Minimizing Mess: Dog Toys

I savor signs of LIFE in a home— wild branches shedding leaves, tabletops primed for working, creating or dining, worn floors, and books and games in various stages of use. While I love organized spaces, pristine spaces generally don’t sing to me. 

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The two tricks that make "mess" work for me in our tiny house are: 1) We don’t own much stuff to begin with, so there’s only so much chaos to be generated. 2) Most of the items here I find to be both useful and visually-appealing, so I don’t mind when they’re left out of place for a while.

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These concepts come into play even with the toys we make or buy for our dogs, StanLee and Sophee. 

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Since dog toys primarily exist to be torn to shreds within seconds, I’m reluctant to spend money on them. When I visit boutique pet shops, I can’t help but gawk at the price tags— $19 for a plush doll that Soph will burst through instantly? That’s neither doable nor sensible to me.

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Adam and I either upcycle worn-out, everyday items into games for the pups, or we buy new toys for special occasions via a discount retailer nearby.

UPCYCLING
I’ve seen some great DIY dog activities online that don’t require anything new. My favorite find was a cupcake tin filled with tennis balls, with a nibble hiding under (or within) one of the orbs. This clever little game will give your best friend a fun challenge to tackle before devouring his or her treat. (Although I myself have never tried it, as I’ve never owned a cupcake tin.) 

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Here, we frequently opt for a basic water-soaked cloth left in the freezer and transformed into a cold, soft chew. This is particularly effective in cooling down the pups while also keeping them entertained during the hotter summer months.

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Another go-to for us is the bottle-in-the-sock toy. We eliminated plastic bottles from our lives, but they still randomly surface every now and then, whether via a guest or some unexpected occasion. When that happens, we insert the empty bottles into a clean but tired old sock that needs to be retired, and this simple toy can keep one or both of our dogs occupied for a while.

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Ultimately, the bottle goes in the recycling bin. But keep in mind that only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling! I think of the likelihood of the bottle being dumped in a landfill and shudder.

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Sometimes I wrap parts of older dog toys or balls into a worn kitchen cloth and knot it off, then shred and braid the ends to create a solid tug toy that will outlast a typical plush. And since our old towels or undershirts tend to work well with the aesthetic of our home, these makeshift toys fit in quite well.

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BUYING
To purchase new toys for the pups, we bike to the local Ross, where we can find the same $19 toys I’ve seen at the boutique shops for just $3.99. (Despite the low price tag, we only do this about 4x/year to help cut back on material waste.)

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We scan the inventory to find styles that we know StanLee and Sophee will enjoy. From there we select the models that come in textures and/or tones that match our interior.

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This helps minimize the “mess” within our Cottage throughout the day. There are constantly dog toys left all over the place, but I hardly even notice them since they blend right in. (These photos were taken right after I brought home a round of new goodies for our beagles. When they're not scattered around the house, the dog toys are stashed in a built-in drawer on my side of the bed, as shown here.)

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Details such as these can have a significant impact on the overall look and feel of a tiny home, and help us all embrace (and even love) a lil' mess.