In this special FAQ post, we’re exploring how fleece type, strip sizes, and other factors affect the size (length and thickness) of DIY dog tug toys. Over the years, we’ve gotten some great questions, comments, and reader requests. Tug toy size is a frequent query, so we’ve created a special post all about tug size, including side-by-side comparisons and tug making tips
Sizing DIY Tug Toys to Suit Pets and Preferences
When we share a toy idea, the post and accompanying photos may include indicative measurements for the toy made and photographed for the post, but we don’t specify the exact sizes for materials or the finished toy. Instead, our toys include a note that you should scale the toy larger or smaller to suit your dog and, in the case of tug toys, the size of fleece you have available. Let’s look at the factors affecting finished toy size and options for adjusting sizing.
Sizing Can be Deceptively Tricky
How long and wide a finished toy will be for a length or width of strips can vary quite a bit depending on the style of the weave, the weight of fleece you use, and how tight you make each knot. Not to worry. You will quickly get the hang of visualising and estimating size once you’ve tried a toy or two.
Creating a Longer DIY Dog Tug Toy
To create a longer tug toy with fleece, you need to start with longer strips, but also account for how quickly that length will be consumed as the layers of the toy are woven. The thicker and fatter the finished toy (see below), the shorter it will be for a given length of fleece.
Starting and finishing knots also require a portion of the length.
Unless you are buying a substantial quantity of fleece, you may find yourself length limited by your materials. Check out our detailed post on choosing fleece for tips on using the on-bolt width of the material to create a starter stash of fleece. Of course, you can always buy longer lengths, if you wish.
Creating a Thicker DIY Dog Tug Toy
Creating Thicker Tug Toys Using Multi-Strand Patterns
To create a thicker or fatter tug toy with fleece, you can choose a pattern or style that includes additional working strands. For example, a double twisted spiral (six strands) will naturally be thicker than a single spiral (four strands).
Creating Thicker Tug Toys for Any Weaving Pattern
You can also use materials and technique to adjust the thickness of a toy without changing the actual weaving pattern. You can use a heavier weight fleece, widen the strips for additional bulk in each layer, double-up the strips for additional bulk in each layer, and/or moderate the tightness of your weaving technique. Don’t go too loose with the latter though or your toy won’t be sturdy. Let’s take a closer look at bulking with wider or doubled strips.
Bulking Up the Width and/or Thickness of Tug Toy Strips
With a soft pliable material like fleece, it is possible to use very wide strips without the bunching issues that you’d struggle with during weaving and/or see in the finished pattern with some other materials. Once knotted, wrinkles and folds in the fuzzy fleece material mostly disappear into the coloured fluff. Handy!
That said, depending on the pattern and your preferences, using smaller doubled-up strips may be preferable to single double-wide strips. The smaller strips can be helpful for creating a neater pattern, concealed knots, end knotting, and/or offer greater flexibility in converting the finished toy into fancy shapes. Examples in some of our toy projects include the cinching like in our candy cane, hidden transitions like in our birthday candle, joining ends like in our wreath, etc.
Not sure about size and bulk? Let’s do some side-by-side comparisons of the different options and see how the different options work in a real toy.
Comparing Methods for Bulking Up DIY Dog Tug Toys
Comparing the Techniques
- Cutting four double-wide strips is easier than cutting eight strips to use in pairs. Cutting fleece for tugs isn’t onerous since they don’t need to be perfect cuts, but prep for doubling up does require double the effort.
- For both, the starting and end knots looked overly bulky in my usual all-strand overhand knot so I opted for a modified end knot. The end knots tied with the narrow strand are slightly more compact on detailed inspection, but not a significant factor between the two strip options.
- For both, weaving was straightforward. It is slightly more effort at the start to arrange the doubled-up strips, but not much. Once weaving is started and in full swing, the additional coordination is negligible, but single strips are easier.
- The finished tugs are almost identical. They are the same size and there is no significant pattern difference. The only notable variations are is at the ends, where the doubled-up strands have a fluffier eight-piece “tassel” of strand ends. Also, if looking very closely, the transition layer isn’t quite as small and tight from end knot to tug for the double-wide strands, but not so much so that one would ever really notice if this wasn’t for a comparison.
The verdict? Unless you are creating a special design, the decision to double-up vs. widen the strips is mostly about personal preference. The weaving effort and visual results are similar. Doubling up requires a little extra prep work and coordination, but it can be helpful for a tidier pattern and/or when making special shapes. Bonus points are awarded from Humphrey for the extra tassels at the ends. I’m happy to widen up to a point, but I usually just double up. However, I’m also very comfortable with cutting and weaving control.
Comparing a Toy with Bulked Up Strands to a Standard Tug
Inspecting a doubled tug vs. a single strand spiral, as shown in the photo below (woven from shorter strands to create a skinny twin for the photo), you can see the difference that the doubled or double-wide strands can make to a toy. The tug is twice as fat, but on closer inspection you can also see that each visible “bump” of the weave on the exterior is slightly bigger. This creates a pattern that is enlarged in width but also in length, with fewer rotations of the spiral in the same length. Not an issue for most designs, but worthwhile understanding all the same.
Additional Tug Toy Making Help and Information
You can find all of our tug toy related posts under the DIY Dog Tug Toys tag. Helpful information is also available in the full collection of tug toy FAQs, tips, and troubleshooting in this mini-series:
🚨 Safety first, furfriends! Remember, no matter what a toy is made of or how it’s made, toys are meant for supervised interactive play. Know your dog before giving him or her any new toy. Some dogs try to eat toys or parts (whether bought or handmade) and that’s dangerous. Toys are for playing, and playtime is always safer (and more fun!) with you involved. You can read more in our dog toy safety post, including tips and helpful links for safer playtime. Have fun and play safe!