Rescuing Dog-Toy Plushies

Close-up of dog with a toy monkey in its mouth

Like children, dogs love their plush toys. But unlike children, dogs enjoy chewing on and ripping apart their toys. It’s a natural canine behavior that shouldn’t be discouraged. Unlike some, my dog takes a while to tear into her plushies, preferring to gnaw on them, shake them, snuggle them and carry them around, indoors and out, for months. She definitely gets attached to them. She knows them by name, and will retrieve the one you tell her to “go get.”

Eventually, they get filthy and develop rips and tears. Sometimes she gets serious and works to eviscerate them, pulling out stuffing to get at the squeaker. Since I know she will miss “Lambchop” or “Mr. Monkey” if they disappear permanently, instead of tossing, I wash and repair them. It’s not hard, and as the repairs are done by hand, I can make them while watching TV.

First, I secure any large tears with safety pins before washing them in hot water along with rags, rugs and “dog towels.” The vast majority of toys can be put in the dryer, though any with rubber or plastic in them should be hung to dry. Once toys are dry, I inspect them and add stuffing (available at craft stores) if needed. Next I pin closed any large tears in preparation for hand stitching (smaller tears usually don’t need pinning).

I have a large collection of thread and try to match the color. Quilting thread is a great choice since it’s a bit thicker. I use a large-eyed darning needle, as it pushes through the often-tough fabric more easily. Cut about 24 inches of thread—anything longer is prone to tangles and knots. Run one end through the needle and meet the other end to make a double strand; finish with a double knot.

Toy moneky in the process of being repairedPass the needle through the wrong side of the fabric at one end of the tear, pull through, and whip stitch the tear closed. I usually backtrack at least once to make sure the repair is sturdy. Whip through a few times at one end to secure, clip the thread and you’re done. If the tear is long, you may need to rethread more than once.

Over three years we’ve amassed a collection of toys that I cycle through. There are a number of benefits to this approach: my dog stays interested in and stimulated by her toys, I save money as I don’t have to buy toys very often, and I’m not adding to the landfill. Plus, it’s so much fun to see the look on my dog’s face when she sees her beloved “Mr. Monkey” restored after a few weeks absence.

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About Andrea Leigh Ptak

I am a graphic designer, editor and writer who specializes in publications. My 40-year career has included stints as Art Director at a small printing firm, Assistant Art Director at an advertising agency, and Production Manager at both a national advertising agency and a large national printing company. In 1980, I forged out on my own and never looked back. I owned and operated a successful full-service design studio in San Antonio, Texas, from 1980–1992. In 1993, I moved to Seattle, Washington. As the owner of Communicating Words & Images, I work with publication clients from the corporate and non-profit worlds. I also write a blog under the moniker: The Green Queen of Moderation—living an imperfectly sustainable life. The Green Queen shares tips and promotes ideas for sustainable living without going to extremes. Topics include the "re" words (recycling, repurposing, etc.), the green garden, green living, and simple gifts. My interests include gardening, photography, knitting, music of all kinds (I sing), theater, science fiction, and everything about the natural world. Two years ago, I received certification as a Master Urban Naturalist via The Audubon Society.

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