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Ten handy dog hacks that cost nothing

A collection of homemade hacks from household items that will make dog-life easier

ten handy dog hacks stop dogs escaping the garden
Use a carabiner zipline to restrict roaming

Last week I discovered a couple of great DIY hacks to keep my dog entertained and to make his dinner more enjoyable. So, I wondered if there were any other great dog hacks that I could adopt to, A) save some cash, and B) make use of all the junk I seem to collect around the house. Here are the ten best ideas I found:

1. Zip-line roaming harness

How do you enjoy a BBQ while keeping your dog away from all the food? Or make sure a canine escape artist can roam in the yard without making a break for it? With this clever zip-line idea, where you attach the leash to a carabiner and a cargo strap stretched across the yard. (I'm sure Jesse Pinkman was attached to the same system in an episode of Breaking Bad...)

stop your dog escaping with a harness and zipline
Roaming restricted

Your dog will be able to roam up and down the length of the strap, secured at either end above the dog's height, and attached to his leash. I'd suggest using a harness rather than a collar, if you're not going to be constantly monitoring your dog.

If the strap is high enough to not get tangled in it, and the leash has plenty of slack, there's no reason for tangles, but a collar could hurt their neck if they run to the limit of the restriction, whereas a harness won't. Plus there'll be plenty of flex to absorb the halting effect.

You will need: a leash, a harness, a carabiner and a cargo strap or length of rope

2. Carabiner dog lock

And as you've got a carabiner, you can use it when you're out and about and need to secure your dog to something while you grab a coffee. Simply attach it to the handle of your leash, pass around a pole or street sign, and clip onto the leash for a super-quick way of tying your dog up without tying them up!

secure your dog quickly with a carabiner
Carabiners have many handy uses

3. Super Kibble

I've gone through a lengthy process of adjusting and changing my dog Rumble's diet over the last year to deal with a sensitive skin issue. I've finally found a kibble that is just right, but I felt bad as his previous diet included some special home-cooked fresh food from Different Dog in the UK, mixed in with his previous kibble. Now it's just boring old dry kibble.

Then I read on the kibble manufacturer's website that mixing a drop of warm water with it releases all the meaty flavor in a tasty gravy juice. And boy does he love it now! You can smell all the meaty goodness as soon as you swirl the bowl around and the water does its job. It's a game changer and Rumble howls as soon as he smells that aroma being released. Happy, guilt-free, days. And for no extra cost. Give it a try if you use kibble.

You will need: warm water

4. Tennis ball treat dispenser

My brainy border collie needs to keep his mind busy all the time and so he has a number of interactive toys (check out our Top Ten Interactive Toys here). But I'm always looking for other options to keep him on his toes, and this simple trick has proved a winner. Rumble the dog even made it himself, unwittingly.

Simply take a tennis ball and cut a split in it, preferably along a seam, and then fill it with kibble or tasty treats. Rumble had already split the ball so I just had to fill it and sit back.

Watching him figure out that he needed to squeeze the ball for the treats to fall out was a joy, as he quickly learned to put it down change its position and pick it up again and squeeze, and repeat until he got it in the correct orientation for the treats to fall out. Smart cookie.

You will need: an old tennis ball

5. Ant Kryptonite

If you're feeding your dog outside, especially during the summer months, there's a risk of ants finding their way to your dog's bowl and climbing in. But ants, like dogs, use pheromones to communicate with each other and let their posse know where they're heading.

By drawing a circle around your dog's bowl with chalk, you create a line they won't cross as the calcium carbonate in chalk messes with their ability to detect these pheromones. It's like an invisible force field to them, the Kryptonite to their super ant powers.

You will need: chalk

6. Auto-filling water bowl

If your dog's as active as mine, their water bowl needs topping up regularly, especially in summer. So automatic dispensing water bowls are a great idea. Our local pub has one so all the visiting dogs can have a drink without going to the bar every five minutes and barking for a pint of water.

But they're so simple to make as all you need is a bottle and some gravity. Assuming you have a decent supply of gravity where you live, you'll just need to find a plastic bottle, invert it above your dog's water bowl so the tip touches the water at the maximum level, and find a way of securing it there.

Some folk build a stand with a wooden upright, with Velcro attaching the bottle to the pole, so it can be adjustable and also removed for refilling. Others have used brackets to clamp the bottle in place, which is a slick solution. Click here for the instructions and video, over on

You will need: some wood for the stand, a plastic coupler or tube, a plastic bottle, some screws and some gravity

7. Doggo Selfie Ball

Can't get Rex to look at the camera when you're taking a photo for his Instagram account? I hear ya! But this 5-minute DIY selfie ball hack is the perfect solution for getting them to focus, and anyone can make one.

make your own dog selfie photo ball attachment
Make a selfie-ball attachment in five minutes.

First find an old pair of headphones or anything with a 3.5mm headphone-style audio jack, and cut it off of the cable.

Then take an old ball, preferably a solid rubber one, and pierce a hole into, enough to stuff that headphone jack into. I used some glue to secure it, but if the hole is tight enough, you might not need the glue.

And then... Oh, that's it! You're done. Plug the ball into your phone's headphone socket, and you suddenly have a dog paying attention to your camera, ready for his close-up.

You will need: an old rubber ball and a headphone jack

(Of course, this is useless if your phone doesn't have a headphone socket at the top, or uses a different cable. But there are inexpensive and more versatile options available online, like the one below.)

8. Secret dog bowls

top ten dog hacks hide dog bowls in your kitchen drawer
Hide your dog's bowls in a kitchen drawer

Take a look at these genius hidden dog bowls, tucked away in a converted kitchen drawer. They're a great way of keeping your kitchen tidy but also keep any bugs off your dog's food, prevent any accidental spillages from kicking a bowl, and are a good way of ensuring only the right animal eats from the right bowl.

It would also prevent a repeat of the incident we had a few years ago when a frog found his way through the back door and hopped into my dog's water bowl, much to his surprise.

You can buy the fancy ready-made option here, or just take inspiration and find some wood and make your own drawer insert for mere pocket change.

You will need: a piece of wood with two holes cut in it

9. Crinkle toy

Rumble has a lot of toys. I have a lot of socks. Rumble needs a lot of toys. I don't need as many socks. So take one retired sock, grab an empty plastic drink bottle, crush it slightly to force some air out, then secure the cap back on, and stick it in the sock. Tie up both ends and voila - one free crinkle-toy to keep them busy for a while.

You will need: an old sock and a plastic bottle

10. Dog hair removal tool

Dog hair. It's everywhere. I've given up trying to remove it from myself, but the carpets and furniture still need a regular de-matting. And rubber is the best solution.

I like to lazily use the sole of my sneaker and drag it along the carpet to pull clumps of hair into balls before vacuuming. But rubber gloves do just as good a job and are perfect for using on upholstery, in the home or in the car.

They work best if they are slightly damp, and also work directly on your dog for a bit of grooming of the top layer of fur without a brush.

A rubber squeegee blade for window cleaning is also a great tool for removing dog hair from furniture and carpets. And try using dryer sheets on your clothes, as they attract hair like a magnet, and also are ideal for wiping around the washing machine cylinder after washing hairy dog coats or blankets.

You will need: rubber gloves, a squeegee or just your Nikes!

Or you could just buy my Dog Hair Don't Care t-shirt and not give a fluff!

Hope you find these useful. Happy hacking!

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