Having an exciting game of tug with your favorite pooch doesn't have to mean spending money on expensive designer toys. Making your own toy at home means you can recycle old materials or use items you have on hand, building a sense of pride in your handiwork every time your dog enjoys his tug toy.
Making traditional rope tug toys allows you to be ready to play nearly instantly. Choose a rope in a thickness suitable for your dog; dogs with small mouths need thin rope, perhaps an inch in diameter, while larger breeds might need rope 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick. If you have old, worn rope hanging in your garage, making a tug toy is an ideal way to recycle it. Many home improvement stores sell rope cut to your desired length. For smaller dogs, cut the rope about 18 inches long, while large dogs might like a longer length, such as 2 1/2 feet. Tie a tight knot in each end, leaving about 2 inches loose so it can fray as you play. For longer lengths, add a knot in the middle if you like.
When your dryer eats your socks leaving you with no matching pairs, there's no need to throw away the mismatched leftovers. Instead, tie a knot near the toe of one sock and stuff one or two rolled-up socks inside. Tie a knot in the ankle end of the sock to hold the stuffing inside and give you a place to grip. Longer socks work best for this tug toy.
Dress up your rope or sock toys with tennis balls to enhance tug time. Poking a hole in either side of a tennis ball and threading the rope through before you tie knots in the ends makes the tug toy double as a chew toy. Cutting the rope longer lets you thread one tennis ball on each end of the rope. Wrap the rope around the ball before tying it so you and the dog can grab the balls or the knots when tugging. For socks, stuff one or two tennis balls inside instead of using rolled-up socks for a longer-lasting toy.
Instead of throwing away old jeans, T-shirts and fleece blankets, cut them into strips between 1 and 4 inches wide. The strips should be 2 1/2 to 3 feet long if possible to make a sturdy dog toy. Stack the strips and tie a knot in one end, then braid the strips to the other end and end with another knot. For a thicker toy, braid three sets of strips, then tie those sets together and braid them.
The ASPCA recommends using tug time as a way to reinforce discipline with your dog. Dogs typically play tug as a way to establish dominance; if your pooch often wins, he might begin to see himself as the alpha dog. Setting some rules for tug keeps it enjoyable for both of you while keeping you in the dominant pack position. Don't allow him to grab the toy until you give him permission, and stop play immediately if he bites your hand instead of the toy. Instead of letting your dog pull the toy out of your hand consistently, give him the "drop it" command to end the round; if he won't drop it, play time is over. When he drops it on command, he's earned another few minutes of bonding while playing tug.