Making Things for Dogs:
7 Tips

We've been making things for dogs for at least 20 years and have learned by experience how to avoid doing things the hard way! Following are 7 tips.

  1. Take your time
  2. Keep it simple
  3. Proceed with baby steps
  4. Store things with care
  5. Finish what you start (mostly)
  6. Check in with yourself
  7. Reward your efforts

1. Take Your Time

In a hurry to make something for your dog?

Slow down if it will take more than 2 steps.

A 2-step project involves:

  • Getting the materials
  • Putting them together in one go

A more complex project requires at least a few minutes of planning, and may involve some research online.

Make sure to take a few seconds to save any notes or links.

2. Keep It Simple

Be realistic about your skills, the time you have available, and your budget when making things for dogs. In other words, don't bite off more than you can chew...

If the project requires you to learn new skills, start with something easy. For example, if this is your first time knitting an item, consider making a rectangular dog neck scarf that requires knowing only basic stitches with no tapering.


3. Proceed with Baby Steps

You may be discouraged from starting a dog project because your mind may see the whole thing at once and tell you it will take too long to make.

Just keep moving forward, no matter how slowly.

For example, when I was preparing to knit my first dog sweater for Comet, the process went as follows (approximate times):

20 minutes

Looked for free patterns to get ideas. Copied helpful links into a Word file and made a backup copy. Figured out about how much yarn it would take.

15 minutes

Found the cardboard box with the yarn and knitting needles underneath junk in the back storage compartment. Untangled yarn balls to determine if I had enough of one color.

10 minutes

Didn't have enough yarn. Rather than make a special trip, I waited 2 days till we needed other stuff from Walmart to buy some.

25 minutes

Made a test swatch with the yarn and needles to determine my knitting gauge (stitches and rows per inch). Decided to modify one of the designs.

10 minutes

Measured Comet around his neck and torso to figure out how many stitches I needed to start.

As you can see, finding the time is often just a matter of breaking a project down into smaller steps. Remember the saying, "progress not perfection!"

4. Store Things With Care

One way to save oodles of time, as well as aggravation when making things for dogs, is to have all your materials together in one place where you can find them again.

When I created Comet’s sweater, we were living full time in a 34-foot travel trailer. What worked for me was a simple cardboard box that I could stow under the bed. In the box, I used recycled plastic bags to separately store:

  • the piece I was working on, along with the pattern
  • any unused yarn
  • my measuring tape, scissors and darning needle
  • completed sections of the sweater.

You can use any container you have, or else a dedicated work space.

5. How to Finish What You Start

One of the things most people experience with more involved projects when making things for dogs is a point where enthusiasm wanes.The mind tends to get bored easily and may start discouraging you with negative comments.

That's the time to stay away from the project for a couple of days, if you can, or else break the remaining tasks into smaller increments.

It may also be time to take a step back and realistically assess whether the project is worth completing or not.

Another thing you might do is start preparing for, or working on, a different project. However, it's important to stay organized and not take on too many new things or the quality of your work will be diluted, and you may get to feeling bogged down because you're overwhelmed.

6. Check in with yourself

One thing many of us fail to do when making things for dogs is to check in with where we are at mentally, physically and emotionally before starting or continuing with work on a project.

A clear head is important if you need to do some planning or are working on something intricate that requires concentration. Routine tasks such as sanding wood may not need as much mental sharpness.

It's best to vent out any strong negative emotions such as anger before touching your design. If you notice that you are getting frustrated with a step, back off and come back when you have calmed down.

It's also important to be physically somewhat alert and not tired to the point where your judgment or reflexes are slower, especially when working with power tools or anything with sharp points.

7. Reward Your Efforts

Always use positive self-talk and encouragement and avoid beating yourself up, no matter how little you feel you've accomplished. Do not allow anyone else to put down your efforts.

If you do make a mistake, acknowledge that you're human and that this is a normal part of the process whenever you are actually doing something instead of just reading or thinking about it. Realize that most mistakes can be corrected, even if it means starting over. You will likely find it takes you less time to get through the project than previously.

Set up a reward system for yourself if need be. For instance, sometimes I allow myself to play a video game a certain number of times after completing a certain part of my project.

Other times, I may use a piece of chocolate as a reward, or just simply admire my project and tell myself I did a good job. Once in a while, I'll splurge on going out to eat at a restaurant or treat myself to a soak at the hot springs.