Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Let's face it: Dog toys are expensive. Especially for those of us who have dogs that like to destroy everything when it comes to toys.
That's why I like to have some everyday items ready in the arsenal to rotate in for enrichment. The best part? They're inexpensive, easy to find, and you probably have many of these items at your house already. Bonus: It doesn't matter if most of these get ruined, because you're upcycling them anyway!
Here are Some of My Go-To Repurposing Enrichment Finds at Home:
Paper towel or toilet paper tubes
Old towels/ Blankets
Now, let's get inspired!
Cardboard boxes are a great (and inexpensive) way to create enrichment at home. They can be used to create DIY puzzles, sensory boxes, or they can be used for the satisfactory tearing and shredding sensation that most dogs go bonkers for. Watch this video below, where I use recycled cardboard in multiple ways to create a sensory box for my dogs. For more info on how it was created, check out the original post here.
Paper Towel or Toilet Paper Tubes
My dogs go nuts for these on their own, but paper tubes can also be used in more elaborate DIY puzzles as well. You can easily increase the difficulty by including them in sensory boxes with scrunched ends, placing treats inside the tubes and wrapping them in towels, and more. See below on how I cut paper tubes to create a small treat puzzle to encourage sniffing and foraging.
Old towels/ Blankets
I'm willing to bet that there's some old towels collecting dust in the back of your linen cupboard. It's time to give them a new purpose! Use old towels and blankets to create enrichment food puzzles through different folding and twisting techniques (we'll set you up with some easy starters, here!), or to wrap different items in sensory boxes. The possibilities are endless.
While I love the Kong Wobblers, I wanted to recreate the fun feeder aspect while also making an extremely inexpensive version at home. I found the answer in an item I always have kicking around the house: Coffee tubs! Simply drill some holes in a washed coffee tub and fill the tub with treats. The circular shape allows easy rolling and the treats can tumble out through the drilled holes.
If you're anything like me, your muffin tins sit in the back of your cupboard and only get used a handful of times each year. But, fear no more! You can use muffin tins for a plethora of different enrichment games and activities at home. Whether it be through freezing some treats in the bases (below) or creating a food puzzle like this one on our Instagram, there are many different ways that you can incorporate the use of these tins at home.
In our house we go through a lot of eggs. With a lot of eggs, comes a lot of cartons to recycle. OR a lot of enrichment repurposing! Simply fill your egg carton with dry treats and close.
Ways to Up The Difficulty: Once you've filled your egg carton with treats, close and wrap it in a towel.
Now that I've included some fun references to help you get started on DIY enrichment, I'm going to clear the air on something that many people inquire about. Contrary to popular belief, allowing your dog enrichment through cardboard and shredding will not turn them into little destructive deviants. Author Shay Kelly explains why in his article, Will Enrichment Turn Him into a Destruction Monster?, where he explains in this perfect excerpt:
"In many years of giving my dogs cardboard boxes to destroy, never have they attempted to access a box not meant for them. This of course doesn’t mean that a dog will not destroy things which you wanted to keep. It means only that using boxes in enrichment is not teaching them to destroy all boxes, just as letting them walk into your house isn’t teaching them to walk into all houses."
That being said, it's important to monitor enrichment for your dog as an individual and tailor accordingly. Have a dog who's notorious for eating cardboard? Skip the cardboard and go go for an alternative option like towel or muffin tin puzzles.
2.) Author Shay Kelly's, Five Quick & Easy Indoor Enrichment Ideas With Everyday Objects
3.) Certified Vet Tech Christine Chaplan's, Keep the Good Times Going with Six Categories of Enrichment