Tug toys can be great fun and many dogs really enjoy the interaction of tugging with you.Unfortunately, though, many commercial tug toys are made only for medium to large dogs and are of materials that can often be hard on your dog's teeth. Fleece toys, however, can be made for any size dog and are soft. Plus, the friction of the cloth against your dog's teeth can help keep the teeth cleaner. The fleece won't remove tartar but it will remove food bits. You can purchase commercially made fleece tug toys but they're also easy to make. Plus, by making the toy yourself, you can make it to the size you and your dog prefer.
Three 4-inch-wide pieces of fleece, cut long-ways.
The FleeceYou can find fleece material in just about any fabric store. It can be found in lighter and heavier weights; I'd suggest for your first time making a tug toy, chose a light to medium weight fleece as it's easier to work with. Later, with some experience, if you'd like a heavier toy for a larger dog, you can then try it with a heavier fleece. Any color or color pattern will work. Some people make patterns but that's totally up to you. In fact, if you check the remnant basket in the store, you'll often find marked down remnants, sometimes in some interesting colors. For this toy, you'll need one-third of a yard of standard width as it's found on the bolt.
After clamping the material to the table or counter, braid the right side creating half of the handle. Use a rubber band to keep it from unrolling.
Making the HandleCut the material into three 4-inch strips of material the full length of the cloth—generally about 60 inches. This means you're cutting it the long way. Three 4-inch strips equals 12 inches or one-third of a yard. Hold all three strips so the ends are even. Fold in half so you find the middle of the length. Using a large clamp, clamp the middle of the strips to a table, counter or work bench. This is to hold the middle securely so you can braid tightly and with some tension. Starting on the right side of the clamp, braid the strips, making a snug, tight braid for 4 to 6 inches. This is half of the handle so braid 4 inches for a smaller handle, 6 for a larger one. Use a rubber band to keep this section from coming undone once you're finished. Before repeating this on the left side, move the clamp to the right of center to a section already braided. Then as you begin braiding, you're doing so right up against the beginning of the right side. Again, do 4 to 6 inches. Remove the rubber band from the right side and pull both sides together; this is the handle.
After finishing the first side of the handle, move the clamp over onto the braided section and braid the second half of the handle.
Making the TugWith three strips from each side of the handle, you now have six strips to braid. Match strips from the right side to strips from the left. Braid snugly and tightly, as you did in the handle, as any loose strips will be weak points the dog could pull on while you're playing. When you're about three inches from the end of the strips, stop braiding and tie a tight knot in the end. Make sure it's tight as again, loose strips are weak points. You can leave the loose ends or trim them to the knot; it's your choice.
After finishing the handle, using all six pieces, two at a time, braid the length of the tug toy. Stop before reaching the very end as you need enough to tie a sturdy knot.
For Larger DogsFor larger dogs, you have several different options. You can get half a yard of fleece and cut six 3-inch wide strips. This would give you six narrower strips in the handle but twelve strips in the tug portion of the toy. It will be thicker braiding but will also create a thicker toy. You can also stay with three strips, as we had for the first toy, but make the strips wider. For example, you could use 1/2 yard of material and cut three six inch wide strips. For these, as you work with them, roll them slightly so they are easier to handle while braiding. If you feel confident, you can also make a toy with a heavier weight fleece. With this fleece, you can make the original toy, or either one of these options.
For Smaller DogsIt's easy to scale down for smaller dogs. Just cut the strips at two to three inches wide, depending on your dog. I suggest two inches for a toy breed dog and three inches wide for a small dog. Braid as we did for the first toy. You'll end up with a toy with the same handle and the same length but significantly narrower so small mouths can grab it.
After tying the knot, trim the loose pieces to about three inches or so, if you need to, and voila! A new toy.
To Create a Longer TugIf you'd like a longer tug toy, buy two-thirds of a yard of fleece and instead of cutting three 4-inch wide strips, cut six. Make the handle as we did in the first tug, then begin braiding the tug part of the toy. At varied parts of the toy, take a second piece of tug and tie a new section on to one strip with a small tight knot. Don't wait until the end and tie all three new strips on at the same time; that makes an ungainly mess. Instead, a third of the way down, tie on a strip and cut off the excess of the first strip. Two-thirds of the way down, repeat with the second strip, and so on. When one of the strips begins to get short, tie on the leftover remnant from the first strip. Continue until all of the material has been used and you're about three inches from the end. Knot it tightly.
Fleece is WashableI wash my dog's tug toys with old blankets or towels and if the knots are small and tight, they wash without coming apart. However, not all fleece is colorfast so test the toy first or wash it with something that isn't important. I dry the toys by hanging them up to dry. With care, these toys will last a long time.
Bones is happy with the new tug toy! "Come on, let's play!"