Monday, 18 November 2019
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DIY Custom Fitted Belly Band Dog Diaper

As with many things in life, making a DIY dog diaper was never something that ever crossed my mind, until it was needed. What would previously have seemed a little crazy (like my giant senior dog stroller) suddenly became perfectly reasonable. Tailoring custom-made diapers for Oli's comfort? Of course! Only the best for my beautiful old boy.

Sleeping senior Dalmatian dog wearing a custom DIY belly band incontinence doggy diaper

When Oli's occasional LBL escalated in to accidental wetting of the bed in his sleep (and after our vet ruled out any treatable underlying issues), we tried waking and taking him to pee in the middle of the night, but that didn't resolve the leakage. Beloved Oli was still welcome on all the beds, which we topped with waterproof protectors, easy care blankets, and other accommodations; however, he seemed embarrassed to wake with wetness and tried to lick himself and the bed clean. Not wanting Oli to feel upset or irritate himself with licking, we decided to try a belly band.

Belly bands are urinary diapers for male dogs. They wrap the midsection, are adsorbent (either near the privates or all over), and usually have an waterproof/resistant exterior to prevent leakage. Bands are commonly rectangular (straight edges), tapered, or boomerang. They may be a simple snug fit or use elasticised edges near the privates to create a pouch. The best shape and fit depends on the dog who will be wearing the band. Finding (or making) the right size and shape of belly band is essential to ensure it's comfortable for the dog and to reduce the risk of leaking.  

Measuring a Dog for Belly Band Fit

Most belly bands fit in front of the legs (prevents the band from sliding back) and are worn short of the widest part of a dog's body (girth prevents the band from sliding forward).  Additional length is added for overlap and closure.  To be effective, the belly band must cover forward of the area where urine will leak (or pee) out, so it's important to check the measurement from the leg joints to the front of the privates. Additional width helps capture and absorb expelled urine.

Measuring a male dog for a belly band diaper

This is the point where I rain into issues with trying to fit Oli for a belly band. He is a big lad with pronounced flaps between his legs and torso. I didn't think the standard shapes for bands would make for a comfortable or secure fit, so we decided to make a "proto-diapy" and tweak it until it seems to be both comfortable and functional, then use that to template a custom Oli belly band pattern. 

✂️  If the shape of your dog works for a simpler and more conventional belly band shape, you can skip through the next section and hop down to the materials and techniques shown in making Oli's belly bands later in this post. They can be adapted for use with other shapes of belly band.

Creating and Testing a Custom Fitted Dog Belly Band Pattern

Comfortably wrapping a dog's belly and privates doesn't work very well with paper and it's a difficult area to accurately measure, as sizes and relative placements can shift depending on the dog's posture and position.  Oli's "proto-diapy' started with a piece of heavy-weight fleece. Working with fleece made it easy for me to mark and adjust the fit incrementally, since the edges are non-fraying.

Creating a pattern for a custom fitted dog belly band diaper

Note how Oli's initially rectangular fleece is very wide in order to fit from leg to front of privates. The best fit for his body turned out to be tapering unevenly into a custom curve. The wide base was retained, but curved to create a rounded "pingy pouch" around his privates. The front edge gently tapered backwards, and the back dipped in to accommodate his leg flaps before curving towards the attaching overlap.

The cut fleece (water-resistant, but not fully waterproof) was used with other scrap materials to create an initial mock up that Oli could wear to bed while we checked comfort, fit, and function. Despite it's rather dodgy construction, it worked surprisingly well. Oli was immediately more relaxed on wake up and stopped licking. Incredible! 

The size and shape were tweaked a little more then a paper pattern created for a "real" material mock-up. I bought supplies of specialised baby diaper materials, including waterproof PUL (not visible in the finished diaper, but I bought aqua because it was on sale), microfleece/microchamois (stay-dry), and bamboo french terry (absorbent). The outer is cotton, quilted with thin polyester batting for structure. I omitted the edge elastic on the pouch (more comfortable) and tried using internal elastics for optional pads instead of a pocket (I went back to the pocket for the final design). 

Sewing a male dog belly band diaper

We put this mock-up into rotation (lots of laundry...) and made a few adjustments before making Oli a proper set of belly bands so there was always a clean dry band ready and waiting. In addition to going back to the pocket, I switched to a heaver-weight cotton for the outer (structure and durability), added a light interfacing to the "pingy pouch" (structure), and changed the Velcro configuration (better flexible fit) for the final sets of Oli's bands.

Oli's DIY Custom Fitted Dog Belly Bands

The materials and supplies used to create Oli's belly bands were:
  • Microfleece/microchamois (wicking stay-dry liner)
  • Bamboo french terry (absorbent inner)
  • Microfibre (thin quick-dry backing to help stabilise the fleece and terry)
  • PUL (inner waterproof layer)
  • Heavy cotton (outer layer)
  • Thin polyester batting (stability and structure)
  • Iron-on interfacing (stability and structure)
  • Polyester thread
  • Butcher's paper (pattern)
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Sewing machine and cutting/sewing supplies

Oli's belly bands are fully washable and reusable, without any disposable add-ons. The speciality materials used were purchased online from a New Zealand based baby nappy supplier as they are not currently sold in any of our local fabric stores. I opted for durability, functionality, and Oli's comfort when selecting from available options, and this meant including synthetics; however, feel free to substitute if/as you wish.

Materials for a high quality DIY dog belly band diaper cut to pattern and ready for sewing

Preparing the absorbent pad and stay-dry inner:

Oli's bands were made to be absorbent on their own, but in case needed (a full Oli bladder is a lot of pee!) they were also designed with a slide-through pocket to hold (optional) extra adsorption. Oli is a big boy, so his band can take a ready-made baby diaper liner/pad (whole, folded or cut to size). We bought some baby diaper liners/pads made with hemp (heavy duty) and with cotton (light but layerable). 

Step-by-step making a reusable dog belly band diaper (sewing the stay dry absorbent liner)

For the best chance of comfort and dryness, the absorbent liner is layered thicker in the middle and does not extend all the way up the sides of the band.  The bamboo terry was stabilised on a microfiber backing (leftover material from our dog bed protectors) before being quilted onto the microfleece liner. My quilting guide lines are ruler widths (easy peasy), sewn from the middle out. These keep the layers secure and stable, but also help channel liquid into the absorbent pad. 

The slide-through pocket is microfleece layered with microfibre for stability. This will quickly wick liquid through to whatever is underneath (diaper or pad/liner). I quilted it to match before sewing into place on the liner. 

Preparing the outer:

If you have to wear a diaper, you might as well have some fun with it! I used fun patterned heavy-weight cotton (duck/drill) fabric for the outside of the diapers, pre-washed/shrunk and ironed before cutting and sewing. Some were directional, so I joined two pieces instead of cutting a single piece...not that Oli would care either way! I didn't do this for all of the fabrics.   As a take-away from the prototype, I also added a light stabiliser to the base to help the diaper hold structure when worn (especially if wet).  The polyester batting was quilted into place, and the guide lines were drawn at quilting ruler widths (as with the liner, easy peasy).  

Step-by-step making a reusable dog belly band diaper (sewing the outer layer)

Joining the layers:

The prepared inner and outer were layered right-side-in, and then the PUL layer added so that it would be sewn hidden inside the finished diaper as waterproofing. I put it on the microfleece side for easier handing during sewing and flipping. To retain water-resistance, pins were used only within the seam allowances. 

Step-by-step making a reusable dog belly band diaper (assembling the layers)

The sides were sewing together, leaving the ends open, and the band was inverted through to right-side out. I was a little nervous about inverting the first one, as this design was sturdier than the test, but all good! I opted to topstitch around the exterior. It might reduce waterproofing a little, but I prefer the reinforcement and the more finished look.

Finishing touches:

I capped the open ends with prepared bindings made of the same heavy cotton, then added Velcro closures.  I used two strips of hook (rounded so no pokey edges) and a bigger landing pad of loop (also rounded). This protects the microfleece liner from accidental damage as the hook side doesn't need to be perfectly lined up with matching strips and also gives added flexibility on adjusting fit. The Velcro is also attached hook side up so it won't catch on fur. Oli doesn't have the type of fluff Velcro loves, but might as well opt for comfort just in case.

Sewing adjustable Velcro closure for Custom-fitted reusable DIY belly band dog diaper

Dog Belly Band Use and Care:

Many absorbent fabrics benefit from an initial soak to bring out their absorbency, so all of our diapers and optional extra-absorbent nappy pad liners were cold-soaked and then washed prior to use. This also washed off my sewing guide lines. 

Soaking, washing, and drying male dog belly band diapers

🧩 Velcro should also be securely attached when washing. When not in use, keep your Velcro pieces attached together. This helps to protect the stickiness of your Velcro by reducing unwanted fluff and link sticking in the hooks and also reduces the risk of accidentally damaging something else. 

From then, care for doggy diapers is much the same as care for baby nappies with regards to taking care with washing additives to avoid residues that may affect performance, cleaners that can damage or break-down fibres, and/or anything that might irritate the skin.  Fortunately, these are just for pee, so easy to keep clean compared to a nappy!

Oli's Doggy Diaper Saga Continues

Oli's belly bands fit perfectly, with or without a liner. They were worn only at night, as its this period of very deep sleep that seems to cause him the most issues, although I've kept my paper pattern in case I need to replace old bands and/or expand the number of bands we have (currently five including the prototype) for increased use anytime in the future.

Putting on his "diapy" became part of our evening routine and he easily accepted his new attire. Removed, they would feel touch dry no matter how heavily they may have been wet. It seemed that Oli was much happier as well, no longer waking to check for accidents or lick up any wetness, and a happy healthy Oli is always our goal.

Custom-fitted reusable DIY belly band dog diaper with optional washable inserts and adjustable Velcro closure

I've kept this post in our planned posting line up in case it helps any of our readers with their own doggy diaper dilemmas, but I'm surprised and happy to end this post by reporting that after several months of damp diapers (and happy wake ups), Oli has become mostly dry at night.  Neither we nor our vet know why or if/when the wet may return. 

For now, we've taken his belly bands temporary out of service until needed once more. We still have all the waterproof toppers and mattress protectors in place, and Oli snuggles up on our bed with one of his special full-sized waterproof sheets tucked under a cosy blanket, just in case. Whatever comes our way, Oli will be kept feeling dry and happy.  

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