Ah, tennis balls: the fuzzy, squishy staple in every dog lover’s home. Dogs and tennis balls go together like peanut butter and jelly, like peas and carrots, like, well you get the idea.
But what happens when your dog becomes bored with fetch (as if that would ever happen!) or you just have an abundance of the fuzzy balls lying around (check behind the sofa)?
When you’re done playing fetch, here are some clever ways to repurpose and reuse them, to make them fun again!
Make a Muffin Tin Treat Puzzle!
Treat puzzles are an awesome way to work your dog’s brain, teach him to problem solve, and to reward him on the spot for figuring it out.
While there are tons of challenging treat puzzles and brain games available, it’s easy (and fun!) to make your own with supplies you’ve already got at home.
You’ll need: 1 muffin tin, 6-12 tennis balls (depending on the size of your pan), and your dog’s favorite bite-sized treats.
Using a full-sized muffin tin or cupcake pan (not the throwaway foil kind – your dog will destroy it!), put a small amount of tasty dog treats in the bottom of each cup. Make sure to use treats your dog is willing to work for, with a strong yummy scent. Small training treats work perfectly for this game. Place a tennis ball on top of each cup, hiding the treats below. Then, watch with pride as your genius pup figures out how to get to the treats!
*Tip: If your dog tends to eat his dinner too quickly, instead of putting his kibble in a bowl, spread it out into the muffin cups, top with tennis balls, and turn mealtime into puzzle play time! Your dog will eat slower, feel fuller on the same amount of food, and will work out his brain at the same time.
Make a Mini Tennis Ball Treat Dispenser
Bring life and interest back to an old tennis ball after your dog’s lost interest – this even works with balls that have been chewed, torn, or punctured!
You’ll need: A tennis ball and small treats.
There are several different ways to turn a tennis ball into a treat dispenser. Pick the method that works best for your dog and challenges her, without being too difficult.
Method 1: Using a serrated knife or box cutter, carefully cut a line about 3” long across the ball, cutting all the way through to the hollow center. Next, cut an identical line right next to the first one and remove the tennis ball material from between the two lines. The closer together your cuts, the more difficult it will be for your dog to get the treats. Once you’ve made your cuts, squeeze the ball to open the slit you’ve made and insert your dog’s favorite treats.
Method 2: Cut a small, about 1” diameter, circle or square (whichever is easiest for you to cut) into one side of the tennis ball. On the opposite side of the ball, cut a small vent hole, not large enough for treats to fall through, to prevent the ball from becoming suction cupped onto your dog’s tongue. Insert small training treats into the hole and give the ball to your dog. He’ll smell the treats inside and will have to work to figure out how to get them out, either by rolling, bouncing, or batting the ball around until they drop out.
Method 3: This method produces one of the easiest treat dispensers for your dog to figure out. Using your knife, carefully cut along a section of the curved “S” pattern on the ball. The more you cut, the easier it will be for your dog to get into. Once you’ve made your cut, just open, insert treats, and let your dog enjoy!
Repurpose Old Tennis Balls Into a Fun New Toy
Repurposing old tennis balls is a great way to breathe new life into an old, boring ball. This clever D.I.Y. dog toy is great for dogs that love to play tug-o-war or chase and fling rope toys around. It’s also a great way to make use of a ball that’s been punctured or torn and is no longer fun for fetching.
You’ll need: A tennis ball, fleece fabric – three 2”wide strips, about 48” long.
Although this do-it-yourself dog toy can be made either with braided rope or with strips of an old t-shirt or jeans that you no longer wear, we like using fleece because it’s super soft, super stretchy, and helps to clean your dog’s teeth as she chews.
Start by cutting two 1” diameter holes on opposite sides of the tennis ball. Pull the strips of fabric through one side of the tennis ball and out the other side. What you’ll have now is a tennis ball with 3 strips of fabric hanging from each side of the ball. Measure about 12” in from one edge of the fleeces strips and either tie a loose knot (that can be untied later) or secure the strips in place with a clipboard or hair clip. Now, VERY TIGHTLY braid the 3 strips together (pushing the ball out of your way) until another 12” of fabric strips remain at the opposite end from where you started.
Once the middle section of your fabric strips are braided, slide the tennis ball over the braid and to the center of the braided section. Pull the two braided sections (one sticking out of each side of the ball) together and tie into a secure, tight knot. From this point, you can either consider yourself done, and give your dog a toy with 6 dangling fabric strips to tug and chew, or, if your dog prefers a rope-like toy or you want something sturdier for fun games of tug, take the 6 loose strips of fabric and braid them or knot them together until you reach the end of the fabric. Secure the end with another tight knot. Enjoy!
Do you have any other fun, creative, or clever uses for those old tennis balls lying around? Share your ideas in a comment below!