We’ve all suddenly found ourselves at home for the foreseeable future, which our furry friends are all very happy about. Although while the pups are pleased to have their people home all day long, they still need some boredom busters to keep them occupied and stimulated. Not to mention, for those of us still working, it means trying to keep their nose off the laptop or stop them from barking during the work day and conference calls.
There’s plenty of paw-some toys and treats to make together though, and they’ll keep your pup’s snout out of trouble for a while and give them some extra mental stimulation and entertainment while we’re all indoors more often.
These are all easy to do boredom busters for dogs to help entertain your pooch, including some very simple DIY dog toys you can make with stuff you’ll probably have lying around the house.
Just remember, as with any dog toy, that they can become a choking hazard if broken into small pieces. So make sure you check your pup’s possessions regularly and remove anything that could be a potential choking hazard.
If you have a few spare minutes, work on some obedience training with your pooch or try to teach them a new trick. It will keep them interested and give them mental stimulation that’s sure to tire them out. It will also be very rewarding, as your pup will be all the better behaved and smarter for it.
You could use the time to teach them scent work too. It’s quite easy to teach as it often comes naturally to dogs but means you can step up to scent-based games which are fun for your canine companion and means you can leave them alone to entertain themselves with a nose-based workout.
This could be as easy or as difficult as you like, depending on your dog’s scenting ability. It could be something very simple such as hiding a few treats around the house and leaving them to try and find them.
Another great puzzle game that takes seconds to set up is the “baking tray bamboozler” as we call it. Take a baking tray and put a small chunk of your pup’s favourite food and hide it in one or two of the cups. Then put a ball in each of the cups of the tray, hiding the food, and leave your dog to play around with it. They will love playing with the balls and eventually finding the tasty treats hidden away.
You could also try playing the classic cup and ball game with the pup. Using a small toy or treat, hide it under one of the three cups and shuffle them up. It helps your pup improve their nosework and problem-solving abilities, as well as providing the pair of you with some extra entertainment.
Another game you could play is to get your dog to find a specific toy that you hide. This is a staple of puppy training courses and a great base to teach them useful retrieving tricks.
Start by getting the pup to sniff the toy you want them to find then let them watch as you hide it. If they retrieve it quickly, start pretending to hide it as they watch, before hiding it for real, meaning there are a few places they should check. If your dog starts getting wise, make it extra challenging and don’t let them see you hide the toy! Hide in another room as you squirrel the toy away, then let them in to try and sniff it out.
If you teach your dog to know their toys by name, they should be able to pick out a specific item from the pile of all their toys and fetch it to you upon verbal command. Teaching your dog to recognise objects by name means they can help you out while enjoying a quick retrieve, such as fetching your slippers!
If your pooch loves the water and is missing out on a swim, this is a great idea to keep them entertained for a while. As long as you have some garden space and don’t mind water splashing everywhere, this is a great idea to give your dog some extra stimulation. Take a big tub or kid’s paddling pool and fill it with water, and let the dog play in it. Anything big enough for them to jump in that can hold water will do!
Our pups have got a classic kong toy each, we’ve found their normal Meaty Sweetie and Taste Of The Ocean treats fit inside perfectly. So pick your pooch’s favourite snack, and stuff them into the toy. Unless your dog is a mastermind, it should keep them busy for a while, rolling it around and trying to nose the snacks out. (Admittedly, we race the dogs to see who can empty the Kong first...The younger dog always loses.)
If you don’t have treats, don’t worry. If you have some Pure, you can play with the consistency, making it paw-fect to hide in your pup’s toys. We find keeping it slightly wetter means you can easily spoon it inside the Kong to hide it, and as it won’t roll out as easily, it will make it more of a challenge for your dog to get it out of the toy. Paw-fect for keeping your pup entertained while they’re licking it clean. Better yet, because it’s their usual food and treats, you know it’s not going to interfere with their diet or irritate any allergies they might have.
If you don’t have a Kong toy, don’t worry. You can try this with anything hollow, like an empty water bottle, or make your own treat toy, and we’ll explain some alternatives below.
If you have any kind of toy bone they can be easily turned into a boredom buster with the help of some trusty Pure, just like with the Kong. With a butcher style bone, just spread your Pure all around and along the hollow inside of the bone. Your pooch will then spend a while sitting with it, desperately trying to find every scrap of their tasty treat.
To be honest, the toy doesn’t need to be hollow to do this, but it adds an element of challenge and will keep the dog occupied for longer. If you only want a few minutes with the dog out the way, just spread some of their favourite food on their toy and leave them to lick it clean.
This works in a similar way to a Kong and takes a matter of minutes to make. Simply get an old tennis ball and cut a hole in it, big enough to fit some treats in and leave the dog to roll the ball around trying to knock the food out.
Alternatively, cut a line across the tennis ball or along the rubber ‘seam’. If you squeeze the sides of the ball, it should open up and look a bit like Pac-man. Once it’s opened up, simply toss some treats into Pac-man’s mouth and then let go. The ball should close again and look more like a normal tennis ball. Give this to the pooch, and they will be left bamboozled and busy as they try to get the treats from inside the ball. Not to mention that watching how they try to tackle it is always funny.
You should find that most rubber balls you buy from pet shops have holes and hollows inside anyway, so check the toys you have and you might find you can squeeze some snacks into an old ball without needing to perform any tennis ball surgery.
If you want to make another style of homemade dog puzzle, you’ll find another “recipe” in the next section, all about DIY dog toys.
If you have a dog that seems bored with their old toys or has a habit of destroying them, you can take the parts and make something new with them.
For example, if your dog has pulled the rope legs off of their stuffed toy, you can try attaching the rope to another toy, like a rubber bird or hol-ee ball. We had a (“much loved”) rubber duck that the puppy pulled the fabric out of the inside, leaving it hollow and holey like a swiss cheese. So we took the rope from another destroyed toy and threaded it into the discarded duck, and presto, we had a new toy.
If you make some tug toys with old shirts, you could attach these to other toys. For example, if you tease the knot into an old ball, you’ll make your own chucker toy. You can find out how to make your own tug toys below using stuff you’re sure to have lying around the house.
Adding new toys into the environment is a sure-fire way to give your dog something to fixate on for a few hours at least, and many of them take seconds to make but provide hours of fun.
These toys are simple to make in a matter of minutes and sure to please the pooch. Take any old t-shirt you no longer wear and tear the cloth into strips. (Leave out the sections where the seam has been to save you having to remove all the threads.)
Alternatively, you could cut an old towel into thin strips. We usually make the fabric about an inch wide, and at least a foot long, but preferably longer.
Take these strips of fabric in a bundle of three or six and tie them at the end as securely as you can, then plait them together. Once you reach the other end, tie it again and you should have created something reminiscent of the rope tug toys you buy at the pet shop.
A big bonus to these DIY dog toys is that they are machine washable. Paw-fect for keeping them clean and fresh.
This Good Housekeeping article shows you how to make this kind of toy. However, we prefer to tie the strips together into a knot rather than use a separate piece to tie them, as this can easily be pulled off by an enthusiastic puppy.
If you leave a little length of fabric after the knots, you can tie the ends together to make the toy into a ring.
If the shirts smell of you, it will help keep the pups interested in them even more. We found that our pooch wasn’t prone to destroying these toys, and cherishes them, whereas any store-bought rope toy she would shred!
If you have a ball you’re happy to lend to this project, you can make your own chucker toy using a bit of an old shirt. There are two styles of chucker toy you can make with these “ingredients”.
The first style looks like a squid. The ball is inside the fabric and has some trailing tentacles, paw-fect for holding and throwing it with.
Cut your shirt into three strips a few inches wide, and lay one strip over the other to make a cross. Put the ball in the middle where the sections overlap, then lift the ends and tie them. This video shows you how it’s done.
The second choice requires some tools, as you will need to drill or cut holes in a tennis ball to create a tunnel through it. Then make a tug toy using some old shirts or a towel. Before you tie the second end of the tug toy, thread the tennis ball onto it by running the toy through the holes that you have made. You can then tie the end of the tug toy, keeping it plaited together and preventing the ball from sliding off the rope.
If you are really pressed for time, this DIY dog toy takes seconds to make but will give your pup hours of fun chewing and tossing their new toy. Simply cut an old towel in half, or thirds, vertically. Take one of these pieces and tie a single knot in the middle. Just like that, you’ve made a brand new toy in less than a minute.
The thick flannel of the towel is great for chewing (and we imagine must help clean their teeth,) and the knot and heavy fabric gives it enough weight to make it throwable. Plus, it’s a bit more house-friendly than throwing a rubber ball around.
This toy is a hit for any pup who loves toys that make a noise, and it’s ridiculously easy to make. All you need is a long sock and a plastic bottle.
Remove the label from the bottle and put the bottle inside the sock, then tie the open end of the sock as tightly as you can so the bottle can’t fall out. Just like magic, you’ve made a paw-some new toy for your dog to enjoy! As they bite the bottle, it will crinkle and crunch, stimulating your pup’s senses of sound as well as touch.
Once the bottle is really squashed, or if your dog has managed to tear into it, throw it away. As with any toy, any broken parts could become a choking hazard.
Just like the above toy idea, there is nothing simpler than a sock toy. So here’s two more ideas for you.
One follows the same instructions as the bottle toy but using a ball. Take any kind of ball you have lying around, pop it in the sock and tie the end tightly. You’ve made a brand new toy for your dog in a matter of seconds! It’s quite like the DIY chucker toy mentioned above, but obviously quite a bit easier to make.
The second idea is the knotted sock. This one is like the towel toy listed above and takes a second and no effort to make. If you have an old or odd sock you don’t mind donating to the dog, just tie a knot in the middle of it and chuck it their way. The knot will give it a bit of weight so you can throw it around, and your pup can easily hold their new precious possession.
For an added treat or for any teething puppies, soak the knotted sock in water and freeze it. You’ll then have a super-cool toy for your dog that will comfort any aching gums, or simply fascinate them and help cool down on a sunny day.
Admittedly, these toys require some patience to complete, but that just means it will keep you or the kids occupied for a while as well as the pup. It’s also the toy with “ingredients” least likely to be lying around the average home, but it’s not a difficult creation and you might find some rope forgotten in the garage or shed you can use. (Or if you’re very patient and can cut the towel thin enough, you can attempt using that!)
There are a few ways of making your own monkey fist toys, and it will depend on the sort of rope you have to hand, or that you can get a hold of. If you have a softer rope, you’re best making this throwable monkey fist toy.
If you have a more traditional and firm rope, like jute, you can make this sturdy ball toy that you can even hide treats inside.
You know those cute cat toys with a fluffy mouse on a string? Dogs love them too. If your pup has any kind of prey drive, they will be barking mad for this next toy. It works like a flirt pole or prey stick, and you can even use it in training.
You need to grab your dogs favourite toy, some rope or string, and some sort of stick. Others recommend using PVC pipe, but who has a length of that spare in the shed! We say use a broom or mop. You don’t even need to be able to remove the handle, as tying the rope around the brush head can help it stay on.
Tie one end of your rope to the broom, and the other to your pup’s favourite toy. Within seconds, you’ve made a dog-sized cat toy. Wave it around and you’ll have your dog chasing their “prey” and wearing off any excess energy. Not to mention, you’ll give yourself a great workout for your arms!
Alternatively, you could “cheat” at making one of these, like we did. Simply take a dog lead and attach it to your pup’s favourite toy. We had a spare slip lead and hooked it through the end of our dog’s favourite rope toy, then fed the handle of the lead through the opposite end, creating a lasso that kept the toy securely attached to the lead.
If your pooch has a stuffed animal they love, just put the lead on that as you would a dog. Then it’s simply a case of you holding the handle of the lead and pulling and waving the toy around while your pooch chases it. It takes seconds to do, but keeps your dog active and entertained for ages!
We’ve seen people make these with a length of PVC pipe, but again, who has that hanging around? Instead, there’s an option that’s much easier to get a hold of and to cut into. (No pipe cutters needed!)
Grab an old plastic jar or bottle and cut a few holes in it (making sure that they’re big enough for treats to fall out of.) Put a handful of treats in and screw the cap back on, and you’ve made a super simple puzzle toy that drops food out as your pup rolls it around.
If you want to add an element of challenge and make it much harder for treats to fall out, put a toilet roll tube inside as well. This is only really possible if you use a jar. Adding this extra element means treats can end up inside the roll and take far longer to roll around and knock out of the jar, keeping your pup occupied for much longer.
There are plenty of delicious dog-friendly recipes you can cook up at home. Just remember, all treats must be in moderation and your pooch needs to have fresh water available at all times. In addition, make sure you check the ingredients for anything your pooch is allergic to.
Our dogs go bananas for these muffins, and better still, they’re people and pooch-friendly, so you can enjoy one while your dog digs into their own special pupcake.
Truth be told, the recipe is simple and if you know how to make banana bread or muffins, you can make this treat very easily. Find your favourite banana cake recipe and swap sugar for honey. By omitting the refined sugar, your cake becomes paw-fect for pooches to enjoy as well as their humans.
If you decide to frost the cakes, (which we admittedly never do), remember to make two different batches of icing. One batch of pup-friendly icing with flour, and a human version with icing sugar. People don’t seem to be so keen on flour in their icing it would seem… Alternatively, you could mix up some Pure to the consistency of icing and spread that on the pupcakes.
For another pup-ular dog cake, try this peanut butter birthday cake created by the Blue Cross.
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to pupsicle recipes. In fact, you could take anything dog friendly and freeze it for a cool treat to enjoy on a sunny day. We’ll list our favourite recipe for the pup, and then one super simple idea you can both enjoy together.
These pupsicles were made and sent in by Carol F.
Our first recipe, and the most pup-ular, is a Pure recipe. And given how easily you can change the consistency, it’s paw-fect for making unusual new treats for the pooch. Better still, you needn’t add anything extra to make an exceptional pup-sicle.
Simply add more water than you usually would so you can pour the mix into popsicle moulds. Then simply wait for them to freeze, and you’ve got a tasty, healthy pup-sicle for your furry friend to enjoy.
If you want to really spoil the pup, you could add a few little extras to make it even more special. For example, if you add a little banana and keep the food a thicker consistency, you can make some sweet puppy truffles. Mix it all together and roll them in your hands into little balls, put the mix in paper cake cases and cool them until firm. Your pup will certainly love these tasty truffley treats!
The second recipe involves slightly more cooking, but your dog is sure to love it. Make up some broth or gravy with whatever leftover bones or offcuts you have. Strain it and then pour the liquid into lolly moulds instead of water. They’ll freeze into a deliciously meaty treat for your pup to enjoy. (Definitely don’t eat it yourself though!)
The third option is ridiculously simple. Just cut up any dog-friendly fruit you have and freeze it. Better still, you can enjoy this cool treat too! Bananas and blueberries work really well, but you could also try apple or melon. Frozen blueberries are also a great option to fill up a treat ball you have if you don’t want to be giving them dried biscuits.
That’s right, many of your favourite on-demand and streaming services also cater to pets now.
YouTube and Spotify already have user-made pet playlists aplenty. Simply search along the lines of “dog playlist” and the results stream in. They’re usually a mix of meditation style music to calm your pooch and virtual walks, often with birdsong or frog calls.
However, Spotify has gone a step further and a few weeks ago introduced Spotify for Pets. It builds a playlist for your pet (iguana, bird, hamster, cat or dog) based on their personality and your music taste. Expect your favourite artists at a BPM to match your dog’s pace.
DogTV is an actual TV channel, available online where you can stream it to any of your devices.
It’s colour-adjusted to appeal to dogs and features segments of interesting stimuli, like dogs playing, riding in a car, being on the beach, or answering the door. It’s a highlight reel of all the things your dog loves (and might be missing out on). Admittedly, some dogs might not pay much attention given the lack of smell. But for many pooches with active senses of sight and sound, it does keep them interested and has proven pup-ular with many pooches and rescue homes.
Otherwise, you can always pop on a youtube playlist of dog-friendly videos, usually of birds or fish. You can also find live streams of bird tables quite easily online or on youtube, and they prove popular with both pups and cats. Or you could browse your tv channels for a nature documentary and put that on, as many pups will watch the animals running around and calling to each other.