in this regard. Such, I’ve been told, is the fate of those who take on this kind of working dog.


Tap Into Your Creativity

Luckily, I have a saying I can truck out at times like these: “When the going gets tough, the tough get crafty.” With this pithy verse in my head I then get started on one or more projects designed with my heavy chewer in mind.

Disclaimer: While I’m about to share my favorite homemade creations with you, not every toy is for every dog. Though these toys tend to be safe when used under supervision, some dogs are, well, special. Keeping a sharp eye trained on your pet whenever you’re using any toy — especially for the first time! — is always a good policy. If your dog gnaws off any smaller pieces, it’s best to dispose of them before they’re accidentally swallowed.

So Many Balls, So Little Time

This project involves those ubiquitous tennis balls. Even if you don’t play (I don’t), there’s always a tennis ball or four banging around at work (my workplace, anyway).

Homemade ball toy

Tennis Ball Buddy

Supplies: Tennis ball; strips of sturdy cloth from a kitchen towel, bath towel or blue jeans long enough to make nice tassels at both ends of the ball

Tools: Knife or box cutter, large crochet hook or screwdriver

1. Poke a hole in both ends of the tennis ball (I use a box cutter, but you can use a sharp kitchen knife — pointed down and away from you, please).

2. Thread strips of cloth through both holes in the ball with a metal crochet hook (my choice). Alternately, you can push the fabric through with a screwdriver.

3. Make a knot at both ends of the ball with the strips of fabric so they stay put.

Homemade ball toy

Note: Want to make it extra enticing? Push a few jerky-style treats into the tennis ball before threading the fabric through.

Variation: You can also cover the ball with a sturdy material with tassels sliced into the ends. Here’s what I did with a softball and a denim pant leg.

Homemade ball toy

Put a Sock in It!

Yes, this trick works. For a while, anyway. Then she’s on to the next toy.

Homemade sock toy

Water Bottle Sock Puppet

Supplies: Orphan sock, used plastic bottle (no cap!), smelly treats

Tools: Scissors (optional)

1. Cram treats into water bottle.

2. Place water bottle with treats inside sock.

3. Make a very sturdy knot at cap end (using the scissors if need be to cut strips for a tighter knot).

Homemade sock toy

Note: Once the sock gets slobbery, the bottle loses its crinkle and the treats get as stale as the last couple of seasons of Friends, you can always swap them out for fresher recyclable fare.

Variation: As with the tennis ball, you can wrap a larger bottle stuffed with smelly treats (I used dried Icelandic catfish skins!) in a denim pant leg. That one went over really well, too.

Homemade toy

And saving the best for last…

Go Fish!

Since it’s interactive, this turns out to be the best darn toy for an energetic dog — ever. Violet especially loves chasing this thing along the ground so that by the time 20 minutes is up she’s totally pooped.

I know it looks complicated, but don’t fret: It’s way easier than it looks. All it takes is one trip to the home supply store, a few slices with the scissors and a series of simple square knots.

Homemade sock toy

Wolf Stick

Supplies: 2 to 4 feet of PVC pipe, 8 to 10 feet of sturdy rope, carabiner, 1 yard of heavy-duty burlap

Tools: Scissors

1. Thread the rope through the PVC pipe and knot on both ends, leaving 12 to 18 inches on one of the two ends.

2. Loop the short end (12 to 18 inches) so it makes a nice hand strap.

3. Attach the carabiner to the other end of the rope.

4. Make burlap tassel toy by cutting the burlap and braiding it into strips.

5. Attach the tassel toy to the carabiner and… go fish!

Note: The best part about this toy is that it has endless variations built in. Because you can switch out the toy on the end, it’s endlessly amusing. Anything with tassels seems to work best for this lure-like approach to play.

It’s Your Turn!

I’ve made plenty of other toys over the years (stuffed animals robbed of their eyes and stuffing and sewn back up, old towels knitted up into a big ball, etc.), so I know you have some creative toy stories to share.