I don’t know about you, but I am always searching for the healthiest options for my dog. I am all about natural, organic, no plastic, no chemicals. It seems you just can’t trust any company these days. Most dog toys are made of plastic, even the plush ones! If it is polyester, it’s plastic. It drives me crazy. It made me decide to make my own dog toys!!!
The way I do it is with eggs and smoke. I made sure to do a lot of research to make sure it is the safest for dogs ever. I first made sure my furs are “food quality” and safe for the pups!! I remove and clean any salt that was on the furs because salt is not good for dogs. I clean with dawn dish soap and really rinse it good. After cleaning, I paint the skin with egg yolks, which is a safe food for dogs! After it dries up a little, I stretch it all day long. The yolks soak into the fur and the remaining come off during the stretching so it will not go rancid. After the stretching I smoke it over a smoke pit. After it is smoked I air it out for a very long time, to try and remove the smell. I also let it sit in the sun to remove smells. Smoked meat is okay for dogs as long as there is NO SALT. Since I make sure there is absolutely no salt at all on the furs, it is 100% safe to chew on. Plus when I sew the toys closed, the smoked part of the fur is on the inside of the toy. My toys are not meant for ingestion at all, just like any toy. But you know when they chew on it and play with it, they are not ingesting chemicals or plastic at all.
I decided to go the wild route and make rabbit fur dog toys. My dog loves plush toys so much. So why not use a real animal for my dog who would really want to munch on a real animal? (I know gross, but they are dogs after all) Most dogs have that hunting drive. So I deep dove into the world of traditional tanning furs.
Most of the furs you buy online are NOT traditionally tanned. They will say “for pets” but they were probably made in a chemical tea!! I did a ton of research on this. My heart broke. I do not want my dog chewing on a fur that was dipped in chemicals. It is very difficult to find traditional tanned furs online for sale. It is even more difficult to find ones that are safe for dogs. Some methods of traditional tanning use tannins that are toxic to dogs!
My dog inspired me to make home made dog toys. Which led me to traditional tanning furs.
I’ve been making dog toys for a little under a year. They are very popular on my Etsy page! But I also sell them on here too I was inspired by my own dog and me wanting to give my dog something a little more natural. Then it got me thinking. I fell down the tanning rabbit hole. I was buying furs from someone, who did not even know where she got the furs from. I could not get an answer from anyone on how these furs were made. My only option in my mind is “I have to tan them myself” and “I must know where the furs come from!”
After hours of research reading a variety of texts from homesteaders, hunters and indigenous teachers, I figured the best tanning option for dogs is the brain tan method.
For the brain tan method, You flesh the furs, wash the furs, let dry slightly but not all the way. Then you add what is called the dressing. Which is either brain, egg yolk or another kind of fat. You let sit until it absorbs into the skin. Once absorbed, you stretch the furs until dried. The next step is to smoke them, which helps the furs not turn back into rawhides when they get wet.
After learning a lot and feeling confident, this is what I did
I contacted every rabbit farmer in my state. I found one way up north in the beautiful mountains. We talked back and fourth and I went to meet her. She takes amazing care of her rabbits. I even got to pat them. She had a pile of furs to sell me already. You can check out her website here. She calls her rabbit farm the “Honey Bunny Homestead”.
After I picked up my piles of furs. I went straight to work. I dug a hole for smoking. I then spent a day making sure my first couple furs were fleshed and washed well. I applied the dressing and let sit over night. The next day I spent the whole day stretching. What a workout! It really works your arm/shoulder muscles. I stretched them until dried. I started around 11am and finished around 4pm. After 4pm I would check them every hour, give them a good could stretches.
The next step I had to do was smoke them. I set aside another day to smoke them. Made sure my rack was good to go. I made the rack out of sticks. I took a basket backpack I have, fetched some punky wood (which is just rotting wood) and gathered some good dried sticks. I made a stick fire in my hole, let it burn up and build some embers. Then I added the punky woods. Got it smoking well and added my rabbit furs! I put wool blankets over the furs so the smoke will stay under them longer. I let them smoke for about an hour.
My next step after smoking is to just hang them up and air them out a bit. They have a smoky campfire smell. After airing them the smell is not as strong and to me a little pleasant.
After all these steps I’m now ready to cut, sew and sell! Oh and I will definitely be keeping some for my own dogs 😉