by Mel Lee-Smith
We pet parents love spoiling our fur-babies because they're good boys and girls and they deserve all the nice things. Yummy treats, new toys, super comfy bedding, automatic food and water bowls — we're willing to pay a pretty penny to pamper our pups! (Especially when they hit us with those irresistible puppy-dog eyes.)
But the threat of climate change has caused many consumers to rethink their spending habits and carefully consider the environmental impact of every item they purchase. People all over the planet are ditching single-use plastics and synthetic materials and optimizing their energy use to cut their carbon emissions. The most scrupulous zero wasters also consider their pup's carbon pawprint.
Fortunately, zero waste dog toys are a walk in the park when it comes to making small lifestyle changes. Read on to discover some ideas for making your own zero waste dog toys out of stuff you probably already have lying around the house.
Zero Waste Dog Toy Ideas
One of the first principles of living zero waste with a dog is to use what you have before buying anything new, and the same applies to toys. If your dog's toy box is overflowing with tennis balls, tug ropes, and plush toys they never play with, consider some of the following ideas for reusing or repurposing them before tossing them out.
Repair damaged toys.
Does Fifi have a favorite stuffed animal they've ripped to shreds? No need to toss it out just yet! A little TLC (and some sewing know-how) will make that one-legged teddy bear good as new. Don't know how to sew? Do a quick internet search and you'll find tons of simple sewing tutorial videos. (If all else fails or you're unable to sew, your local clothing alterations shop just might be willing to lend a helping paw.)
Upcycle old clothes and blankets.
If you find yourself channeling your inner Marie Kondo and bagging up anything and everything that doesn't spark joy, "pawse" before donating that giant bag of unwanted clothes to the thrift store. With a little creativity, jeans, socks, and cotton shirts can easily be reimagined into tug ropes, plush bones, and makeshift balls. Fleece is another great material for making your own tug rope toy. If you want to make something really sturdy (and also eco-friendly), make your own hemp rope tug toy. The internet is full of ideas and tutorials for making your own zero waste dog toys.
Set up a toy swap.
Okay, so maybe you're not the crafty type. That's cool, too. Chances are you have some dog owner friends whose toy boxes are also overflowing with neglected and forgotten toys. Why not set up a pup playdate to trade some toys? Both your dogs get new stuff and some much-needed socialization all at the same time. Sounds like a win-win!
If you "pawsitively" must treat your buddy, hit up your local thrift shops to uncover a treasure trove of new-to-you toys! Who knows? You might just find Sparky's new favorite ball (at a fraction of the cost of a brand new one, too!).
Misconceptions about Zero Waste Dog Toys
Surf the 'net for ten minutes and you'll find all sorts of anecdotes on sticks and animal bones as zero waste dog toys. But think twice before you run out and snap up a set of antlers for your Chow-Chow to chew on!
Even large, seemingly durable bones, sticks, and antlers are still at risk of splintering. "Small bones can become trapped in the larynx and cause esophageal trauma or even become a foreign body in the stomach," says Dr. Catherine Lee-Smith, a practicing veterinarian based in the UK. "Bigger bones aren't such an issue as long as they're not cooked." Large, dense, uncooked bones are best according to Dr. Lee-Smith, but always supervise your dog with their bone.
If you must pamper your pal with a brand new toy, try to choose something made from sustainable materials if you can. Hemp, bamboo, and natural rubber are always a safe bet. But not every dog toy includes a list of materials, so it won't always be "pawssible" to do your homework when shopping for a toy. Even though they'll last longer than synthetic toys, sustainably made toys might also be more expensive.
If you can't get something zero waste, choose something that's made to last. If your dog is a chewer, a cheap plush toy almost certainly won't last very long. You know your dog's behavior best, so with a little forethought, you'll find the "pawfect" zero waste dog toy that's sure to bring them joy for years to come!