Monday, March 14, 2011

Save Some Bones by Making Tugs At Home!

   I'll be honest and admit (as you may have already guessed) that I spend way too much money on dog toys/treats/food/training etc.   This isn't really a problem in my mind, but my husband thinks I'm a little bit crazy.   In order to assuage his exasperation there is a solution: make some toys myself!  There are several books on making dog toys and clothes, but by far the easiest project I know and one I've used repeatedly is the fleecy tug!

Cassie picked her own colors
    For example, I went to a JoAnn Fabrics sale a few weeks ago and for $7 bought two yards of pill-free fleece (in my favorite combo, blue and green) and made a total of 7 tugs of varying size.   The fleecy tug is a must have for agility, fly ball and trick dog training and a great pleasure for any dog that loves to play with its person.  They're also wonderful for encouraging puppies to play interactively and to bond with their owners!  Online I've found small tugs going for $4-10 from companies like Kyjen and they look pretty much just like what I've made, only smaller!

   So you can buy these tugs, but I say why buy when you can make them in minutes so much less!  You'll need a few tools before you begin including: a sturdy rubber band, a pair of sharp scissors, a minimum of a 1/4 yard of pill-free fleece and a friend or good hitching post!


1) Decide the size tug you want to make (both length and girth).  Length will tell you how long you want to cut your three strips and girth will tell you how wide to cut them.  Obviously, the longer your strips the longer your tug and the thicker your strips the fatter the braid will be!
Step 3: Finished sides up

2) Cut three strips of approximately equal length and width

3) The fleece will have two sides a rough fleecy side and a slightly smoother underside.  You want to arrange your strips in a stack with the fleecy sides facing up.  If you're making a two/one color combo, like I am, put your odd color in the middle of the stack.

4) Loop a rubber band tightly around the top of the stack about 3-5 in. down, depending on the length of your tug.

Step 4: Rubber-banded
5) If you are making a fatter tug read this step carefully:  fan the strips out slightly and then roll each strip in on itself, so that you end up with a long fleece tube that has only the fleecy sides showing.  Tie a knot at the bottom of each individual strip when you are finished rolling so that the roll stays in place.  It doesn't have to be perfect and as you braid the tug it will come unrolled at some points, but this one     step really does make the tugs both more durable and nicer looking!

6) Hitch your rubber band end to something in your house like a hook or have a friend hold the end while you braid...the more tightly the end is held the easier and nicer the braid will be!
Step 5: Fleece Tubes
            7) Start braiding, doing your best to keep the tubes rolled while you do    so and keeping the braid as tight as possible.
            8) When you reach about six inches from the other end take the longest strip and untie the knot you made to make the tube (it also helps to have a friend at this point, but I do it on my own just fine).  Loop the untied strip around the other two, overlapping where you just finished braiding.  Then tuck the looped strip under itself to make a knot around the braid and pull as tightly as possible.  Then untie the knots at the end of the two remaining strips

            9) Remove the rubber band from the other end and repeat the end knotting process.

The Finished Product!

    From there it's just use your imagination!  You can cut the tails short or slice them up the middle to make them more pompom-like.  You can add jingle bells.  I've seen people braid loops into one end of these tugs (I'm not that talented), drill holes through tennis balls and thread one end of the tug through it, add plastic balls or tire toys and even turn them into leashes!  My friend is incorporating jump-rope as one of the strips to make her tugs have less give.  If you have the imagination and the plaiting skills the sky is truly the limit!


  1. What a great idea! Miss M loves these toys and I have actually spent too much money on a similar toy. This should be my Spring Break project...

  2. It really is easy and quick and the dogs just seem to think they are the best thing they have ever seen! I like picking my own colors...there are so many choices in fleece at the fabric store and many of them have dog motifs, like bones or paw prints or even cartoon dogs.

  3. Awesome! I may try this!

    Oh, and about the thundershirt...Chloe doesn't tolerate having any kind of clothes on, so I guess I'll just stick with the Xanax. I may need the Xanax by the time this is all over with!! Hehe! Thanks for the suggestion though.

    Elyse and Riley

  4. Oh, well yes the thundershirt would be a no go then Elyse...shame...Xanax will make her very comfortable I'm sure! I know what you mean, sometimes I think puppy recovery is harder on us than on them!

  5. Ooh, thanks for this post. Those tugs are expensive to buy.

  6. I know...and I don't like the store bought ones as well...the fleece just doesn't seem to be as nice as the stuff you get at JoAnn Fabrics!