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If you are like most dog owners, your house is littered with any number of dog toys. But you can’t figure out why, with so many toys of his own, Fido doesn’t really seem interested in them. It is because they have very little value to him. In reality, your dog doesn’t need more than a few toys to be fulfilled…you just need to know how to make them valuable and fun for him.

Dog toys range from balls to fleecy/plush animals to squeakers to interactive toys (I.T.). They are a necessary component to a good relationship with a dog. What your dog will ultimately play with depends on his tastes and what you allow him to have, and what you have given value to. His tastes may change periodically, which is fine. Experts agree that rotating toys keeps the games fresh and fun–which keep your dog more interested.

What toys are best?

As a professional dog trainer, people often ask me what dog toys I recommend they should buy and which ones I use for my own dogs.

Here’s the answer: Your dog doesn’t need more than three toys. Rotate them, so he doesn’t get bored. But remember: We’re talking about an animal that eats the same food, day in/day out. And while your dog needs mental stimulation in the form of play and obedience training, they will be perfectly happy with chewing on the same toys, for years.   (Much the same way young children can watch the same Barney movie 100 times without getting bored!)

So… what are the three best dog toys in my opinion?

- The Kong© rubber toy or something similar. The benefit of this toy is that they can chew on it for months and months, in most cases.  It doubles as a pacifier and an interactive toy.  You can also stuff it with doggie treats, cream cheese, peanut butter or whatever.  West Paw Design and Planet Dog have similar rubber toys which are sometimes more durable than the Kong.

- The rope toy. This is usually sold in either white or multi-strand colors. It is a thick piece of soft rope, tied in a knot on each end. Knotted rope bones are safe for playing fetch, and can be used for teething puppies. If you give your dog a rope bone, however, you must be mindful that some dogs actually chew and swallow the fabric. This habit can be deadly! There are alternatives such as the nuts for knots which doesn’t have the fringe for dogs to chew on.

- The Nylabone.  This is sold in various materials to fit the various strengths of chewing abilities dogs have.  Unlike rawhide and bones, Nylabones can be washed in the dishwasher and won’t splinter or swell in your dog’s throat.

I recommend that dogs have toys appropriate to their size and temperament– Toys that encourage cooperation between pet and handler are the best (fetch can be played with almost anything).

If your dog is home alone for extended periods interactive toys that your dog can play with alone are great to occupy the day. An example is the Buster Cube, in which you place a portion of kibble and the dog releases it by turning the cube every which way. These types of toys stimulate the dog’s desire and need to learn. Another is the Intellicube which has the dog learn how to remove fabric squeak toys from a fabric cube.

Now how do I add value? Keep this maxim in mind: “Anything we get in excess, we value less.” Here is a simple regimen that is nearly foolproof, if you follow it to the letter: 1.) Put ALL the dog’s toys away for at least 24 hours. 2-3 days is best. Make sure they are out of sight. (NOTE: the dog should have at least one chewing device available at all times–chewing devices are NOT considered toys for this purpose.) 2.) After the restriction period is over, bring out one of the toys when your dog is not completely distracted by something else–we want to make him inquisitive! 3.) Ignore dog. Exclaim to the world in general (not looking at dog) how wonderful the toy is, toss it in the air, wave it around, giggle, talk silly to it, make yummy noises as you pretend to eat it, & whoop it up big time. Run all over the house with it, dog jumping in excitement and you completely ignoring him–and DO NOT allow the dog to have it!! This is important! 4.) After a few minutes of this crazy fun, put the item away again while the dog watches. 5.) Switch yourself “off” and go do something else. 6.) REPEAT the above 5 steps twice a day (once in a.m., once in p.m.) for 3 days. 7.) On the 4th day, “accidentally” allow the dog to “get” the toy as you are making a fuss over it. Play with him with it for a couple of minutes, and then put it away again. 8.) Repeat step 7, gradually drawing out the play sessions up to 5 minutes or so. Keep them fun! 9.) Continue to put the toy away after each session–this is the only way it will remain valuable! 10.) Rotate “valuable” toys occasionally just to keep Fido interested.

Dogs Chew.  That is how they entertain themselves.  They chew to relieve boredom.  Most dog owners battle the “If I see it, chew it” exploratory phase with their puppies.  Some subscribe to the philosophy, “Oh that’s his ’cause he already chewed it!” But this doesn’t solve the problem.  Others have that special dog who will chew an old shoe or knotted socks and nothing else. But it is best not to allow dogs such objects.

Different dogs find different textures appealing.   To learn what your puppy may enjoy, try a variety of chew toys.  We recommend that people start out with 4-5 toys:  a ball, a hard bone-type toy, a hard-rubber toy, a soft toy and/or a rope toy and assess how the puppy plays with each texture and what he enjoys.

Our puppy favorites are Puppy Chew Keys, Puppy Nylabones, Kong Wubba, and Orbees.  They are easy to keep clean (just wash them), hard for puppies to destroy, and provide hours of entertainment.

These products are now stocked in The Woofie Shop at Acme Canine.

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by “laying on hands” and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy.

Reiki can help maintain energetic balance and promote health and well-being. For dogs suffering from illness or injury, either physical or mental, Reiki is a powerful complement to both conventional and alternative healing methods. For dying animals, Reiki gives them gentle, loving support in this process. For a person who has a dog, works with dogs, or volunteers at a shelter, Reiki is a wonderful healing tool to be able to offer to your animal friends.

Dog toys can come in all shapes and sizes. Good dog toys don’t have to come for the pet store; you can make great toys for your best friend at home. This is a guide about making homemade dog toys from recycled materials.

Stuffed Sweater Toys

Materials

  • Old sweater, long sleeved shirt, or sweatshirt pants (acrylic washes easier)
  • Pack of Squeaks
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread
  • Straight pins
  • Stuffing
  • hand needle
  • Scissors
  • Pattern

Cut up the shirt or pants so they lie flat.

Pin on the dog bone pattern or make up your pattern.

Cut around the pattern. Make sure you have two of each shapes for a top and a bottom.

Pin the top and bottom together so the pattern you want on the outside of the finished toy is facing in.

Sew around the edge leaving a 2 inch hole.

Turn the toy inside out and add stuffing and add a squeak.

Hand sew the hole shut.

Give to your dog.

Modification: if you plan on using the same pattern multiple times, cut it out of card stock and trace around the pattern with chalk or marker. Use your imagination, for the pattern Hearts, Circles, or it does not have to look like anything (your dog won’t mind)

Sock Toy

Materials

  • One Sock (big enough for you bottle to fit in)
  • Plastic drinking bottle (empty and without cap)
  • Needle and Thread

Put the plastic bottle in your sock.

Sew up the end of your sock and give it to your dog.

Modification: Sew on Velcro to the end of your sock so you can reload plastic bottles

Rope Toy

Materials

  • Old Jeans, fleece or sweatshirt
  • Scissors
  • Needle & Thread

Cut the jeans, or material into nine 1 inch strips.  The finished product will be smaller so if you want a about a 12 inch rope toy, cut the strips to be about 24 inches long (will vary depending on thickness of fabric and tightness of braid).

Stack the strips on top of each other and sew one of the ends together.

Braid the strips, three at a time.  Then braid the three braided strips together.

Sew the end pieces to prevent unraveling and trim off excess.

Modification:  Sew the end two inched in from the edge of the fabric, and end the braid two inches from the end for a “frayed” end look.

Plastic Bag Leash

Materials

  • About 20 of the heavy plastic bags
  • metal leash clip (saved off of an old leash)
  • Scissors
  • Iron (and ironing board)
  • Aluminum foil

Cut the bags in three sections.

Braid the bag together adding more bags by tying or looping them thru the previous bags.

Continue braiding and adding bags till you have a long strand about 7feet long.

Repeat till you have three braided strands. Then braid the three braided stand together, forming one long rope.

At one end loop one of the strands thru the metal leash clip and loop the other two stands the other way thru the leash clip.

Wrap the loose ends with unbraided, sections of the cut bag and tie off. Form a loop and the other end (for the handle) Keep in mind how long you would like the leash to be.

Cut off the extra bags, to your leash length leaving a two or three inches overlap to wrap the handle with. Wrap the loose end to the leash base with some more bag strips to form the loop handle.

Turn you iron on to high. To finish you’ll need two sheets of aluminum foil, if you have some pre-used foil use it (you will end up destroying it anyway).

Between the two sheets place the parts of the leash were you wrapped the bags (either the handle or the clip, you will do this for both.) and iron it. The point is to melt the plastic, keep turning the leash till all the wrapped bag has fused together. The bags on the inside of the braid will still be flexible.

Be careful the iron and the metal clip will be hot! Cut off any hanging bits and test out the strength of the seams indoors before you go on a walk outside.

Jean Leash

Materials

  • old pair of jeans
  • metal leash clip (saved off of an old leash that was destroyed)
  • Heavy duty needle and thread
  • Scissors

Cut along either side of the seam of a pant leg.  You want a long strip of the part of the jean that has been stitched together.

Repeat this with the four seams.

Sew the seams together to create one longer strip of fabric.

At this point determine how long you would like you leash to be, standard leashes are 5 or 6 feet long.  Add 10- 12 inches on to your desired length for the handle.

Loop one end thru the leash clip and over itself; then sew it shut.

With the other end, measure about 10 inches and loop the jean over itself.

Sew it together so it forms a handle.

Test out the strength of the seams indoors before you go on a walk outside.

You can sew this on a sewing machine; just make sure you have the correct needle and machine setting.

Stepping Stone

Materials:

  • Portland cement
  • sand
  • bucket
  • stirring stick (we use the paint sticks)
  • water
  • molds (use plastic containers fro frozen food or vegetables, paper buckets, anything that can be ripped apart if the stone does not come out)
  • Things to put in the stone (broken plates, glass…)

Mix the cement and the sand thoroughly together with a 1:1 ratio.

Add water, about a cup at a time, it will look “dry” when it is mixed. It will be crumby but when squeezed in your hand form a loose ball. It is better to be too dry than too wet.

Scoop it out into your molds and level off with your stirring stick.

Add your design; write in the cement, make a mosaic with the glass or plates bits. Be creative)

Let dry 48 hours before removing the mold. Keep out of the sun when drying- the top will cure unevenly and can lead to breaking. If planning on keeping outdoors in the winter paint on concrete sealer to keep it from cracking.

Many dogs suffer from a generalized fear of dominant handling (handling the toes) and restraint (the headlock). In some cases the dog has experienced heavy discipline, excessive restraint, or medication in order to accomplish the task. This can compound the problem.

Although this scenario is very typical and quite common, we have good news. Nail trims absolutely do not have to be this way! You can teach your dog to tolerate and even enjoy having his nails trimmed.  With positive reinforcement and calm determination you can help your dog learn to accept a nail trim while maintaining relaxed and at ease.

All it takes is some patience and baby steps.  Handling your dog’s paws is just one step.  It is important to hold on to his paw for extended periods of time while praising him.  This teaching your dog that restraint is not a bad thing.

So why all the fuss over trimming a dog’s nails?  Here 10 good reasons:

10 they won’t click when walking

9   they won’t snag the carpet

8   they won’t crack or split

7   they won’t cause difficulty with walking

6 they won’t cause strain on your dog’s legs

5 they won’t interfere with your dog’s gait

4 trimming your dog’s nail can be a perfect time to bond

3 they won’t curl around the paw and puncture the footpad

2 they won’t deform your dog’s feet

1 you can learn from the wear of the nails how your dog is walking to intercept possible injuries

Acme Canine has helped many dogs overcome their fear of nail trims through use of a few basic obedience commands. We’d be happy to assist you as well.

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