By Annalisa Berns
Photos By Alaina Wiskoski of Canine Country Club
Garbage litters the oceans and buried trash in landfills takes centuries to decompose. Making enrichment equipment for dog play from materials destined for the dump is a great way to keep unnecessary items from littering the earth—and save a few dollars too!
Passionate about budget- and environmentally-friendly projects, Alaina Wiskoski of Canine Country Club in Fair Haven, Vermont came up with a fun idea: Make a playground for the dogs at her daycare facility out of recycled tires.
“I’ve seen similar ideas for children’s playgrounds but nothing for dogs. I found that dogs would play more when there was something they could run around in a circle. It seemed to encourage chase play more often than just having an empty yard to run in,” Wiskoski said.
Once she had the idea, Wiskoski found a trucking business that was willing to give her old tires, and even deliver them for free. With tires, paint, fill dirt and elbow grease she turned unwanted tires into a playground wonderland for pooches at her daycare.
“The first time I let the dogs out to play on it, they were obsessed! Dogs that hadn’t played much or would just watch from the sidelines joined in and had a blast,” Wiskoski reported.
While the dogs love their play time, clients appreciate the thought and time put into making a space great for their pets. As a bonus, it can be an excellent feature to highlight for new potential clients and in marketing.
- Extra-large semi-truck tires
- Stakes with string or a garden hose
- Empty cardboard boxes or coffee cans
- Ground cover (if needed)
- Soap and water
- Mulch, dirt or sand to fill tires
- Leftover spray paint (select low VOC, non-toxic outdoor paint)
- Spray paint primer (optional)
- Carpenter’s level
Directions for recycled tire playground:
Start by identifying the area to use. Mark off the area with stakes and string, or just lay a garden hose on the ground. Use empty cardboard boxes or coffee cans to lay out and plan where the tires or other features will go. This will help determine how many and what size tires to obtain. Take into consideration how high the play structure should be and don’t make it too steep. Add your own creative ideas along the way.
Wiskoski added a few of her own design details: “I decided to add an upright tire on top for the dogs to go through. Some go around, some go through and some go over!”
Some preparation work might be necessary if the ground in the area is uneven, rocky or overgrown with weeds. Make sure the ground cover is in place before laying out the tires and other enrichment features. Options for ground cover include grass, artificial turf, gravel, decomposed granite, sand or rubber mulch.
An area that is level is best for the play area, but with some strategic planning, tires can be placed over smaller rocks to hide them. If necessary, try using different sized tires to make an even foundation.
Once the layout is created, area prepared and ground cover in place, it’s time to get some tires. Contact a trucking business and ask about unwanted extra-large tires. Tire shops or junk yards might also have used tires for free.
Damaged or old tires might have dangerous edges, valves or even nails in them. Inspect all tires and wash off any dirt, oil or chemicals with soap and water.
Take a few “before” pictures, and remember to take pictures to document the progress which can be shared on social media for advertising. Snap lots of pictures when the project is complete too with dogs having a great time exploring their new playground.
It is recommended to paint the tires light colors versus leaving the tires black or painting them dark colors. Dark colors absorb more of the sun’s energy, making the tires hot to the touch. Especially in areas that get lots of sun, it isn’t safe for a dog’s paws. In areas without lots of sun, it is fine to leave the tires black.
Use leftover spray paint to give the tires some pizazz. Spray paint primer can be applied first which helps the paint adhere to the rubber tires. Select non-toxic outdoor paint that has low VOCs (volatile organic compounds). To find leftover spray paint, ask at the local hardware store or post on a community social media page. Many people have a box of leftover spray paint collecting dust.
Take into consideration that the process of manufacturing paint, paint application and drying does impact the environment. Brushing on paint from a can is more environmentally friendly. Paint outdoors or in well-ventilated areas and use a respirator rated for painting. Let the tires completely dry.
For branding, consider adding the business name or logo in a few high-visibility locations on the tires. Logos or names can be added with a stencil, vinyl stickers, paint markers or even chalk.
Start by setting out the bottom layer of tires. Lay each tire down, wiggling each tire around to set it into place. Shifting the tire back and forth a little can help settle it into the ground. This technique levels each tire. Then, use a carpenter’s level to make sure the tires are plumb.
With a shovel, use dirt, mulch or sand to fill each tire. This fill will help stabilize the tires. Using sand also provides fun digging spots for dogs. Use care when filling the bottom level of tires, as these tires are likely to shift. The fill will settle, so plan on adding more during the building process.
Next, add another layer of tires, check that they are level and add fill. Repeat this process until the canine playground is complete. Add some branding touches like a flag with your business logo at the top of the tire pyramid.
Once your dog playground of tires is finished, make sure to “Human test it, before having it dog tested!” Wiskoski said.
If it can support romping dogs, get a camera ready and let the dogs out to explore!
Keeping garbage out of the landfill and providing dogs with fun enrichment? Priceless.
Other Recycled Enrichment Ideas
- Fill an old kiddie pool with sand for a digging area. (Tip: Drill holes in the bottom to let water drain out.)
- Re-purpose a wood pallet to make an “Agility Pause Table.”
- Put an unwanted sofa or cozy chair outside. (Tip: Be careful of resource guarding.)
- “Fill an old kiddie pool with empty water bottles or balls.” – Erynn Connors of Wanderlust Canine Services in Rutland, Vermont
- “Use unwanted kids’ playsets and slides. Pups love to climb and play on them.” – Cassandra Bauer of Grand View Canine Care in Arkport, New York
- “Make an A-Frame Agility Ramp from leftover wood.” – Alaina Wiskoski from Canine Country Club in Fair Haven, Vermont
- “Repurpose plastic culvert liner for a tunnel.” – Alaina Wiskoski from Canine Country Club in Fair Haven, Vermont
- Use empty cardboard boxes for play. Make tunnels, toys or even a DIY agility course.
- Recycle egg cartons, yogurt containers or even empty paper towel rolls as treat dispensers. (Tip: Supervise dogs with items that they shouldn’t eat.)