Intro: $3 Light Up Dog Toy
I like to take out my dog to walk and play every night after work. The field we play in is quite dark. I have a light up collar to keep track of him, but no way to keep track of the ball. Too often I will find myself throwing the ball and the dog returning with nothing.
I bought the Nerf light up dog ball. Love the ball, I like that it has rubber webbing for my small dog to grab onto (he has trouble with regular tennis balls). I like the multicolored lights that appeared when it bounced. However, after a month of use the light dimmed out of existence. I would replace the batteries but it is fully encapsulated in rubber.
There is a surprisingly low amount of options for light up dog toys. The ones that are available that I have seen all seem to have the same problem, the batteries are very difficult or impossible to change.
All of this sparked this instructable to build a fun low cost light up dog toy with battery swapping capabilities.
Step 1: Gather Tools and Supplies
Step one gather your supplies and equipment.
1.Softball size tennis ball
3. Battery powered wall light
4. Hot glue
6. Zip ties x 2
I bought items 1 - 3 at the Dollar Store for $3. The remaining items I have in stock at home, but are also available at the Dollar Store.
Hot glue, batteries, rope and zip ties are all handy things to have in your house just like a roll of duct tape.
1. Knife / Small bladed instrument
2. Hot glue gun
1. Dog, cat and or other creature that appreciates the chase of a simple ball with rope attached to it.
Step 2: Light Modification
Depending on what light you have you may need to modify it for three reasons. One it needs to be small enough to fit in the chosen sized ball. Two the on/off switch for the light needs to be isolated from the walls of the ball so it does not turn on and off every time it hits the ground.Three the electronics and LEDs need to be reinforced to protect from impact damage.
1. Break it down:
I bought a wall mounted push button night light. It has 3 bright LEDs and takes 3 AAA batteries. First step in the modification process is to break the light down into its components. The benefit of a cheap light is that it is barely held together. Use your hands or a pair of pliers to pry off the shell, clear cover and chrome reflector. The only thing that should be left is the battery holder and the LED component.
2. Secure the LEDs:
Second modification step is to reinforce the light electronics. Plug in your hot glue gun. When the gun is hot and glue can be extruded from the tip easily then fill the area around the LEDs. I completely filled the center of the cavity so that the only thing left was the tips of the LEDs and the switch (don't glue your switch). The electronics are now fixed in place.
Optional: You may want to diffuse your LEDs at this stage. This could be done by any number of ways. You could cover them with a layer of hot glue or sand them lightly. I left mine untouched this time because I wanted the light to reach maximum range.
3. Secure the Batteries:
Third modification step is to examine the security of the batteries after they are installed and the on/off function is checked. The push button light I bought has a screw on battery cover where you twisted the cover into a small number of threads within the battery cover. It felt pretty flimsy so I reinforced it.
I took a piece of double sided foam tape and stuck it to the battery cover. Then I twisted the cover into place. Felt much more secure and has yet to come apart on me.
If your battery cover is secure already then you can skip this.
Step 3: Ball Modification
1. Light Ports
Unless you are using a clear ball then you will need to add some holes to the ball for the light to escape.
I chose to use the knife of my Leatherman multitool to cut about 3/4” square holes all around the ball. Make sure you do not make the holes on the parting line / equator of the ball (where the two halves of the ball come together).
Cut atleast a pair of parallel holes on either side of the parting line. You will use these to hold the ball together later.
I chose to use knife to make my holes, but to save time and effort you could also use a hand drill.
2. Hinge it
Take your knife or bladed instrument and cut along the parting line leaving a little less than 1/2 untouched. Make sure the pair of parallel holes you cut in step 1 are around the center of this cut.
The halves of the ball should now be able to be pried apart by hand to allow for the light fixture insertion.
If you are using a whiffle ball or similar hard plastic ball do not play with on hard surface. I originally made this with a whiffle ball and it shattered on the frozen ground.
Also, sharp things are sharp, try not to cut yourself.
Step 4: Install Light
Make sure batteries are in place, the light can turn on and off, and the battery cover is secure.
Pry apart the two halves of the ball while slipping in the light. Once inside the ball the light should only have limited movement. If the light can rattle and easily flipped then you may want attach some foam to it to increase the tightness of fit.
Next take a zip tie and thread it through the pair of the parallel holes along the parting line. Then tighten the zip tie down so the halves are fixed together.
Step 5: Install Rope Tail
The rope tail serves three purposes: 1. You can play tug of war as well as fetch, 2. You can swing and release the ball by the tail to reach long distances, 3. Your dog should be more likely to pick up the ball by the tail rather than the ball, which will make the ball last longer. I have been just replacing the tail as it gets worn through.
1. Tie a Knot
Make a loop at one end of the rope and tie it in place. The loop / knot can be very small because it only needs to be big enough for a zip tie to slid through.
2. Zip Tie It
Thread a second zip tie under and perpendicular to the first. Then thread one end through the loop on the rope. Merge the two ends of the zip tie and tighten it down to secure the rope to the ball.
Step 6: Ready to Play
And your done. To turn the light on and off you can either use a pencil to tap the push button or it is also pretty easy to stick your finger through the slit on the parting line.
Now you have a ball rope to use inside, outside, at night and is cheap so it doesn't matter if it gets destroyed in the quest for fun.
Hope this instructable proves useful to you. There is a lot of room to build on this and make enhancements, but this is a great toy you can make for your furry creature in under an hour and on the cheap.
Have fun building.
For the health and safety of your pet do not let them play with this toy alone especially for animals who love to chew. Electronics, rope and tennis balls should not be ingested. Replace the ball when it wears apart.