Dog toys are expensive, and if you have more than one dog in your family, the costs really mount. However, dogs are not so bedazzled by all the bells and whistles of commercial products as we humans are, and will joyfully accept a homemade toy over a manufactured one. Making dog toys from what would otherwise be trash makes dogs happy and helps to reduce waste in the landfill at the same time.
Plain-Vanilla Bottle Toy
If you have lots of water bottles and little time, just toss your pup the “plain vanilla” version of the bottle toy. Remove the label, the bottle cap and the plastic ring around the spout before giving it to him, since those may pose a choking hazard. He will chase a tossed bottle as happily as if it were a ball or a throwing disk, and will enjoy nosing it around the yard or house. When it reaches the stage where it is a lumpy, tooth-marked mess, put it in the recycling bin and toss him a fresh one.
Rope Bottle Toy
A slightly more elaborate, but still simple-to-make bottle toy requires nothing more than the addition of a piece of rope. Remove label, lid and ring as before, then cut a dime-sized hole in the bottom of the bottle with a sharp knife or large drill bit. Push a half-inch-diameter rope through the hole in the bottom and out the spout -- leaving about a foot of rope sticking out on each end. Tie a big knot on each end and offer the toy to your dog to shake or carry. This is a good bottle toy for dogs who like playing tug-of-war with another dog or with you.
Drill small holes in several places around a bottle's sides and add dog treats through the spout end. Make holes large enough for small dog treats to pass through, but not so large that everything spills out as soon as you put it in the bottle. Put the lid back on tightly so it doesn't accidentally come loose. The idea is for your pup to shake the bottle like a rattle until a treat falls out. It won't take him long to catch on. This toy suits small dogs best and is definitely not for aggressive chewers who may eat the container to get to the treats. Do not allow your dog to use this toy unmonitored.
Pour some chicken or beef broth, melted ice cream or diluted yogurt into a bottle and freeze it. When summer comes and your dog is hot from playing, take the lid off his pupsicle and thaw slightly to get some of the liquid flowing, then let him lick the spout to cool off. This is a good way to keep him safely entertained when temperatures soar and vigorous outdoor activity might result in heat exhaustion. Since it could prove messy, this is probably best as an outside-only toy. Again, this is not for aggressive chewers.
This toy requires two empty 1-gallon water bottles. Remove the lids, labels and plastic rings and then tie the handles together with a short length of rope. You want to have about 3 to 6 inches of rope showing between the bottles so your dog can grab between them. He will love shaking his “nunchucks” like prey.