Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By Ruthie Bently
I get perturbed when I buy Skye a dog toy that I think should last for a while and doesn’t. Having owned four AmStaffs, I think I am a pretty good judge of what will and won’t last around Skye. For example, though she dearly loves soft toys, they won’t last more than about five minutes with her because she tears them apart. She has done the same thing with tennis ball toys, so I don’t buy them for her either. I have gotten pretty handy with a sewing machine and I am a pretty fair braider. With those talents I have been able to make quite a few homemade dog toys.
One Christmas when I was younger, my grandmother made stuffed animals. I got a pony, and she also made a lion, giraffe and a penguin. I have sewed stuffed dog toys for Skye by buying some patterns and some scraps of sturdy fabric (denim, corduroy and broadcloth). I leave off any embellishments like button eyes or yarn whiskers that may be added to the toy. This leaves fewer things for Skye to grab on to and keeps her from eating yarn or swallowing buttons. Good sources for patterns are family, friends and your local thrift store.
Actually, you don’t even need to buy a pattern to make homemade dog toys. I made Skye a fabric cube that was 6” x 6” x6” and very easy to do. Make a square paper pattern that measures 6” long and 6” wide. Use your pattern to cut out six pieces of your chosen fabric. Sew the squares together in the shape of a cube, leaving one seam open so you can stuff the toy. For stuffing use fabric scraps or stuffing that you can get at your local craft store. Stuff the cube until the sides are firm, but not bulging, and sew your last seam shut. You can make the pattern larger or smaller depending on the size of your own dog. If you can’t use a sewing machine, you can use a craft needle and hand stitch your seams.
I have also made dog tugs out of old cotton jeans. I use clean jeans and rip out all the seams, which leaves me with four pieces of fabric. Depending on how thick I want the tug to be, I use either one or two pieces of fabric. I begin tying knots up the pant leg and depending on the length of the leg can get three or four knots tied in the length. You can use cotton towels to make tugs too, but I have found that they tend to get shredded faster than the denim tugs. The benefit of the cotton towels is that Skye has her own built-in dental floss. Cotton fibers are safer for dogs, but never leave your dog alone with these toys; they should only play with them under supervision.
Does your dog love to chase things? One of Skye’s favorite toys is a cotton sock with a ball in it. Get an old racquetball or tennis ball, put it down the sock and knot the neck of the sock. If the sock has a hole in the toe, knot that end too and your dog has a retrieving toy to chase after. I fashioned another homemade dog toy using a braid as the base which has several variations. I took three long strips of fabric (both denim and fleece works), put a knot in one end and braided them down halfway where I tied another knot. I finished braiding to the other end and added a third knot. You can use it as a tug or if you stitch the end fringes together you have a retrievable ring toy with three knots. I have also taken three braids and tied one knot attaching all three together. The one I am working on now incorporates six braids, each eighteen inches long, and should make for an interesting homemade dog toy.
I recycle and reuse as many things as I can, and making dog toys for Skye is rewarding on many levels. I see my own glee on that long ago Christmas morning reflected in Skye’s eyes every time I present her with a new homemade dog toy.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently