How to Make a Dog Toy from an Old T-Shirt

If you’re looking for a fun and useful craft project, why not upcycle some old t-shirts and make them into toys for your dog or puppy? All it takes is a few colorful shirts, a pair of scissors and a ruler, and in less than 20 minutes you’ll have a teething or tug toy perfect for an afternoon of fun! You don’t have to be especially crafty to make these toys, either!

3 Dog Toys You Can Make From Upcycled or Old Clothes

Dog biting toy

If you have a new puppy or own a mouthy breed like a retriever or goldendoodle, then you know how important it is to have toys on hand to keep them busy. The average American family spends about $50 a year just to buy things for their dog to play with and chew on!

One way you can save money and help the planet is to make your own teething and tug toys from old or recycled clothing. While these aren’t the most durable toys, they only take a few minutes to make. If your dog destroys one, there’s no financial loss. You can grab another t-shirt from the closet or donation center and make a new toy in no time!

DIY Puppy Teething And Tug Toys

Dog toy made of cloth

Some of the easiest types of toys to make from old shirts are these short teething toys and longer tug ropes. The shirts are cut into fabric strips and braided together, no sewing or special techniques required! You’ll need two shirts per dog toy, or cut a rainbow of strips from a pile of old shirts and keep the extra fabric for future toys!

Materials

2 t-shirts per toy

Scissors

Measuring tape or ruler 

Different color of shirt

Method 1: How to Cut Short T-Shirt strips for a Small Teething Toy:

  1. Lay the shirt out neatly on a flat surface with the front facing up. Using your measuring tape and scissors, make small 1 to 2-inch slits through the bottom seam every 1 to 3 inches, depending on how thick you’d like the strips of fabric to be.
Cutting green cloth with scissor
  1. Cut or gently rip each strip upward towards the top of the shirt, stopping right below the shirt’s armpit. Your shirt will look like it has a long fringe or tassels. Gently pull each strip so the cut edges curl over and trim them from the top of the shirt.
Green cloth strips
  1. To make ties for your toy from the remaining fabric, cut about 2-inches of the cuff or seam end off each sleeve, and then cut the circle of fabric to make a short strip. You’ll need two ties (one shirt) for each toy you plan on making.
Cutting the sleeve
  1. Repeat the steps above until you’ve gathered strips of fabric in all the colors you’d like. You may have extra fabric strips, depending on how many t-shirts you start with.
Cloth Strips and scissors

Method 2: How to Cut Long T-Shirt strips for a Rope-Style Tug Toy

  1. Lay out the shirt and use scissors to sever the neck and sleeve portion from the body, leaving a tube of fabric on the table. Cut off the ends of the sleeves to make ties, just as for the smaller toy above.
Cut gray shirt
  1. Cut or rip the fabric strips towards the other seam, creating loops of fabric like a fringe attached together along the uncut seam end of the shirt.
Gray cloth strips and scissors
  1. Give the loops a gentle pull to curl the edges under, and then snip each loop from the seam and cut them into long strips. Use these strips to braid a long tug toy, just like the short puppy tugger above!
Gray cloth strips

How to Assemble Your Puppy Teething or Tug Toy:

  1. Gather your short or long fabric strips together in a bundle.
2 colors of cloth strips and scissors
  1. Using a fabric sleeve strip, tie the bundle together a few inches from the end and double-knot to secure. 
Tied strips of cloth
  1. Divide the bundled strips into 3 equal sections and braid them tightly together, stopping a few inches from the end.
Braided strips of cloth
  1. Using another short fabric strip, tie and knot the ends of the braid. Trim the tassels and that’s it. One teething or tug toy ready for action!
Green and blue cloth strips
  1. Optional step for a long tug toy: Before you trim the tassels, you can also tie the loose ends into a big knot over the sleeve strip, for a more secure and durable tugger!
Orange and gray cloth dog toy

DIY Braided Ball Tugger

Our third t-shirt project uses a different fabric cutting technique to create a more elaborate tug toy with several “arms” sprouting from a fabric-wrapped ball. If you have any striped t-shirts handy, break ‘em out for this project, as they look really cool, and consider using a squeaker ball instead of a plain tennis ball inside!

Materials:

1 t-shirt per toy

1 tennis ball or squeaker ball

Scissors 

Measuring tape or ruler

Dog toy materials
  1. Lay the shirt out neatly on a flat surface with the front facing up. Using scissors, cut horizontally through the top of the shirt right below the sleeves to create a tube of fabric, discarding the top or saving it for another project. 
Cutting stripes shirt
  1. Cut a loop off the lower end of the tube, about 1.5 inches from the bottom seam, and snip one end so you have a long, thin strip of fabric to use as ties. The shirt I used in the pictures came with ties, so I just clipped and saved them for that purpose.
Stripe cloth strips
  1. Take the remaining tube of fabric and cut it in half horizontally, so you have two equal-sized tubes about 5 to 6 inches wide. Slice each tube down one side to create two equal-sized rectangles of fabric.
Cut stripes cloth
  1. Lay the rectangles flat on the table in an X shape, with their center’s overlapping. Place the ball in the center of the X. Wrap the fabric around the ball, tucking in the edges to fully encase it. Carefully hold the ball and fabric bundle in place and knot a strip of fabric to secure it in place.
Ball covered with cloth
  1. Divide each of the four fabric rectangles lengthwise into three smaller strips with scissors, and give them a tug to curl the edges over. Braid them together to weave the 4 tugging arms. 
Ball covered with braided cloth
  1. Tie a strip of fabric to the end of each “arm” braid to secure, trim the bits and you’re done!  
Stripes dog toy

Conclusion 

As you can see, making t-shirt dog toys is an easy and fun craft project for adults and kids of all ages! Try experimenting with different fabrics like fleece or old blue jeans to create interesting patterns. Share your results in the comments below, or come play with the pack on social media and see the dog toys our community members have crafted for their pups!

3 Easy Dog Toys You Can Make from Old T-Shirts - infographics

Meet our writer

Jen Clifford is an animal behaviorist and veterinary technician with more than a decade of hands-on experience working in small animal and specialty veterinary clinics.

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