Keeping Your Dog Mentally Stimulated With DIY Toys Under SGD5
Think about the times when you’ve been bored or restless. You might have subconsciously tapped your foot on the floor or drummed your fingers on the table. Perhaps you felt fatigued or even agitated during the process. These are some signs the body exhibits when the mind doesn’t feel sufficiently engaged. Likewise, when our dogs aren’t mentally engaged, boredom and restlessness can set it.
Signs can include excessive sleeping, pacing around the house, barking for our attention or scratching and chewing furniture. An equal emphasis on exercise, the sort that exerts them physically as well as challenges them mentally is important to help your dog stay happy and healthy. But unfortunately, mental exercise for dogs is often neglected, with emphasis typically placed on physical activity.
Mental engagement doesn’t equate to the cost of the toy or how well made a toy is, and has more to do with the quality of play and how much brain ‘power’ is being spent on the activity. In this blog post, we’ll share four easy, step-by-step guides to create mental enrichment toys for dogs that will keep them entertained and mentally sharp that will not burn a hole in your pocket!
DIY Project #1: No Sew Snuffle Mat
During walks, observe how frequently your dog keeps his nose to the ground, sniffing at the grass or pausing to smell the air. Allowing them to engage in these behaviours is immensely beneficial for their mental well-being and stimulation. Experts even say that 20 minutes of sniffing can be as stimulating and healthy as an hour’s walk.
Scentwork (or nosework) is a growing dogsport that trains dogs to search and find a scent because of the benefits it can bring to dogs. Furthermore, it is not physically challenging, making it a good activity to promote mental engagement for puppies and elderly dogs. This is why, in recent years, snuffle mats have become popular. However, snuffle mats for pets can get pretty expensive and that’s why we have a DIY version that you can create with everyday things you’re most likely to have at home!
- Rectangular piece of cardboard box (any size of your choice)
- Pen knife
- Take your piece of cardboard and cut slits in a grid pattern using the pen knife.
- Using a screwdriver, make the slits bigger for the cloth to go through later.
- Cut the fabric of your choice into strips that are 3cm wide and 10cm long.
- Taking one strip of fabric, insert it into a slit, and from the back of the board, insert the same strip of fabric into the next (vertical) hole.
- Flip the board, and you’ll have two fabric pieces. Tie them into a simple knot to keep them in place.
- Continue till you have completed filling up rows of the slits you’ve made earlier.
- Repeat the process, following the slits horizontally.
DIY Project #2: T-Shirt Braid
Ever found a piece of furniture or shoe that your dog has chewed up? It is a situation that most dog owners have found themselves in at least once. Chewing is a soothing experience for most dogs and it is not something that we should reprimand them for.
Redirection is the key to such behaviours. One method is to redirect them to an activity such as working on a food puzzle that will occupy and tire them out mentally. However, the cost of these toys tends to stack up, so here is a homemade mental stimulation solution.
- Old t-shirt
- Hair tie
- Take the t-shirt and cut it into three 3cm wide and 35cm long strips.
- Tie the three strips at one end together using a hair tie.
- Braid the three strips to get a braid and secure tightly with another hair tie.
- To create more engagement with the toy, stuff treats into the crevices of the braids.
You can even create multiple plaits and tie them together to get your dog to spend more time engaging with the toy.
DIY Project #3: Enrichment Lick Tray
When a dog licks your feet or face, they are actually overwhelmed with affection and are trying to soothe themselves. Licking can have a calming effect on them and it also helps to reduce their overall level of excitement, which makes it a good behaviour to engage in for an anxious or hyperactive dog.
There are plenty of toys out there that encourage dogs to lick, such as the Kong or mats purposefully designed for licking, however, there are supplies in your home that can engage them mentally as much, if not more!
- Silicone ice cube tray
- Bone broth
- Pumpkin or sweet potato puree
- Cubed fruits
- Peanut butter (optional)
- Fill your ice cube tray with one treat in each compartment.
- Next, fill with water and chill in the freezer.
- Once the first layer is set, add in your next layer of puree.
- Add in cubed fruits and cover with bone broth.
- Give it a final freeze, and once the layers have set, you can smear the optional peanut butter, or give it to your dog without.
The non-slip surface of the silicone ice cube tray makes it ideal for dogs when they’re licking it. Not only can this frozen enrichment cool them down in Singapore’s weather, the multiple layers and textures provide ample stimulation to their brains and tongue!
DIY Project #4: Water bottle treat dispenser
Judging by the way your pup understands human gestures and social cues, and how they just seem to be able to ‘turn on’ his puppy eyes to get extra treats, there is no doubt that dogs are smart creatures. These brainy beings need to use their brain constantly, albeit on a different level.
This is where treat-dispensing toys come in. Not only do they offer a wonderful advantage by motivating your dog through the act of dispensing treats, these toys require them to use a bit of effort to retrieve the treats concealed within the toy, employing their physical agility and problem-solving capabilities.
There are many treat dispensing toys out in the market but here is something you can make almost immediately and without spending above SGD3!
- 1.5 litre plastic water bottle
- Pen knife
- Take your empty water bottle and cut small holes throughout the water bottle. We recommend four to five holes of about 1.5cm x 1.5cm. You can increase or decrease the number of holes and its size depending on how fast you want the treats to be dispensed.
- Take a small piece of sandpaper and sand down the sharp edges of the holes to ensure your dog’s safety.