How to sew DIY dog belly band diapers, including measuring, creating a custom-fitted pattern (optional), materials, construction, use, and care. These belly bands have made a huge difference for Oli and us. His belly bands are a custom shape, but the same materials and methods work for simpler rectangular or boomerang belly bands. See how we created a custom diaper shape and size to suit our senior dog’s body, then used high-quality baby diaper materials to sew a set of reusable, comfortable, and very functional dog belly band diapers.
Loving and Caring for a Senior Dog
As with many things in life, making a DIY dog diaper never crossed my mind until needed. What would previously have seemed a little crazy, suddenly became perfectly reasonable. Walking with a giant senior dog stroller? Honestly, it’s really great. We love the stroller. Tailoring custom-made dog diapers for Oli’s comfort? Of course! Only the best for my beautiful old boy.
As the years progressed, Oli developed occasional leakage or LBL. This escalated into accidental wetting of the bed in his sleep. There weren’t any treatable underlying issues. He’s just a very deep sleeper with an aging body. We tried waking and taking him for a comfort break in the middle of the night, but he’d still have leakage or full bed wetting. Beloved Oli was still welcome on all the furniture and beds. We topped them with waterproof protectors, easy care blankets, and other accommodations. No worries on our side. However, Oli seemed embarrassed to wake with wetness. He was always trying to lick himself and the bed clean. Not wanting Oli to feel upset about the pee or accidently irritate himself by licking, we decided to try a belly band.
Belly Band Diapers for Male Dogs
A what you say? Belly bands are urinary diapers for male dogs. Although they can be used for other purposes, their primary function is to help in cases of urinary incontinence. The bands wrap around the dog’s belly, and are absorbent near the privates or all over depending on their design. Some also use removeable pads for extra absorption. The belly bands usually have a waterproof or water-resistant layer or exterior to prevent leakage. Quality and performance can vary greatly. Getting a good fit is important for comfort and effectiveness.
Shapes and Sizes
Dog belly bands are commonly rectangular (straight edges), tapered rectangles, or boomerang shaped. Some use a simple snug fit, others include elasticised edges near the privates to hug the body or to create a pouch. Dogs have a huge range of body types. Buying or making the right fit is essential to ensure a band is comfortable for the dog and to reduce the risk of leakage. Bunchy, saggy, leaky diapers are no fun for anyone. Oli’s DIY dog belly band diapers are a special shape for his body, but custom shaping is optional. Our DIY can be used as a general guide for making any of the common shapes.
Measuring a Dog for Belly Band Fit
Measuring a Male Dog for a Belly Band
Most dog belly bands fit in front of the legs (prevents the band from sliding back) and are worn short of the widest part of the dog’s body (girth prevents the band from sliding forward). Additional length is usually included on the band for overlap and closure. To be effective, the belly band must cover forward of the dog’s privates in the area where urine will leak or pee out. It’s important to check the measurement from the leg joints to the front of the privates. A wide belly is used in some designs to help capture and absorb pee, but that might not suit some body shapes. This is where I ran into issues with trying to size and fit Oli for a standard shape of belly band.
Belly Band Fitting Issues
Oli is a big lad with pronounced flaps between his legs and torso. I didn’t think the standard shapes for belly bands would make for a comfortable or secure fit. Getting width around his privates would be difficult without added tapering to accommodate his shape. I decided to make a prototype and tweak it until it seemed both comfortable and functional, then use that to template a custom fitted Oli belly band pattern. We nicknamed it the proto-diapy.
If the shape of your dog works for a simpler and more conventional belly band shape, great! That’s even easier. You can skip through the next section where I pattern and prototype our shape for a custom fit. Fast forward to the materials and techniques used to make Oli’s belly bands. The rest of the DIY can be easily adapted from our an example for use with other shapes of belly band.
Creating and Testing a Custom Fitted Dog Belly Band Pattern
Creating a Preliminary Pattern
To design the belly band pattern, I needed to be a little creative. Comfortably wrapping a dog’s belly and privates doesn’t work very well with paper. It’s also a difficult area to accurately measure. Sizes and relative placements can shift depending on the dog’s posture and position. Oli’s proto-diapy started with a rectangular scrap piece of thick polar fleece. Working with fleece made it easy for me to mark, cut, and adjust the fit incrementally since the edges are non-fraying. It’s also nice and soft for Oli’s comfort and cooperation.
Note how Oli’s initially rectangular piece of fleece is very wide to fit from his leg to the front of his privates. To suit his leg flaps without bunching but still keep the belly covered, it needed adjustment. 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 pouch around his privates. The front edge of the band gently tapers backwards from his privates towards the attaching overlap. The rear edge dips inwards to accommodate his leg flaps before curving towards the attaching overlap. It wasn’t what I expected, which shows the value of custom patterning in this case. On to a full test!
Creating a Preliminary Mock-Up Belly Band
The cut fleece was used with other scrap materials to create a very rough mock-up belly band. Heavy fleece is water-resistant, but not fully waterproof. Good enough for a proto-diapy test though. Oli could wear it to bed while we checked comfort, fit, and function. Despite the rather dodgy construction, it worked surprisingly well. Oli was immediately more relaxed on wake up and stopped licking. Incredible!
Creating a Preliminary Prototype
The size and shape were tweaked a little more on the proto-diapy. Then I create a paper pattern for a real material prototype. I didn’t want to sew a full set of belly bands until I was sure the pattern and fit were as perfect as possible, so I created a preliminary prototype. I bought supplies of specialised baby diaper materials, detailed later in the post, and made the first real belly band. There are a few notable differences between this version and the rough proto-diapy. I omitted the bunchy edge elastic on the pouch to make the belly band more comfortable and tested using internal elastics for optional pads. I went back to the sleeve pocket for the final design.
Form, Fit, and Function Tests
Pee time! Everything worked pretty well, but a few things could be even better. Based on the prototype test and performance in use, I made a few more adjustments to the design. Then I made Oli a full set of belly bands so there was always a clean dry band ready and waiting. In addition to going back to the internal sleeve pocket for optional pads, I switched to a heavier-weight cotton for the outer (structure and durability), added a light interfacing to the pouch (structure), and changed the Velcro configuration (better flexible fit).
Oli's DIY Custom Fitted DIY Dog Belly Bands
DIY Dog Belly Band Diaper Supplies and Materials
Oli’s belly bands are fully washable and reusable, without any disposable add-ons. They are fully functional on their own, but also have sleeves for added reusable washable pads, if needed. A full Oli bladder is a lot of pee. The material construction was based on high-quality reusable children’s diapers. Only the best for Oli! The materials and supplies used to make our DIY dog belly band diapers were:
- Microfleece / microchamois (wicking stay-dry liner)
- Bamboo french terry (absorbent inner)
- Microfiber (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 or similar (pattern)
- Iron and ironing board
- Sewing machine and general cutting / sewing supplies
Some of the materials were purchased online from a baby nappy supply store. They weren’t available in our local fabric shops. I opted for durability, functionality, and Oli’s comfort when selecting from available options. Some are synthetics, but you can substitute as you wish.
Based on reader feedback, to help with understanding what materials are shown where in the photos below vs. the materials list and how I assembled Oli’s diapers, here is a quick colour guide. Your own colours and materials will (of course) vary. Hope it helps!
- Microfleece / microchamois (wicking stay-dry liner) *Pale blue in photos
- Bamboo french terry (absorbent inner) *Off white in photos
- Microfiber (thin quick-dry backing to help stabilise the fleece and terry) *Striped in photos
- PUL (inner waterproof layer) *Bright aqua blue in photos
- Heavy cotton (outer layer) *Patterned in photos
- Thin polyester batting (stability and structure) *White in photos
- Iron-on interfacing (stability and structure) *Dark grey in photos
Sewing the Belly Band Components
Preparing the absorbent pad and stay-dry inner layer:
For 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 absorbent bamboo terry was stabilised using a microfiber backing (striped fabric leftover material from our dog bed protectors) then quilted onto the microfleece liner. My quilting guide lines are ruler widths, sewn from the middle out. These keep the layers secure and stable, and also help channel liquid into the absorbent pad.
Oli’s bands were made to be absorbent on their own, but include a slide-through sleeve pocket to hold (optional) extra pads. It is microfleece layered with microfiber for stability. I quilted it to match before sewing into place on the liner. This will quickly wick liquid through to whatever is underneath, whether that’s a pad or just the main band.
Oli is a big boy, so his belly band can take a ready-made baby diaper liner pad. We bought a few different types to have on hand in case needed. Oli’s supplies include reusable washable baby diaper pads made with hemp (heavy duty) and with cotton (light but layerable).
Preparing the outer covering for the belly band:
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 belly bands. The fabric was pre-washed and ironed before cutting and sewing. Some of the patterns 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 added a light iron-on interfacing stabiliser to the base in the privates area. This helps it hold structure when worn, especially if its been peed while sleeping and moving around. The prototype got a bit droopy and bunchy when wet. The polyester batting was quilted into place to help give the band stability and structure. The guide lines were drawn at quilting ruler widths.
Assembling and joining the layers of the belly band:
The prepared inner and outer pieces of the band were layered together right-side-in. Then the PUL layer was added into place for sewing. It’s 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. I didn’t have binding clips when these bands were made, but I’ve since bought a set. They would have been useful here instead of using pins.
The sides were sewn together, leaving the ends open. Then the band was inverted through the open ends to right-side out. I was a little nervous about inverting the first one, as this design was a bit bulkier and stiffer than the prototype, but all good! Once inverted, I topstitched around the exterior. It might reduce waterproofing a little, but I prefer the reinforcement and the more finished look.
I capped the open ends with prepared bindings made of the same heavy cotton. Then I added Velcro closures for the attaching overlap. Instead of matching strips like the prototype, I used two strips of hook (rounded so there are no pokey edges) and a big landing pad of loop (also rounded). This helps to protect the microfleece liner from accidental damage and gives more flexibility for fit. The hook side doesn’t need to be perfectly lined up with matching strips. The Velcro is also attached hook side up so it won’t accidently catch on fur. Oli doesn’t have the type of furry fluff that Velcro loves, but might as well opt for comfort just in case.
Reusable Dog Belly Band Diaper Use and Care
Pre-Use Soaking and Washing for Absorbency
Some absorbent fabrics benefit from an initial soak to bring out their absorbency. 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.
Using the Belly Band Dog Diapers
Oli’s belly bands fit perfectly, with or without a liner. They are currently worn only at night, but I’ll make more if this changes. For now, it’s this overnight period of very deep sleep that seems to cause him the most issues. I’ve kept the pattern in case I need to replace old belly bands and/or expand the number of bands we have for increased use in the future. There are currently five belly bands in rotation.
Putting on his “diapy” quickly became part of our evening routine. Removed, they feel touch dry no matter how heavily he’s peed. Oli seems 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.
Laundry and General Care
Care for doggy diapers is much the same as care for baby nappies. Fortunately, these are just for pee, so easy to keep clean compared to a nappy! Yikes. Tailor the washing settings to suit your materials. Take 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.
Of note, Velcro should be securely attached when washing. When not in use, also keep your Velcro pieces attached together. This helps to protect the stickiness of your Velcro by reducing unwanted fluff and lint sticking in the hooks. It also reduces the risk of accidentally damaging something else from sticky scratchy Velcro contact.
Oli Doggy Diaper Saga Continues...
After several months of damp diapers but happy wake ups, Oli has mysteriously 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.