Instructables: Dog Leash

I have a secret: I don’t think dog leashes should have a loop handle. That might sound weird, but I don’t use them and I inwardly cringe when I see folks with the loop wrapped around their wrist (and the leash wrapped around their hand five times), because that’s an accident waiting to happen. So, outside of a Schweikert leash I got as a present, most of my leashes are homemade. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to easily make your own leash using nylon or polyester webbing. Whether you add a handle is up to you.

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My no-sew leash in action.

My no-sew leash in action at the Water Obstacle of Nope, Not Gonna Happen.

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Skill Level: Easy / Beginner

Prerequisite Skills

  • No-Sew version: none
  • Sewn version: Knowing how to use your sewing machine.
    Basic skills you’ll need to complete this project include changing your sewing machine needle, loading the bobbin and spool, threading the machine, selecting the type of stitch, sewing straight lines, and back stitching. Need help with the basics? Check your sewing machine manual (try online if you don’t have one), or YouTube.

Equipment: What do you need?

No-Sew Version

  • Webbing: cotton, nylon, or polyester. Flat or tubular.
  • Bolt snap: ideally a heavy-duty one. Metal.
  • Scissors
  • Lighter

Sewn Version

  • All of the above
  • Sewing machine: install denim needle.
  • Thread: nylon or polyester.
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How to Make Your Leash

Step 1: Measure and cut your webbing.

Before you can start making your dog leash, you need to first measure and cut your material. You can either use a tape measure to cut a specific length or you can use your intuition to create a length that feels just right for you. The most common lengths are 4ft or 6ft for leashes and 15ft or 30ft for long lines.

Step 2: Melt the ends of your webbing.

When you work with nylon or polyester webbing, it’s important that you melt the ends after cutting, which prevents fraying. Use your lighter and pass it over the end of the webbing until it has melted. Do not do this if you use cotton – cotton doesn’t melt, it burns!

Step 3: Install the bolt-snap.

In the most complicated step, you’ll attach the bolt-snap to the leash. To do this, pull one end of your leash through the loop on the bolt snap as shown in the photo below, so you have an end of about 5″ to 7″. Bring this end around to the front, over the loose end of the leash, around to the back, then pull it through the loop and down, just like tying a tie. (Confusing? Check the step-by-step pictures!) Pull tight.

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How to install the bolt snap on your dog leash.

How to install the bolt snap on your dog leash.

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Voilà, you just finished a no-sew dog leash. Even though this leash isn’t sewn, it’s extremely strong and durable: we’ve competed with this leash and even used it for agitation work. It’s finished with a simple knot on the opposite end, so it can also serve as a drag leash if needed.

Step 5: Sewing down the loose end.

This is your next step if you want to add the extra security of sewing down the loose end. Get your machine ready with a denim needle (that’s the best choice for sewing webbing) and your thread and bobbin thread, then sew the loose end down as shown in the photo.

NOTE: Collars, harnesses, and leashes should be able to withstand a lot of use. Because a seam will always be the weakest point in the construction (meaning the seam will fail before the webbing does), using a bar tack or close-set zigzag stitch is the best and strongest way of securing the webbing. If using a zigzag stitch, I recommend going back and forth several times.

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Finish by stitching down the loose end.

Finish by stitching down the loose end.

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If you absolutely must have a loop handle on the opposite end of the leash, fold down the end to create a loop and sew it down the same way as above. Alternatively, a simple knot in the end makes for a good hand-hold when using the leash for tracking or agitation work.

Now that you know how it’s done, you can create many different designs using colored or patterned webbing, sewing ribbon or fabric to your leash, or add Velcro to attach a military-style name tag. Need some inspiration? Check out Etsy’s selection of nylon dog leashes for ideas.

Did you make a leash following our instructions? We’d love to see it! Send us a picture.

Posted in howto. 1 Comment »

Instructables: Dog Collar

Even though there are roughly a billion different styles of dog collars available for purchase (and that’s pretty much just on Etsy), there’s a certain satisfaction in making your own. In this post, I’ll walk you through making your first nylon dog collar from scratch, step by step.

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A quick comparison: the homemade collar (top) versus a Lupin collar bought at a store (bottom).

A quick comparison: the homemade collar (top) versus the Lupine collar bought at a store (bottom).

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Skill Level: Easy / Beginner

Prerequisite Skills: Knowing how to use your sewing machine.
Basic skills you’ll need to complete this project include changing your sewing machine needle, loading the bobbin and spool, threading the machine, selecting the type of stitch, sewing straight lines, and back stitching. Need help with the basics? Check your sewing machine manual (try online if you don’t have one), or YouTube.

Equipment: What do you need?

  • Sewing machine
    You don’t need a professional-quality sewing machine for this project, but your consumer-level machine should be sturdy enough to handle several layers of nylon or denim. Most machines will say right on the box how many layers of denim they can handle! Speaking of denim, most machines come with an assortment of needles. I’ve found the denim needle to be ideal for nylon collar, leash, and harness projects.
  • Thread: synthetic (nylon or polyester).
  • Webbing: cotton, nylon, or polyester. Flat or tubular.
  • Side-release buckle: plastic or metal.
  • D-ring: metal.
  • Slide: plastic or metal.
  • Scissors
  • Lighter
text here

Equipment: nylon webbing, lighter, slider, D-ring, side-release buckle, and scissors.

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Step 1: Measure and cut your webbing.

Before you can start sewing, you first need to measure and cut your nylon webbing. There are several ways you can do this: (1) Lay the webbing around your dog’s neck and add 5″ to 7″ to this length. (The extra material allows for seams and adjustability.) Or, (2) use an existing collar to measure off the necessary length of nylon, again providing extra length for seams and adjustment.

Step 2: Melt the ends of your webbing.

When you work with nylon or polyester webbing, it’s important that you melt the ends after cutting, which prevents fraying. Use your lighter and pass it over the end of the webbing until it has melted. Do not do this if you use cotton – cotton doesn’t melt, it burns!

Step 3: Install the slider.

The slider is a small plastic or metal piece that allows the collar to be adjusted for size. To install the slider, take one end of your nylon webbing and loop it around the center bar of the slider as shown in the photo below, then sew down the loose end.

NOTE: Collars, harnesses, and leashes should be able to withstand a lot of use. Because a seam will always be the weakest point in the construction (meaning the seam will fail before the webbing does), using a bar tack or close-set zigzag stitch is the best and strongest way of securing the webbing. If using a zigzag stitch, I recommend going back and forth several times.

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sewing2

Putting on the slider.

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Step 4: Install the female end of the buckle.

Now that you’ve secured the slider, you’ll install the female end of the side-release buckle. Because this is the adjustable side of the collar, this step doesn’t involve any sewing. Simply loop the loose end of the webbing through the buckle as shown in the picture below.

Note: In my example, the webbing has two sides: the plain yellow is the inside, the black stripe the outside. When working with materials that have two sides or are embellished (for example, with ribbon), always make sure the decoration will be on the outside when you’re done.

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Putting on the side-release buckle.

Putting on the side-release buckle.

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Step 4: Install the D-ring and the male end of the buckle.

In this last step, you’ll install both the D-ring and the male end of the side-release buckle, then sew them down. To do this, take your D-ring and pull the loose end of your webbing through as seen in the picture below, making sure the loop portion of the D is on the outside of the collar. Next, pull the webbing through the male end of the buckle, as shown in the picture. Last, sew down the webbing to secure the buckle, D-ring, and loose webbing end.

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Finishing your collar.

Finishing your collar.

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Voilà, you just finished your first custom dog collar.

Now that you know how it’s done, you can create many different designs using colored or patterned webbing, sewing ribbon or fabric to your collar, or add Velcro to attach a military-style name tag. Need some inspiration? Check out Etsy’s selection of nylon dog collars for ideas.

Did you make a collar following our instructions? We’d love to see it! Send us a picture.

Instructables: Simple Crate Pad

Wandering down the dog bed aisle of any of my local pet stores, I sometimes can’t help but wonder who’s designed some of those beds that are available. The idea, for example, that someone would market a dog bed that doesn’t have a washable cover and that can only be spot-cleaned on the surface just boggles my mind. Sure, I don’t expect my dogs to pee on their beds, but accidents do happen – especially with sick or elderly dogs – and dog beds also get dirty, like when puppy decides the dog bed is the perfect place to eat her chew bone.

What’s worse, it seems nearly impossible to find any crate pads that are durable and easy to clean at the same time. There are some nice crate mats on the market that can be tossed into the washing machine, but being fabric stuffed with batting, they don’t hold up to a lot of use, like a dog digging at the mat or chewing on it. Some of the nicer mats that are durable and can be cleaned simply by wiping with a cloth or bleach wipes tend to be very expensive.

Luckily, there’s a simple solution for a durable, well-fitting, and easy-to-clean crate pad: a sleeping mat. Yes, the kind you might use to go camping or, if you’re in the military, to take into the field. A few minutes spent taking measurements, some cutting – a carpet knife works well for this (as long as you ensure to put something underneath so you don’t cut into your floor) – and voila, your very own crate pad. These make great, field-expedient crate mats for military working dogs, too, especially for those long flights between the states and assorted deployment locations.

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A $10 sleeping mat makes a great, well-fitting crate pad.

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Posted in howto. 4 Comments »

Instructables: Stain & Odor Solutions

If you asked either my husband or me about the many different products we’ve used to eliminate pet stains and odors, we can probably tell you we’ve tried a hundred different ones – some of which worked great, and some of which were all hype and no results. Thanks to the Army, we’ve lived in five different places since we started having dogs, and have had the pleasure of removing all types of bodily fluids from carpet, wood, linoleum, and tile, in addition to bedding (both ours and the dogs’) and assorted furniture, such as the couch, foot stool, and papasan chairs.

Although our current cleaning arsenal includes store-bought staples, such as Woollite’s pet urine eliminator and power shot, and Folex spot remover, we also have a couple of mix-at-home solutions in our arsenal for assorted purposes. Below are a few that we use around the house. If you use them, please remember that we have not tested them on all fabrics, so always test in an inconspicuous area first to ensure it won’t discolor or stain.

Do you have any tips for dealing with pet messes and odors, or any tips and tricks for cleaning them? Please email them to us and we’ll be happy to add them to our page – with proper credit, of course!

Remove saliva (slobber) stains from microfiber
Remove odors from carpet and other non-washable items
Remove skunk odor from your dog
Clean and disinfect kennels, crates, and other hard surfaces

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Remove saliva (slobber) from microfiber

Our couch cover, chaise lounge, and foot stool are all made from microfiber, which seems to attract not only small water stains, but also dog stains – particularly saliva stains from those “I am starving and must have what you’re eating” drooling moments and the occasional time that either the dog or the cats decide they absolutely must lick the sofa.

Removing dog slobber is extremely easy with a soft sponge and some plain blue Dawn dish soap. (Dawn is also fantastic as a pH neutral pet shampoo and to kill live fleas on an infested rescue animal.) Simply wet the sponge, add a little drop of soap, fold the sponge in half to rub it against itself to create a lather, and scrub those drool spots. Once the spot dries, it’s clean and good as new.

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Get rid of odors (including skunk)

This is one of those tried-and-true recipes that have been passed down by grandmothers and fellow dog owners for many years. It relies on simple household ingredients, including hydrogen peroxide and baking soda, each of which costs less than a dollar and has many different uses. (Check out some of these home uses of baking soda from the Farmer’s Almanac.)

You will need the following items (and you’ll be able to get them all at the Dollar Store):

  • 1 small spray bottle
  • 8 ounces of hydrogen peroxide
  • 3 tablespoons of baking soda
  • 3 drops of liquid dish soap

Use a small pitcher, bowl, or measuring cup to mix your ingredients together and be careful during the mixing process because hydrogen peroxide and baking soda together tend to foam. (It’s what kids use for science fair volcanoes.) After mixing, pour the liquid into your spray bottle, spray it on the stain, and let it sit. Don’t scrub or rub it in. Once the area is dry, vacuum over the spot and the smell should be gone. (If the smell is really stubborn, like cat urine, you may consider a second application.)

This also works well for items you can’t put into the washing machine, such as dog beds, tents and tarps, sneakers, and body armor, to remove the smell and also to remove and prevent mold and mildew.

Remove Skunk Odor from your Dog

This recipe does double duty because it doesn’t just remove odor in your home, it can also be used to de-skunk your dog if he’s had an unfortunate encounter with Pepe Le Pew. We lived in very rural upstate New York a while ago when my dogs on their nighttime potty break decided to chase the black-and-white barn cat up a tree … only to find out that they were not chasing the barn cat. This recipe saved me a night with stinky dogs and a trip into town for skunk odor remover.

When using this recipe to remove skunk odor, disregard the amounts listed above. Instead, mix the hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and liquid dish soap in a sturdy plastic container or bowl until it makes a paste. Once you have your paste, wet the dog’s fur, then use the paste the same way you would apply shampoo (taking care not to get any into his eyes, mouth, or ears), then rinse and follow up with a second shampoo using plain blue Dawn dish soap. Rinse, and dry, then discard any leftover odor remover.

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Clean and disinfect kennels & crates

Another “grandmother recipe,” this one makes a simple cleaner for any hard household surfaces with the exception of granite, marble, or wood. This cleaner can be used on laminate, plastic and metal dog kennels, tile, and other types of non-carpeted, hard flooring. It’s a perfect natural cleaner to use inside dog kennels, such as indoor runs, or plastic and metal crates.

You will need the following items:

  • 1 spray bottle
  • 1 bottle white distilled vinegar
  • tap water

Making this cleaner couldn’t be any easier: simply fill half of the bottle with white vinegar, which is used as a disinfectant to get rid of mold, mildew, and germs, and the other half with hot tap water. Spray the solution onto the surface you want to clean and scrub it with a soft sponge. For larger areas, such as floors, make more of the mixture and use a mop.

Vinegar is pretty great to have around the house, by the way, as it can be used for many different things, such as removing paint from flooring (Sandra used it when her puppies knocked over a can of paint and left yellow paw prints all over her house), removing rust, and many others. If your kennel door hinges or your metal wire kennels are getting some rust, pour some vinegar on it and use a scrub sponge or brush to treat it, leaving it on at least over night (and scrubbing several times). This should get rid of your rust.