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 DIY candy cane tug toy.
New to weaving? Beginners might prefer starting with a simple spiral dog 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
Candy Cane Construction
The pictured DIY candy cane dog tug toy is made using four sets of two strips, doubling up each of the working strands to create a thick spiral tug. Instead of tasselled end knots, the tug has plain stick end knots to be more like the ends of a real candy cane. 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. Instead, I used a sneaky little piece of fleece like a lace to cinch one side of the tug, pull it into a curve, and hold the curve in place. Full DIY candy cane dog tug toy details are below.
We’ve received lots of reader questions on this candy cane tug toy over the years. Diagrams have been created and embedded in the DIY below. Additionally, I wove three new candy cane toys using different sizing methods. That way, you can see additional step-by-step photos and how the different methods alter the shape and size of the finished tugs. See the pawnote at end of the post, if needed.
Making the DIY Candy Cane Dog Tug Toy
Preparing the Materials
To create your own similar DIY candy cane dog tug toy, you will need:
- Polar fleece or alternate fabrics
To weave the body of the candy cane as shown, clean fabric is cut into eight (8) long narrow strips. I used two colours (red and white), woven as four sets of doubled strips. Doubling up can sometimes be a better way to add bulk to woven toys than just using wider strips. The narrow doubled strips allow me to create a thick tidy spiral tug, but have more options for discretely finishing the ends and cinching the tug into a curved cane than using single wide strips. 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 and/or the notes at the end of this post for additional sizing tips, if needed.
The 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 Pattern for the Tug Toy
The pictured toy uses a four-strand spiral weaving method (diagonal corner-to-corner) with doubled up strips (eight strips in pairs of two) for a thicker tug toy. 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. Detailed instructions, additional diagrams, and step-by-step photos for this weaving method are also available in our comprehensive post on making spiral dog tug toys.
Making the Body of the Candy Cane
Starting the tug with a concealed end knot:
A concealed end knot is a secure option for making a tug toy with a plain stick end, but it does require a little extra effort to join the strips and conceal the knot. Alternatively, you can use a temporary starting knot and tuck the end. See our pawnote and/or post on end knots for starting and finishing DIY dog tug toys for extra information and options, if needed.
- 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. The weave will secure everything once weaving progresses, but the starting knot is key to holding things together in the early stages.
- Pair your fleece strips so that the eight ends become four pairs of matched colours.
- Arrange the strands into a starting cross (+) and tie either a single square knot or a single spiral knot to create a single neat and tidy checkerboard knot.
- Flip your stands over, starting knot up, so that the checker board knot you just tied becomes the neat visible outside tip for your tug.
- Your starting knot will be hidden inside the body for the tug as you continue to weave. You can trim excess material from the knotted ends, if needed, to make it easier to tuck/hide inside. See the collage below. The extra pawnote at the end of this post also has some photos of the starting knot stage that are clearer than this collage if needed.
For ease, I used a single square knot to start, as per the diagram below, instead of a spiral knot. It’s really not that different than starting off with the diagonals (see below), but a straight set up can sometimes feel easier when starting from a jumble of strands. You can start with a spiral instead, if you’re comfortable. Whatever works for you is a-ok with me (and the dogs). See our square knot tug toy for for instructions and step-by-step images, if needed. The spiral weave is shown below in weaving the body of the candy cane tug toy.
Weaving the spiral tug body of the candy cane:
The body of the DIY candy cane dog tug toy is woven using a spiral weaving pattern for a classic candy cane twist of colours. When weaving a spiral, the strands move corner-to-corner on a diagonal instead of straight like a square or box knot. If your starting configuration is top strands left (as shown in the diagram below) the sequence is as follows and shown. If your starting configuration position is top strand right, it’s simply the opposite sequence. Again, note that there are two pieces of fleece in each working strand (double thickness).
- After flipping, arrange your paired strands back into a starting cross (+).
- 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. Since this tug has no loose ends, you’ll need to carefully tie the first few knots until the tug grows long enough to nip between your knees, if that’s your preferred method of holding tugs during weaving (it’s mine). Also, take extra care during the first few knots to ensure your starting knot is fully concealed inside the tug.
- 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. Alternatively, you can add the cinching lace after your tug is finished by looping it under the weave and tying a small knot. That’s might be a little more visible, 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 reach the desired length (or can no longer knot any further).
- Carefully tuck and trim (if needed) the ends to create a neatly finished stick end. Make these as secure as possible. Unlike the concealed starting knot, these loose ends may work their way back out over time with stretchy play. They can be retucked if your wish. See our post on end knots for starting and finishing DIY dog tug toys for extra information and options, if needed.
Shaping the Tug into a Cane Shape with a Cinched Curve
To give our spiral tug a classic cane shape, we use the extra strip of white (the cinching lace) tied in during weaving to tighten one side of the tug. The cinched side creates the inside of the curve, pulling tighter creating a curved shape for the top of the candy cane.
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 cinching 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!
Adding a Bow to the DIY Candy Cane Dog 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.
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 DIY candy cane dog tug toy 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!
Pawnote: Additional Examples, Options, and Explanations
To help with common questions, I’ve added this pawnote to our DIY candy cane dog tug toy 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 in my craft stash. Plus, blue and yellow are great colours for dog vision.
How to Create a Thicker or Fatter Tug Toy
Some of the most common questions we get about DIY dog tug toys is sizing, 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 wider strips and/or doubling up your strips for weaving. More on this below.
Weaving Options for Different Sizes of Fleece and Toy
There are lots of different ways that you can create a spiral tug with stick ends for the body of a DIY candy cane dog tug toy. 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 Strips of Fleece (Four Pairs of Two)
Our original DIY candy cane dog tug toy above uses eight long narrow pieces of fleece (four pairs of two) to create a thick spiral tug toy. For some materials, doubling up is a better way to add bulk than just using wider strips, which might be bunchy to work with and detract from the shape or style of the weave. Fleece is very forgiving, but doubling up can still make things easier. In the candy cane toy, it makes it easier to hide the starting knot and gives extra options for concealed cinching. Doubling up isn’t essential, though. Our post on DIY dog tug toy sizes includes a side-by-side comparison of tugs woven with doubled strips vs. wider strips if you’d like to take a closer look.
Weaving with Four Strands (Singles)
Four single strip strands are all that’s needed for making a simple spiral DIY dog tug toy. Doubling is not required. If you weave the same tug shape with four long single strip 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 comes out, not surprisingly, at around half the diameter. On the flip side, if you use strips that are twice as wide, the size would be similar. As noted above, it may be trickier to conceal your ends and cinching, though.
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 in the side-by-side comparison photos below. Yikes! Additional instructions and photos using this method are available in out post on end knots for DIY dog tug toys.
Side-by-Side Comparisons of the Finished Tug Toy Sizes
Here are the finished example tug toy bodies side-by-side for the example extra candy canes. The tugs were all made with identical fleece strips, using the different methods described and shown above. I folded the long tugs temporarily for the photo as the size difference made them otherwise tricky to photograph together. The completed candy canes made from these tug toy bodies are shown the the end of the post for additional size comparison.
How to Create a Stick End (No Tassels) Tug Toy
Because we want our DIY candy cane dog tug toy 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 knots and tassels, 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 in the examples above, unless you have very long pieces of fleece.
Weaving from a Concealed End Knot
The original DIY candy cane dog tug 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.
Tucking the Ends into the Woven Tug
Tucking the loose 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 tasselled ends. They’re easy, cute, secure, and fun! Our dogs and their furfriends love toys with flailing tassels and lovely knots for tugging.
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 DIY candy cane dog tug toy into a curved shape.
Easy Tug Shapes
When making tug toys, the simplest shapes are straight 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 and tail tug toy (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, blend the extra knotting 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, trim and tuck any excess to hide the end of cinching strand.
Side-by-Side DIY Candy Cane Dog 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 DIY candy cane dog tug toys 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 the simple spiral weaving method. 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 single strip candy cane (green bow) is long but scrawny compared to the double strip candy cane (white bow). Our 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 to make a thick sturdy tug toy.