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Boredom is your dog's worst enemy. It is lack of activity and challenge that leads to your dog's bad behavior. If chewed shoes, furniture and garbage are plaguing your household, most veterinarians agree, it's time add more playthings to your furry friend's life.

Commercially purchased toys can be expensive, especially if you own a puppy or large dog, which can often demolish a new item in a day. Making and designing your own dog toys can be a cost-effective alternative to running to the pet store for another cheap plastic bone that your dog just wasn't that thrilled with in the first place.

The first step to providing the perfect play materials for your pup is to figure out your dog's tastes. This may take some time and basic trial and error. Some dogs like the taste and texture of certain fabrics like mesh and heavy cotton toweling, while others won't touch it. Most pet owners find that furnishing a variety of their favorites gives the dog enough of a challenge not to stray too far.

A Word about Safety
When making dog toys, it's important not to skimp on materials. Your dog's teeth are sharp and while you may save yourself ten or fifteen cents a yard by purchasing thinner materials, you're also presenting your best friend with a possible choking or intestinal blockage hazard. A few thoughts on safety:

1. Try to stay away from plastics. Most plastic toys are easily chewed into small bits by your pup. This is a dangerous choking hazard that can easily be avoided by staying away from hard plastics and thin rubber.

2. Don't use string. It's okay to attach heavy twine, cotton roping and nylon rope to your homemade dog toys, but string is a choking hazard.

3. Never give your dog an old shoe. Once you've told your dog it's okay to chew on shoes, he has no reason not to grab shoes from your closet that you're still wearing. You need to set guidelines for your animal. Refrain from giving him any "old" things that he could be confused about.

Puppy Toys
Don't let your new pup's tiny teeth fool you. They're just as sharp as older dog's teeth and completely capable of doing as much damage. Puppies need attention and challenge even more than older dogs. At this stage, it's a good idea to stock your pet's living space with a wide variety of toys. For simple teething solutions that cause your dog to bite on anything, try soaking a washcloth in cool water and placing it in the freezer overnight. The coolness of the cloth will help to relieve pain and inflammation to your pet's gums and also give him something to do. You can also give your pup crushed ice or larger sized ice cubes.

The Ball
You'd be hard pressed to find a dog that didn't like a ball in one form or another. Here are some simple alternatives to the classic dog ball:

1. An old tennis ball.

2. Jingle Ball: Dogs love noise. Poke a tiny hole into an old tennis ball and insert a simple, metal bell (available from any craft store). Reseal the opening with a few sewing stitches. Your dog will love the new sound of an old standby.

3. Children's balls: There are many inexpensive children's balls on the market today. It's best to stay away from spongy materials. Children's sized soccer balls and kick balls are well made and will easily withstand the force of your furry friend.

4. Flavored Balls: For an added treat, dip an old ball into a bowl of beef or chicken broth and freeze.

Fuzzy Friends
You can whip together a new fleece or cotton toy in just a few minutes. Grab a filler (cotton batting, old material scraps) and some fabric. Dogs love fleece, cotton and heavy canvas. Cut your material into any shape, add a few stitches with a sewing machine or by hand, stuff, sew the opening closed and you're done. For added enjoyment, toss in a bell or "squeeker" found in craft stores.

Dogs love to be challenged. By adding some mystery to your toy, you can provide your pet with a new fun activity. Try these:

Sock Trick: Take an old, heavy cotton sock (or sew together two pieces of cotton material to form a tube) and insert a few kernels of dog food or a tennis ball. Close the opening by sewing it, using velcro tape or simply tying a simple knot, and watch your dog spends hours trying to remove the object.

Rope Flyer: It's easy to make a homemade Frisbee that is less harmful to your dog's mouth than traditional hard plastic models. Grab some heavy duty rope (cotton is best, but nylon will work) and form a circle. With some heavy thread or Velcro tape, connect the two ends of the rope. For an alternative, cut a small piece of fabric in the size of a rectangle that is just large enough to reach both ends of the circle. Velcro around the rope on the top and bottom of the Frisbee. The added material will allow your dog's new toy to sail through the air even further.

Tug O War: You can make a tug o war toy out of almost anything. Heavy rope (preferably cotton) works great. You can tie a knot on one end so that you have something to hang on to. Old socks work well, too.

Making toys at home is easy. Try a few of your own inventions. Your dog (and your furniture) will be better for it!