My husband I love animals. But as a cheapskate at heart, I like to come up with some economical solutions for some of the toys for our pets.Especially pets as large as Ivan- our youngest at 180 lbs.
Yet, there are some things I never scrimp on: food and vets. You need the best that you can afford and find.
But as far as toys and other things are concerned...well I admit I economize when I can. Especially as we have 2 big dogs and a Marmaduke sized dog.
Step 1: Dog Toys
Dog toys can be pricey!
Our three cats are very happy with playing with a cardboard box and a paper bag (or rather the dogs are their toys). But the dogs seem to need more attention? We've spent a lot of money on dog toys and paraphernalia over the years. And I will buy some toys over and over again as they are well made and virtually indestructible.(Kong, Nylabone are some of the best.)
While browsing the pet store, I endlessly feel, squeak and study the toys. There are a lot of great toys out there, especially for small dogs it seems. But our dogs are BIG DOGS with big mouths, i.e. aggressive chewers it appears. And even our 12 year old lab mix can eviscerate a stuffed toy in a matter of minutes. She holds her paws together and does a fast rip-tug. She can peel a tennis ball in a few minutes. (Tennis balls happen to be one of her favorite toys, but we never buy them. See step 4 for tennis balls.)
One of the best toys lately was actually a very cheap toy and you could probably stop this instructable right here with this tip: resale/thrift store stuffed animals for young children. This little pink hippo was made for a baby or very young child under 3 years old. It has a slight rattle. There are no buttons, or anything that could be pulled off and swallowed by a baby (ergo a dog wouldn't swallow it either). It cost me .79 cents? Under a dollar. And my Great Dane: mouthy- teethy- puppy- almost-adult dog loves it-- he throws it up in the air and chomps on it. We've had it for 2 months! It is manufactured by Ty. Right now it is in the washing machine getting all cute and pink again for it's picture. (It is washable too!!)
At the same time at the thrift store I got another toy- this one a duck with a great rattle/squeak. This one, unfortunately had button eyes. So I cut out the eyes and replaced it with some fabric. It cost .49 cents, so this wasn't a big investment, and if I ruined it I'll learn something for my investment of sewing time.
It took about 5minutes for our dogs to completely tear it apart. Partially because this toy had a great sound and then they did tug-a war with the toy and the toy lost. And the fabric, a plush fur was more easily pierced by canine teeth.
The hippo though is still intact. Something about the way this was stuffed makes it chewy, rattle nicely and also not too chewable. This makes my thinking cap tingle.
Step 2: Squeakers Are Important
Squeakers are important. It seems the noise is the most exciting thing for our guys. When the squeak or rattle is no longer operative, the toy factor interest decreases substantially.
To buy squeakers: do a search on amazon for dog toy squeakers and you will find many to choose from and they will cost you about .35 - .50 per squeaker. Or less.
* Note: I have the squeakers enclosed in 3 layers of fabric in my toy so that when (not if) they chew through the first layer, I'll be able to rescue the squeaker before it is ingested. Also, I NEVER put squeaky toys in the crate with our dogs. Even the best dog toy can be chewed in strange ways and cause choking or intestinal grief.
Step 3: Pillow Talk
Some fabrics seemed to be chewed up easily. But some fabrics seemed to last longer. In our basket of toys the ones that seems to last longer are these fleece/felt braided ropes. I have some leftover fleece in my scraps so I thought I try out this. I made 2 toys: one with a squeaker and braided rope, the other a squeaker/jingle bell "bone".
scrap fabric: fleece, canvas, fiberfill stuffing
For both of these toys, I put the noise makers inside 2 fleece pouches (I refer to them as pillows). I made layers of fabric as a barrier to the teeth piercing that happens as they hone into the sound of the squeaker and purposely chomp hard in that area. I also wanted the noise makers to be another layer so that if (when) the dog chewed through the exterior, I could retrieve the squeaker before it got punctured or swallowed.
I had to experiment with fabrics as some that I thought would be more durable and failed (flannel shirt, sweat shirt material). But the process was similar:
1. Make a small rectangle slightly larger than the squeaker/noise maker with fleece
2. Fold the fabric over the squeaker, sew.
3. Put this rectangle (pillow shaped) in another layer of fabric, sew.
4. Add a third layer of fabric for the exterior and stuff (lightly) with fiberfill.
5. Sew around the outside of the shape at least 2 times.
I sewed on the outside of the fabrics rather than turning the shape inside out (hiding the seams). I did this because I've noticed that when their sharp teeth snag a seam, it makes an hole that they can pull and rip larger. Plus, the dogs don't really care about the shape as much as the noise/squeak. The shape is more for the human.
Two MONTHS later I am happy to say these toys are still intact! If they make it through a couple of hours in our house with having the stuffing ripped out, it is a success story. And the best part is the happy faces on my dogs with new toys! They both still squeak and rattle and relatively blemish free. Success!
Step 4: Tennis Anyone?
Tennis balls: find some place where people practice tennis. Usually there will be a few balls outside of the courts and they are "dead balls" probably because of weather, etc. We walk by the tennis courts frequently to replenish our stock- which of course end up under the couch. In our house you'll find at least a dozen tennis balls at all times, but as I said they rip the cover off of the balls and then we have to throw them away. If they're still in good condition, I throw them into the washing machine and dryer periodically.