DIY Woven Fleece Christmas Candy Cane Dog Tug Toy

DIY Christmas candy cane dog tug toy

Calorie free Christmas candy cane tug toy fun! Why not work off some of those holiday goodies with a little festive playtime together? This DIY candy cane dog tug toy is made using a spiral weave to create its pretty diagonal stripes along, and it has a sneaky hidden extra helper to create it’s classic candy cane curve. Here’s how to make your own!

✂️ New to weaving? Beginners might prefer starting with a simple spiral tug toy to get comfy with the techniques before experimenting with some of our crazier projects, like this one. It can be tricky to gauge the scale if you’re unfamiliar with making tugs. To create a candy cane, you will need to manipulate both the starting point and end point, weave a spiral to give candy cane its diagonal colour banding, and cinch to shape the tug. We’ll show you how in detail below.

Weaving the DIY Candy Cane Dog Tug Toy

Weaving Patterns

The spiral weave was used in making this tug. The pictured toy is made using four sets of two strips, doubling up each of the working strands to create an extra fat spiral tug. Instead of tasselled end knots, the tug is woven with stick end knots to be more like the plain ends of a real candy cane. The strips are joined with a small knot at one end, tied to create a pretty box knot end, and then flipped to weave back over the starting point concealing the starting knot inside the woven tug. At the finishing end, the ends of the strands are trimmed and carefully tucked back into the woven tug.

Shaping the straight tug into a curved cane shape requires a little help. A hidden strand is used to cinch the upper portion of the stick tug into a curve. In the cane shape, unlike a loop, there is nothing to hold the tug in a curve, so I used a piece of fleece like a lace to cinch one side of the tug, pull it into a curve, and hold the curve in place.  

📅 We’ve received lots of reader questions on this candy cane tug toy, so I decided to create some extra diagrams and photos to help explain how the toy is created and shaped. I wove three new candy canes using different sizing methods so that you can see the difference the methods make to the shape and size of the finished tugs. These are yellow and blue because I had ample fleece in those colours on hand in my craft stash. Plus, blue and yellow are great colours for dog vision! See the end of the post for this additional information and photos.

Homemade candy cane Christmas tug toy for dogs

Preparing the Materials

To create your own similar toy, you will need:

  • Polar fleece or alternate fabrics 
  • Scissors

To weave a toy as shown, clean fabric is cut into eight (8) long narrow strips. I used two colours (red and white), with four strands of each colour. The body of this candy cane toy was made using eight long narrow strips of fleece, woven as four sets of doubled strips for extra thickness. Doubling up can sometimes be a better way to add bulk to woven toys than just using wider strips. The narrower doubled strips toy allow me to create a nice fat tug, but also create a neat and narrow spiral of colours for the classic candy cane look. The doubled strands also offer more options for discretely cinching the tug into a curved cane.

You can scale the toy to suit your dog and your materials by altering the width and/or length of the fleece strips. See our post on tug toy sizes or the notes at the end of this post for additional tips, if needed. If you are using an alternate prep or weaving option, adjust to suit. 

The finished toy also includes an additional shorter strip of candy cane fleece for cinching (I used white) and an accent coloured strip for the optional bow (I used green).

Weaving the Tug Toy

Detailed directions with photos and diagrams for weaving are available in our posts on basic weaving methods. The pictured toy uses a four-strand spiral weaving method (corner-to-corner circle twist). Working with one colour for the vertical strands, and the other colour for the horizontal strands will create the type of spiralling colour shown here.

Starting the tug with a concealed end knot:

This approach requires a little extra effort to join the strips and conceal the knot, but allowed me to make this style of tug in a size suitable for my dogs without buying a gigantic length of fleece. Your initial knot to join the strips needs to be as small as possible and is not integral to the toy once weaving progresses; however, it’s key to holding things together in the early stages.

For easy, my starting point uses one basic box knots instead of a spiral knot. This will create the tidy starting checker board strand configuration. It’s really not that different than starting off with the diagonals, but many weavers find the straight set up easier to arrange and get a tidy tie-off from the jumbled strands at the end knot. Whatever works for you is a-ok with me (and the dogs).

  • Starting with your long candy cane strips, tie them together in a small tight knot close to one end. Make it as small as possible. You will be hiding this knot inside the body of the tug as you weave. See the notes at the end of this post for help and alternative methods, if needed.
  • Using a basic box weave create a single box knot as follows:
    • Spread the working strands in a cross (+) shape (red and white opposite), noting that the there are two pieces of fleece in each working strand (double thickness).
    • Fold the top of the vertical strands towards the bottom.
    • Fold the bottom of the vertical strands towards the top.
    • Fold the right end of the horizontal strands towards the left, passing over then under.
    • Fold the left end of the horizontal stands towards the right, passing over then under.
    • Pull to secure.
Diagram for weaving a box knot dog tug toy with doubled strands of fleece
  • Flip your stands over so that the tidy checker board box knot you just tied becomes the neat visible starting end of your tug.
  • Your starting knot will be hidden inside the body for the tug as you continue to weave, so you can trim excess from the knotted ends, if needed, to make it easier to tuck/hide inside.

Weaving the body of the candy cane tug toy:

The remainder of the tug is woven using a spiral weave (circle twist knots). Spirals are woven on a diagonal to opposing corners instead of straight like a basic box knot. Detailed instructions and diagrams for the spiral weaving methods are available in the linked post for reference if/as needed when weaving the tug. Since this tug has no loose ends, you will need to carefully tie the first few knots to create a long enough tail to nip between you knees, if that’s you preferred method of holding tugs tight during weaving (it’s mine).

The diagram below is for a circle twist, which is woven as follows, noting that the there are two pieces of fleece in each working strand (double thickness). If your starting configuration is top strands left (as shown in the diagram) the sequence is as follows and shown. Alternatively, if your starting configuration position is top strand right, it’s simply the opposite sequence.

  • Weave using a spiral weave (or your preferred alternative). Detailed instructions as well as additional diagrams and step-by-step photos for this weaving method are available in our comprehensive post on making spiral dog tug toys.
    • Top left is folded to bottom right.
    • Bottom right is folded to top left.
    • Left bottom weaves to the top right (over then under).
    • Right top weaves to the bottom left (over then under).
    • Pull to secure.
  • Repeat the same sequence to weave the tug into a twisted spiral of colour.
Diagram for weaving a spiral dog tug toy with doubled strands of fleece
  • Weave until you are approximately 1/3 of the way through. Then pause for the step below, adding the strand for the cinching lace.

Adding the additional strand for the cinching lace:

I added my cinching lace during the weave. This allowed me to knot it firmly into the body of the tug. You can add the cinching lace after your tug is finished, if you prefer, by looping it under the weave and tying a small knot. It’s a little more visible and less secure, but works just fine if you aren’t sure about placement or just want to simplify the toy making.

  • Take your extra strip of white (the cinching lace).
  • Tuck it under and through your working weave.
  • Tie one end to secure the strand inside the tug.
  • Ensure the long end of this extra strip is kept free (remains loose outside the tug at this stage) and that the tied end knot (trim if needed) is hidden inside as you continue weaving the tug.

Finishing the body of the candy cane tug:

  • Resume weaving.
  • Continue weaving until you can no longer knot any further.
  • Carefully tuck and trim (if needed) the ends to create a neatly finished stick end.
How to weave a spiral dog tug to with stick ends (no tassels)

Shaping the Tug into a Cane Shape with a Cinched Curve

To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we use that extra strip of white (the cinching lace) tied in during weaving to cinch one side of the tug. The cinched side created the inside of the curve, pulling tighter creating a curved shape.

Cinching the curve:

  • Take the cinching lace and begin to carefully tuck it under and through what will become the curved hook of your candy cane. Try, as best you can, to ensure that that the strip blends into your candy cane stripes. 
  • Pull to incrementally tighten the curve as you weave the strand through the tug. Work carefully to cinch and constrict only the part of the tug which will become the inside curve of your ended cane, going back and forth as needed until the curve is shaped and relatively secure.
  • Loop and/or knot periodically if/as needed to ensure the cinching strand stays secure.
  • Once you’re happy with the curve, you can trim and tuck any excess to hide the end of cinching strand.

The tug will inevitably loosen with stretchy play, but this additional knotting cinches the cane into a nice firm pretty hooked shape. At least until playtime begins!

How to cinch a dog tug tow into a candy cane shaped curve

Adding a Bow to the Candy Cane Tug Toy

To add the optional bow:

  • Slip your accent strand (green in my case) through the middle of your cane where you’d like to place the bow.
  • Knot it securely in front, flip and knot at the back (a little extra security), then flip and knot again at the front.
  • Tie into a bow.
  • Trim to even the ends, if needed.
DIY Christmas candy cane dog tug toy

Additional Toy Making Help and Information

As noted above, the detailed instructions for weaving spiral tug toys are available in our archives. Because of the questions we’ve received over the years, we’ve also updated this post with added photos and so that you can see the difference weaving methods can make to the shape and size of the finished candy cane tug toys. Helpful information is also available in our tug toy FAQs, tips, and troubleshooting 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!

DIY Christmas candy cane dog tug toy
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Pawnote: Additional Examples, Options, and Explanations

To help with common questions, I’ve added this pawnote to the post. Three new candy canes were made using different sizing methods. There are step-by-step photos for each, as well as side-by-side comparison photos so that you can see the difference the methods make to the shape and size of the finished tugs. These candy canes are yellow and blue because I had ample fleece in those colours on hand in my craft stash. Plus, blue and yellow are great colours for dog vision

How to Create a Thicker or Fatter Tug Toy

One of the most common questions we get on our toys is about size, especially how to create a thicker or fatter tug toy. What length and/or thickness of strip to use for a desired finished size of tug can be a deceptively tricky question to answer. In reality, how long and wide a toy will be for a length or width of strips can vary quite a bit depending on weaving style (more on that below) and also how tight you make your knots and the weight of the fleece.

  • Weave securely, but don’t pull too tight! How tight to make your weave (i.e. pull each knotted later) is a matter of personal preference. I like my tugs to be firm, secure, but still a little bit of give. Whatever tightness you like to work with, try and keep it consistent for the full tug so that your tug looks uniform.
  • Fleece comes in different weights (material thicknesses). Heavy weights are sturdier and the thicker material will weave into a thicker tug. If your fleece is thinner or you can’t get the colour you want in a heavy weight, you can add extra bulk by using thicker strands and/or (my favourite trick) doubling up your strands for weaving. More on this below.

Detailed information is also available in our tug toy FAQs, tips, and troubleshooting mini-series post on choosing and using fleece for DIY dog tug toys as well as our post on DIY dog tug toy sizes.

Weaving Options for Different Sizes of Fleece and Toy

There are several options for creating the spiral stick for the candy cane. Which to use depends on how long and thick you’d like you tug and the materials you’re using. Let’s look at some step-by-step options and examples.

Weaving with Eight Strands (Four Pairs of Two)

The pictured candy cane in the post above uses eight long strands of fleece (four pairs of two) to create a long, thick tug toy. I find that doubling up is often a better way to add bulk to woven toys than just using wider strips, which can be rather bunchy to work with and may detract from the shape and or style of the weave. In the candy cane toy, it also helps me hide the cinching a little easier. Our post on DIY dog tug toy sizes. includes side-by-side comparisons of tugs woven with doubled strips vs. wider strips if you’d like to take a closer look.

Weaving a thick dog tug toy using eight strips of fleece in four pairs

Weaving with Four Strands (Singles)

Four strands are use in the basic weaving method for simple spiral DIY dog tug toy. Doubling is not required. If you weave the same tug shape with four long single strands of fleece (of identical size, width, and weight), the process is exactly the same as the doubled tug above. The finished tug, however, is much skinnier. Half the fleece come out, not surprisingly, at around half the diameter.

Weaving a dog tug toy using four strips of fleece

Weaving with Two Strands (Starting from the Middle)

Starting the weave from the middle of two very long stands of fleece is an easy and secure way to weave a stick end, but the finished tug is only half as long. You would need a much larger piece of fleece for your strips to make the same size tug. Check out the size difference on these tugs and the finished candy cane toys. Yikes! Additional examples are available in out post on end knots for DIY dog tug toys.

Weaving a stick end dog tug toy (no tassels) using two strips of fleece

Side-by-Side Comparisons of the Finished Tug Toy Sizes

Here are the finished example tug toy bodies side-by-side for the example candy canes. The tugs were made with identical fleece strips and the different methods described and shown above. The completed candy canes made from these tug toy bodies are shown the the end of the post for additional size comparison.

Different sized DIY dog tug toys using the same size fleece strips

How to Create a Stick End (No Tassels) Tug Toy

Because we want our candy cane to have stick ends with no visible loose end pieces of fleece, we need to conceal the ends. To turn the end of any basic tug into a stick without tassel ends, there are a few different potential methods. Let’s look at some step-by-step options and examples.

Weaving from the Middle of Two Strips

Starting the weave from the middle (the two strand method shown above) is very secure, but only works for your starting end. It is also size limiting as shown above, unless you have very long pieces of fleece. 

Weaving from a Concealed End Knot

The original candy cane toy in the post above uses a concealed end knot. This is done by starting the weave from a small end knot, flipping, and concealing the knot inside the body of the tug. This is secure, but only works for your starting end. You need to make the starting knot as small and tight as possible, and take your time at the beginning to conceal the end.

Weaving a stick end dog tug toy (no tassels) using a concealed end knot

Tucking the Ends into the Woven Tug

Tuck ends into the finished weave works for any end of a tug, start or finish. You can use a temporary knot at the start of your weave, untie, and tuck later. It is simple, but less secure. Ends may pull out over time with play, but can be tucked back into place. All of the tugs in this post, including the original red and white candy cane, use the tucking method to on the finishing end. 

As noted in our post on finishing end knot options for DIY dog tug toys, unless I’m weaving a stick as part of making a fancy shape, I (and our dogs) prefer knotted ends. They’re easy, cute, secure, and fun! Our dogs and their friends love toys with flailing tassels and lovely knots for tugging

Weaving a stick end dog tug toy (no tassels) using tucking

How to Create a Cinched Curve in a Tug Toy

In the cane shape, unlike a loop, there is nothing to hold the tug in a curve. Shaping the straight stick tug into a curved cane shape requires using a little hidden help. I use a cinching strand to pull and hold the top portion of the tug into a curved shape.

Easy Tug Shapes

When making tug toys, the simplest shapes are straight stick tugs, whether square box knot or simple spirals with loose tassel ends. They’re easy to weave and my dogs love the ends for play. Once you are comfortable with these simpler weaving styles, you can try a fancier straight tug, like a double spiral, or play with shapes. 

Straight tugs can be adapted to include loops with relative ease. In most loop tug toys, whether just a single loop, a loop with a tug tail (another easy favourite), or other fancier designs, the ends are pulled together to form the loop and held in place with additional knots and/or weaving. Not so for our candy cane. It needs to curve on its own. Or appear to…

Cinching a Curve

To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we need a helper to hold shape. The cane uses an extra strip of fleece in one of the tug colours so it can be better hidden within the weave of the toy as a cinching lace. By lacing one side of the tug tighter than the other, we can pull it into a curve shape. This will inevitably loosen with stretchy play and want to return to a straight shape, but it cinches the new cane into a nice firm pretty hooked shape. At least until playtime begins!

How to cinch a curve in a candy cane (or other) tug toy:

  • Prepare for cinching by adding an extra piece of fleece at approximately where you would like your curve to begin. You can attach your extra strip of fleece during weaving (as shown in the original red cane) or slip it into the tug after weaving (as shown in the yellow and blue canes).
  • Take the lace and begin to carefully tuck it under and through what will become the curved hook of your candy cane.
  • Pull to incrementally tighten the curve as you weave the strand through the tug.
  • Work carefully to cinch and constrict only the part of the tug which will become the inside curve (underside) of your ended cane, going back and forth as needed until the curve is shaped and relatively secure. Try, as best you can, that the extra knotting blends into your candy cane stripes.
  • Loop and/or knot periodically if/as needed to ensure the cinching strand stays secure.
  • Once you’re happy with the curve, you can trim and tuck any excess to hide the end of cinching strand.
Cinching a DIY dog tug toy to create a curved shape

Side-by-Side Candy Cane Tug Toy Comparisons

I hope the extra information has helped! As noted above, helpful information is also available in our DIY Fleece Tug Toy FAQs, Tips, and Troubleshooting Mini-Series, including more about using fleece for toys, troubleshooting common tug toy weaving pattern issues, different end knots for starting and finishing tugs, and factors affecting finished tug toy size.

And on the subject of factors affecting finished tug toy size, here are the side-by-side finished candy cane toys made for the additional explanation and examples above. What a difference!

All of the candy cane tugs pictured below were made using the same fleece material, cut in the same length and thickness of strips. All three candy canes were woven using a simple spiral. The size variations come from the quantity of strips in the weave, as detailed above. Look how itty bitty the midpoint start candy cane (red bow) is compared to the full length versions.  The original red and white candy cane was made the same way as the candy cane with the white bow, using eight strips of fleece (four pairs) for the spiral body to make a thick sturdy tug toy.  

Example DIY candy cane dog tug toys created in different sizes

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