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Inexpensive Dog Toys For Your Furbabies
We all love spoiling our pets. They are part of the family, after all, but in today's economy it can be a challenge squeezing in a budget for your furballs toys.
To me, challenges are meant to be taken head on!
Don't go to the pet store and buy overly-marked up toys when you can find, or make toys for much less.
Amazon or Ebay - If you're searching for a particular toy, I always look on Amazon or Ebay first to see what the cheapest price is. Once you factor in the shipping cost, decide if it's worth it, and if you'll save much off the local store price. Even I will break down and buy toys from the store, but it helps to know the price you pay is the best one. The money saved can be put towards other things, like more toys!
When buying a toy, run through a mental checklist: Price vs Durability - how long will this $10 toy last? If it's a stuffie, chances are, it won't last a day, so is it worth spending that much?; Safety - are there bits and bobs on the toy my dog might choke on?; And last, rate the fascination factor. Every pooch is different, and you really have to know your dog. How long will your dog be interested in said toy? Stuffies lose my dog's interest fast, but if they're oddly shaped (like his lobster and an octopus that he LOVES), he'll be entertained up 'til the toy is in pieces. (Hehe.)
Hard-toys like dental chews, are worth the investment if not for their durability, then with their purpose in keeping clean shiny teeth. A Kong is also a great investment. You can stuff the Kong with peanut butter, ice cubes, treats, and your dog will sit and work on it until the job is done. If I ever need some peace and quiet, I bust out the peanut-butter-filled-Kong, and hand it over to my pup.
Thrifting - My favorite thing to do was go thrifting with my sister. We often made a day of it when the thrift stores in our town had half-off Tuesdays. You can find all kinds of neat things if you dig deep enough. Some stores like GoodWill or Value Village have pet sections where you can purchase cheap food dishes, cages for small pets, fish bowls, and yes lots and lots of toys. St. Vincent's is also a choice spot for me as you can buy stuffied toys for as low as .25. Compare that to what is essentially the same thing at a pet store -- a $15 toy and you've got yourself a steal. If you're not a household that allows dogs stuffed toys, that's fine too - thrift stores are a treasure trove of good finds, and I'll bet you'll find a few things for yourself as well. Craigslist is another great source for finding gently used pet items and toys! You can also purchase cheap craft goods and make your own toys -- more on that later.
The Beauty In Old Toys - If you're not in the habit of rotating out toys, you really should be! When dogs get bored of the same toys, don't go to your wallet- not just yet. Throw some of the older ones in the closet, while keeping him busy with the current toys you allow him to have now. This really works best when your dog is still inseperable from a certain toy. As soon as they tire of it, (or a couple weeks later), bring out the hidden toys and watch their eyes light up as if it's showering good fortune. Then hide the toys that were already out and continue in this cycle. Lather, rinse, repeat! When I hide the lobster or cat-ball from my dog for awhile, as soon as I bring them out again it's like he's king of the world and nothing else but those toys are important. You don't have to spend an arm and a leg on keeping your dog interested with new toys -- it's not because you spent the cash that your dog is head over heels. Even if he's had a toy for weeks and weeks, hiding it for awhile, and then bringing it out... well, it's like brand new all over again.
Also, have you tried soaking an old bone in chicken or beef broth? I've soaked my dog's old bones with stew juices at the bottom of a pot that I would have otherwise just thrown out, and it rekindled his love for his chew bones.
More Bang for Your Buck, Toys with Multiple Uses - I suppose the Kong and Dental Chews (the nylabone dino chew to the right is my dog's absolute FAVE, it's the one toy that doesn't get rotated out ever) would fall in this category as 'toys worth their price' (same with bones), but let's not overlook the typical dog stuffie. Some owners prefer to keep away from cloth/stuffing toys so as not to confuse the dog with their slippers or children's toys, or simply because the mess of a de-stuffed stuffie can be quite... a headache, but I am a huge fan of the stuffie, and here's why.
I'll use my Doberman boy's large pink dog stuffie (yes, he picked it out himself), that he completely de-stuffed and stuff it with -- other toys! It drives him bonkers when I stuff his squeaky cat-ball, lobster, rubber chicken, along with some small treats, all wedged tightly into the back of this dog toy. And I mean PACKED. It gets his mind working so he's got complete focus on the task of getting everything out. He loves this so much that when I start stuffing that darn pink dog with toys, he gets so worked up, excited for his incoming challenge. You can do this with as many stuffies as you want! Luckily my dog doesn't rip his stuffed toys to shreds, but you can always save a toy from complete demolition by intervening and then stuffing it with other toys.
Another good plus with stuffies is you can salvage the stuffing that gets strewn about (Careful, watch if your dog eats any of it. Mine doesn't thankfully.) and make homemade stuffed toys with the recycled fluff - or if you're crazy like me, you can re-stuff them and sew them back up. I used to do this in the beginning, but found stuffing the toys with other toys a much easier task. Besides, making your own stuffies can be quite fun! They don't have to look beautiful, dogs love it all. I've found the weirder the shape, the better.
Homemade Toys - Don't knock on homemade just yet, making your own toys can be such a relief on the purse-strings, and a fun project! Now I'll be the first to admit I'm not the craftiest person in the world - my crochet looks like a child's attempt, my knitting I can't get past the first row, and my sewing... well, I'm not going to be making any prized quilts anytime soon, but to a dog, that doesn't matter. It's utility over pretty, stimulating over perfected stitches. Your dog would love a homemade tug toy made from scraps of old pants just as much as a $10 one from the store. The great thing is there is no limit in the homemade world; you can create toys from anything and everything. You can crochet balls filled with treats, normal balls, bone-shaped toys, with crochet you really can make anything. With sewing, you can create an endless array of different stuffies shaped in whatever you desire. You don't have to stuff with fluff, you can stuff with dog kibble, treats, other toys if you wish. The possibilities are endless! And that extra material you have lying around can really be put to use! As I've stated earlier, 'prettiness' doesn't matter - it really doesn't, and you should avoid working too hard on a toy that's just going to wind up chewed up.
You can also make your own dog beds -- don't pay $30 and up for the beds in the store, try your own hand! Got too many old socks lying around? Fill em with treats and watch your dog go nuts! Have a kiddie pool not being used? Fill it with cold water on a hot day, water-loving dogs will flip!
Here are some links to some great resources on homemade toy making:
Quality Time - It's priceless. It's also completely free. What is it? Well, it's something your dog loves above all else. And that is: time with you.
Spending time with your dog beats out any toy cheap or pricey, in my humble opinion. Quality time with your pooch strengthens bonds, keeps you both occupied and (hopefully) happy, and it's something totally free that your dog just can't get enough of. Whether it's going to the lake for a swim, jogging, playing frisbee, or walking to the nearest dog park, this busies your dog mentally, physically, and by the time you're done, you have a much more mellow pooch. I've always thought the more tired a dog, the happier.
Dogs crave for things to do -- mentally and physically, and they find that in every toy that comes their way. But if you offer it on a daily basis, it really does something extra for your companion. A bored dog is an unhappy dog, and that is where destruction comes from. Dogs that don't have anything to do find trouble whether it be getting into the trash, chewing on furniture, digging up the yard, etc. When you keep your dog busy with lots of stimulating toys, love, and something daily you two can share together, it makes for one happy, healthy animal. And that my dear reader, is the best one of all.