Monday, 3 August 2015

DIY for Dogs: Square Knot Fleece Tug Toy

As some of you may already have seen on our Facebook or Twitter posts, our puppy is much harder on his toys than our older boy ever was. I won't name any brand names here, but some VERY expensive heavy-duty dog toys have lasted for mere minutes in his happy little mouth. I am in no way a pioneer of fleece dog toys (there are many different DIYs out there).  After a number of less than robust attempts, we finally made with a toy that both dogs enjoy and is able to survive for a few weeks of vigorous play, so we though we would try and share some simple visual instructions to help others who would like to try something similar.



Fleece is sturdy (as fabrics go), has a nice touch of stretchiness when playing, and could be easily machine washed for a drool-refresh. In less destructive hands (claws...fangs...), these would last much longer.  The resulting tug was great for interactive play, the weaving prevented it from being rapidly unraveled as a braided toy might, and the strips were sizeable enough that any pieces that might be ripped off were readily retrieved for the rubbish (supervision required) and unlike typical fabric there are no errant threads. Again, I can't stress enough that supervision and interactivity is a must with this and any toy.  Swallowing fabric (or anything else that's difficult to digest) is dangerous as it may lead to a blockage.


Materials: clean fleece fabric, cut into 4 long narrow strips
Note: You can scale this toy to suit your dog by altering the width and/or length of the fleece strips. As Dalmatians are large dogs, I worked with approximately 6cm x 2m strips for the toy shown in this post; however, you can make them larger/smaller to suit your dog and the size of fleece you have available. I've made many different shapes/sizes.  There is no need to be too fussy about straight lines when cutting if using scissors.  Yeah!

Instructions:
  • Loop and knot one end securely, leaving a "tassle" at the end. 
  • Weave the fleece using a square knot technique (see diagram and images below):
  1. Spread the strips in a cross (+) shape 
  2. Fold the top strip towards the bottom
  3. Fold the bottom strip towards the top
  4. Fold the right strip towards the left, passing over then under
  5. Fold the left strip towards the right, passing over then under
  6. Pull to secure 
  • Repeat until you are approaching the end (not too close though!). The top/bottom left/right pattern will cycle naturally from side-to-side with each knot.
  • Loop and knot securely, leaving a "tassle" at the end, and trim if/as needed.




Once you get the hang of knotting, this is a very quick and simple toy to make.  Tips and tricks:
  • Knotting can be confusing if this is your first attempt. You may find it helpful to work with four different colours until you get the hang of things. As an added bonus, that also makes for a pretty result. 
  • You can secure the starting end to something, if you wish. I prefer to be seated with it nipped between my knees. This allows me to freely flip the strands to the front, back over a shoulder, and from side to side.
  • Don't leave yourself short on the tie-off - you'll need more fabric than you might think. 


Remember, this is for supervised interactive play. Know your dog before giving him or her any new toy. Some dogs would rather eat their toys (whether store bought or handmade), and that's dangerous. Toys are for playing and playtime is safer (and more fun!) with you involved.  You can read more about dog toy safety here.

30 comments:

  1. Love your dog toy instructions. I do have a question how do you knot your ends? My daughter has made a bunch of these but we do not know what type of knot to do at the ends. Thank you

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    1. Hello and welcome! Thanks so much for asking. The simplest way to finish the working end is with a very basic "simple" or "overhand" knot (loop around self and pull end through until tight), which is how I finish most of my tug toys. Gather the ends together into a single bunch, loop around the bunch as close as you can to the end of your weave, pass the free ends through the loop, and pull tight. This give you a nice tidy and secure wrap, and is also handy for hanging onto whilst playing. If you are doing a basic tug like this one, you also start with that knot, so it matches up nicely too.

      You can barely see the end in this toy poking out of Humphrey's mouth :) but the looped ends are visible in some of our other DIY toy photos in case that helps with a visual. It's up to you whether you would like to trim the ends or leave them loose - I often trim to even them out but leave a tantalising little bit of tassel for playtime.

      Hope that helps!

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  2. This has been the most informative tutorial on square knots I have found. You did everything right with photos and written out descriptions for various types of 'learners'. Thanks for doing such a good job. My puppy and I appreciate it.

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    1. Awwww thanks so much for that comment, Michelle! :) It's great to hear that you found it easy to follow. Once you have the hang of knotting, it flows naturally and toys come together quickly. It's easy to build on the basics and create fun designs and shapes, or just keep it simple - straight tugs are always a favourite around here. Have fun playing with your puppy and enjoy the new toys!

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  3. I'm excited, I was feeling overwhelmed trying to figure out other tutorials. I finally found a clear, easy to follow one...yours! Thank you! I'm excited to give it a try.

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    1. Hooray! Thanks so much for the lovely comment! It can definitely be a bit tricky at first, but once you get the hang of the back/forth weaving it will start to flow. Good luck and I hope it works out well for you. :)

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  4. Just wondering if you could help, I love your tug tutorial, it's the best on the net by far. I wanted to make one with a handle, but I'm not too sure how.
    Thank you

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    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment!

      You can easily make the same style of woven toy with one (or more) loops that make great handles. Once you go past a single loop, you start to need very long pieces of fleece to make a decent sized toy for bigger dogs, so you might like to combine/join tugs to make bigger/fancier pieces without needing to buy a giant piece of material.

      Here is an example of our Square Knot Fleece Loop Tug Toy and you can find all of our tug-style toys here with more ideas for making your own tugs. Hope that helps, and that you have fun making and playing with your new tug toys. :)

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  5. I didn't get how to make the woven toys I see everywhere and then it clicked when I saw you post and pictures that these are like the plastic strip bracelets that were cool when I was in school long ago and now I'm a toy making whizz! :-) Thanks!

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    1. :) Gimp! I remember it well. Awesome! If you create any fun toy designs, I'd love to see them!

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  6. By random chance, I saw a great question on a pin to this post on someone else's Pinterest asking about fleece and dog safety. I though I would share a few thoughts here (and invite you to add in the replies if you have useful links for us and our readers).

    Ultimately, you have to make the decision as to what you feel is suitable for you and your pets. This blog is intended for info/entertainment (i.e. sharing my fun!) only, not for any professional expertise of guidance.

    Unfortunately, all materials (and toys, bought or made) seem to have pros and cons. Fleece is durable, colourfast, and doesn't shed threads like woven fabrics, but it is a synthetic material. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_fleece Given it's current widespread usage, including many items for babies and children, there is a lot of information available on material safety if you're keen to Google. There are also some interesting articles on it's environmental pros and cons for those interested. You can, of course, adapt any doggy DIY (from here or anywhere) into another material that you feel comfortable with using and feel is appropriate for your pet.

    Of course, any toy no matter what it's made of or where it's sourced from also requires dog-by-dog consideration for suitability and supervision during play.

    If you looking for dog safety information, you might like to check out the Humane Society's guidance http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/dog_toys.html. Safety Bee's post http://www.safebee.com/family/dog-toys-which-ones-are-safest is a very good read as well.

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  7. Thank you for the great instructions! How long does it take to make one and would it be very much harder if I had just one color? I have some material that I could use to try it out without buying anything if its possible to do it.

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    1. Hi there! Personally, it only takes me around 5 minutes to make a basic box knot tug (extra for fancier designs of course); however, I have plenty of experience with making these types of toys and other crafting. If it was your first attempt at a basic average sized single straight tug tug toy, it world probably take you around half an hour. Less if you're crafty, more if your a newbie or a perfectionist. :) It isn't difficult, but it can feel that way at first. With a little experience, the weaving become a natural rhythm and toys come together VERY quickly.

      You can absolutely use a single colour if you'd like (and it's a good way to hid any little boo-boos in your first weaving attempt - bonus!) It can be a little tricky to remember which strand is going where when you're just starting, which is why I used four colours in the diagram and suggested it may help if you're new to weaving. Good luck, and don't forget to play safe.

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  8. Hi,
    Love this tutorial!! Easy to understand. One question. I have made a couple of these but the end product was more rounded and the different colors were scattered throughout. Is there a method to getting the colors all in a row as in the red,black,gray, and white?

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    1. Hi there! Thanks for asking - I'll try to help if I can. :)

      If you are weaving the box knot with a consistent left/right up/down, it will be squarish and in a line, like the pictures for this toy and many of our other tugs. If things are twisting a little (i.e. the strand or the working end of your toy are moving around a little), then that twist gets captured in the weave, which sounds like what you might be experiencing from the description of colour and roundness.

      Take a peak at our post describing the Basic Box Knot vs. Twisted Box Knot and you can see a side by side picture of of a square tug and a rounded twist tug. The twist effect applied consistently can be used to create a uniform scatter pattern of colours or a diagonal stripe effect.

      In my personal experience with weaving, the key to getting a consistent pattern, whether it's straight square or twist or other variations, is to keep the working end of your tug securely fixed. I like to work seated in a chair and nip mine between my knees - not fancy, but very effective. :) This allows me to keep my working end fixed while I weave and also gives me space to freely flip the strands to the front/back over a shoulder and outwards from side to side.

      Hope that helps and good luck with your toys!

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    2. Blog is great! I'm having same problem too but now it looks perfect thanks! :-)

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    3. :) Hooray! So glad it helped!

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  9. this is awesome I'm sure my dogs will love it, and so will the shelter dogs.

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    1. Thanks, Zach, and have fun playing safely together. :)

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  10. Really nice site...thank you!!!

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    1. Thanks ever so much, Margaret. :) Glad you like it!

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  11. Hi there! My question is about the size of the toy. I bought one of these for my pup and she loved it! So now I want to make more for her. Using the measurements you did, how long was the toy when finished? I would like hers to be about a foot long or longer. Thanks!!!

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    1. That's a deceptively tricky question as how long (and wide) your toy will be for a length/width of strips can vary quite a bit depending on both the weight of fleece you use and how tight you make each knot.

      The measurements above should work nicely for you to make a toy in that size range or bigger. As you can see from the picture with Humphrey, his toy is nice and long (and quite a bit longer when stretched during play).

      Depending on what you're making the toy out of, if you're buying fleece to weave with you might find it easy and economical to use it at the fabric's natural width. Most shops are happy to cut and sell relatively small lengths (at least they are here!), so you can get a little starter stash of fleece without having to buy the for length. For example, here, the common widths on rolls of cut-to-measure fleece vary from around 110cm to 220cm, which means you can buy a short length of fleece and cut it into long strips using the natural width. I hope that make sense. :)

      Good luck and have fun!

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  12. This is the best pet page ever! Brilliant tutorials, the page loads up quick and easy without bombarding the reader with ugly adverts. I will definitely be back for more.

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    1. Thanks ever so much, Kerrin! :) Glad you like it.

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  13. So pleased - with your brilliant description and diagram - to have mastered this. I'd looked at quite a few tutorials before I found yours, by far the most clear. Thank you!

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    1. Hooray! You're very welcome, Janet. Now that's you've nailed it, it's easy to experiment with different colours, shapes, styles, etc for tons of fun toys. Have fun!

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  14. I have a stock of fabric I bought from The Fabric Exchange .I will try this for sure .

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