How to sew DIY dog belly band diapers, including measuring, creating a custom-fitted pattern (optional), materials, construction, use, and care. See how we created a diaper shape and size to best suit our senior dog’s body, then used high-quality baby diaper materials to sew a set of completely reusable, comfortable, and very functional belly bands.
Loving and Caring for a Senior Dog
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.
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. We topped them 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 Band Diapers for Male Dogs
Belly bands are urinary diapers for male dogs. Although they can be used for other purposes, their primary function to help in cases of urinary incontinence. The bands wrap the midsection, are absorbent, either near the privates or all over. They usually have a waterproof or water-resistant exterior to prevent leakage. Quality and performance can vary greatly.
Shapes and Sizes
Belly bands are commonly rectangular (straight edges), tapered rectangles, or boomerang shaped. Oli’s DIY dog belly band diapers are a special custom shape instead, and I’ll explain all about that below. Belly bands 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
Measuring a Male Dog for a Belly Band
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 usually included on the band for overlap and closure. To be effective, the belly band must cover forward of 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. Additional width in some designs can help capture and absorb expelled urine.
Belly Band Fitting Issues
This is the point where I ran 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. I 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 fitted Oli belly band pattern.
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. Hop down to the materials and techniques used to make Oli’s belly bands later in this post. They can be easily adapted 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 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 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.
Note how Oli’s initially rectangular piece of fleece is very wide to fit from his leg to the front of his 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 tapers backwards, and the back 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.
Creating a Preliminary Mock-Up Belly Band
The cut fleece (water-resistant, but not fully waterproof) was used with other scrap materials to create a very rough mock-up belly band. Oli could wear it to bed while we checked comfort, fit, and function. Despite its 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, then a paper pattern created for a real material prototype. I didn’t want to sew a set until I was sure the pattern and fit were as perfect as possible, so I created a preliminary prototype belly band. I bought supplies of specialised baby diaper materials, which I’ll talk about in detail below, and made the first “real” belly band. Of note, compared to the mock-up, I omitted the edge elastic on the pouch (more comfortable) and tested using internal elastics for optional pads instead of a pocket. I went back to the pocket for the final design.
Form, Fit, and Function
We put this mock-up into rotation (lots of laundry…) and made a few more adjustments before making Oli his proper set of belly bands so there was always a clean dry band ready and waiting. In addition to going back to the internal 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 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 ever needed. 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 special materials used for the belly bands were purchased online from a New Zealand based baby nappy supplier instead of normal retail. They’re not currently sold in any of our local fabric stores. I opted for durability, functionality, and Oli’s comfort when selecting from available options. This meant including synthetics; however, feel free to substitute if/as you wish.
Sewing the Belly Band Components
Preparing the absorbent pad and stay-dry inner layer:
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.
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 designed with a slide-through pocket to hold (optional) extra absorption. Oli is a big boy, so his belly band can take a ready-made baby diaper liner pad (whole, folded, or cut to size). We bought reusable washable baby diaper pads made with hemp (heavy duty) and with cotton (light but layerable). The slide-through pocket is microfleece layered with microfiber 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 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 diapers, pre-washed and ironed before cutting and sewing. Some 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 stabiliser to the base to help the diaper hold structure when worn (especially if wet). The polyester batting was quilted into place to help give the band stability and structure, using guide lines were drawn at quilting ruler widths.
Assembling and joining the layers of the belly band:
The prepared inner and outer were layered right-side-in. Then the PUL layer was 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. I’ve since bought a set of binding clips for working with tricky fabrics. They would have been very useful here instead of using pins.
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! Once inverted, 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 added Velcro closures. I used two strips of hook (rounded so there are 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.
Reusable Dog Belly Band Diaper Use and Care
Pre-Use Soaking and Washing for Absorbency
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.
Using the Belly Band Dog Diapers
Oli’s belly bands fit perfectly, with or without a liner. They are worn only at night, as its this period of very deep sleep that seems to cause him the most issues. 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” quickly became part of our evening routine. He easily accepted his new attire. Removed, they feel touch dry no matter how heavily they may have been wet. 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...
I’m surprised and happy to report that after several months of damp diapers (and 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.