Entertaining your Puppy on the Cheap

Puppies are expensive. Often times there are adoption fees, vaccinations, vet bills, food, snacks, bedding, training, and so much more, and those are just the essentials! It’s easy to suffer from a little sticker shock when you start adding up the dollars necessary for raising a puppy (but they are so worth it!).

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When it comes to entertaining your dog with toys and games, it’s easy for that dollar amount to skyrocket. A quick search on PetCO.com revealed toys as expensive as $41.24 (that’s after a 25% discount!), and toys on average sit between $10-15. So stockpiling your dogs toy bin can be quite difficult.

Luckily, there are alternatives! With Pickle, we’ve made some great discoveries about ways to keep her entertained and ways to stimulate her body and her mind. Here are a couple tips and hints about entertaining your puppy on the cheap:

Where to Shop:

Skip the big name stores and go to second-hand stores. Store’s like Marshal’s and Ross are great places to pick up the same puppy toys as Pet Co, but at half the cost (not to mention dishes, leashes, etc)! The fun part is a store like Ross does not track their inventory from store to store, so shopping in their stores is like a scavenger hunt for new goods! Fun for your inner shopper, and a huge payoff to your pup (and your wallet!).

For a little more adventure, we’ve gone toy shopping in Goodwill and thrift stores all across Seattle. Goodwill has a great pet section, sure, but the pay off is finding a fun stuffed animal from the kid’s toy aisle. Kira came back with a stuffed horse and a mopey Eeyore that drove Pickle nuts! I think the smells from these toys cannot be replicated, so it puts her on sensory overload when we play with them. For an added bit of fun, we bought a giant stuffed bear (for $6) that Pickle wrestles with and uses as a dog bed. We ran it through the dryer on high to kill any possible bugs, just in case.

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Make sure if you are purchasing none dog approved toys from thrift stores that you remove any hard plastic eyes or attachments so your pup doesn’t choke. Also make sure they don’t eat any of the stuffing from inside as it could cause blockage issues. There’s a little extra work needed, but worth it!

In your Home:

Believe it or not, your home is already a great resource for dog toys (if your pup chews on everything, maybe it’s not a surprise). The crunching and texture of a plastic soda bottle mimics the same crunchy texture inside loads of existing dog toys. Before Pickle’s jaws were strong enough to cause problems, we would give her glass bottles that she could nose around the floor (she tried and tried to get the sugary drink from inside the bottle). Any old or torn shirts can be balled and knotted up to create toy ropes. It’s recycling for your dog!

Pro tip: At the bottom of any treat bag is a pile of crumbs. Don’t through them away! I mixed mine with some water and pumpkin puree, and then froze it in an ice-cube tray. Now, whenever Pickle is bothering me in the kitchen, I can toss her a cube and it’ll keep her busy for a couple minutes. Long enough for me to finish cooking dinner.

Mind Games:

We’ve covered toys, what about games? A dogs easily exhausted if they are mentally stimulated, and simple scavenging games can exhaust your pup while buying you a couple minutes to breathe. Our game is quite simple, and quite effective. The set up is simple. Lay some of your pups favorite treats on the ground, then cover it with a blanket. Lay some more treats, add some toys, fold over the blanket, and repeat (as many times as you can). Your dog will have to dig through all the blankets and queue into their scavenging instincts, exerting both physical and mental energy.

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Your dogs are precious members of the family, and as owners we want to give them everything to ensure they have a happy life. Unfortunately the bill can get out of control before we have time to realize. Luckily, there are simple ways to give your dog lots of joy and entertainment, all it takes is a little creativity in your day. So get out there and spoil your pups!

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