The Pocket Critter Interactive Dog Toy

grouping of Pocket Critter dog toys | oxforddogma.com
Just a few of the fun and cuddly interactive dog toys from the Pocket Critter collection

The best thing about making the Pocket Critter is how delightful it is to watch dogs play with it and work to get the treats out of the pocket. It’s not just the dog that’s having fun — we humans get to have fun, too!

With this soft, interactive dog toy, I wanted to put the Ivy League Classics twist on a toy. Many dog toys are focused on being bright or eye-catching (or noisy). But this toy is more subtle and understated. It’s classic and huggable.

And it’s not industrial-strength. Being soft and cuddly, and filled with stuffing, it’s designed for gentler dogs, who nose around and play rather than approach toys as something to be destroyed and left in pieces. If your dog has a tame appetite for eating toys but would enjoy hunting for treats or kibble, this would be a fun solution for you.

Pipsqueak has a pointy nose, and I’ve watched her poke around the pocket for goodies, but I wondered if a dog with a flat nose would enjoy the toy. I was happy to learn that one customer’s Shih Tsu had lots of fun playing with it and was able to get the treats out as well. It’s great to hear about these success stories!

Stories of Pocket Critter fun

I love hearing stories of dogs enjoying the things I make. Here’s what some recent customers have said about the Pocket Critter toy:

“Fiona playing with her new @oxforddogma mouse. She’s definitely a fan of hunting for buried treats!” — from Niki, with her dog Fiona
You can view this hilarious video of a tiny Pomeranian going bananas with the toy on Instagram

“Harley loves her new toy — she snuggles with it all the time, and I’ve been having fun putting food in the pouch for her to find. I feel like it gives her a deeper activity than just chewing on something.” — from Larissa, with her dog Harley

Harley getting rid of all treat evidence in the Pocket Critter
Harley gets rid of all treat evidence in the Pocket Critter
Harley snuggling with her new toy
“Harley took some nice long naps today with her new friend.” awwwww :)

“Thank you @oxforddogma for the new toy! The pocket of treats is driving me crazy. If there’s ever a time I wish I had opposable thumbs its now…” — from Amy, with her dog Leia

Leia has fun with her new toy
Leia looks tuckered out after playing with her new toy

Where to buy this interactive toy

The Pocket Critter was first available at my 2015 Method + Madness Pop-up Shop. Of the nine I brought with me, eight of them sold. Some people wanted to buy one, but knew their dog would instantly tear it apart. One woman’s solution to this was to buy one anyway — as a tooth fairy pillow for her grandson!

If you’d like to check out this cute and cuddly dog toy, there are some available in my shop, with more on the way.

Sign up below to get an email update when more of the lovable Pocket Critters are available for purchase:

Making the Pocket Critter Interactive Dog Toy

stitching closed a Pocket Critter Interactive Dog Toy | oxforddogma.com
Stitching the plush dog toy closed

When I set out to design the Pocket Critter Toy, I zeroed in on creating something that would give dogs a mental challenge — a problem to solve — in order to get a treat. Rather than handing a dog a biscuit for sitting, with this toy the dog would have to nose around until they discovered the treats, then figure out how to get the treats out.

The timeless-yet-cuddly materials

I wanted the interactive toy to be soft and cuddly. So with this in mind, I focused on choosing fabrics that would be thick and strong yet soft and cozy. The toys are made from a combination of wool (both reclaimed and from the remnants store), fleece, and flannel.

It was a lot of fun combining the fabrics and colors — there’s definitely an Ivy Leagues Classics influence there, but the combinations are a little more playful since it’s a toy. Well, a reserved playful. I’ll be upping the playful aspect even more with a new group of Mutt Love Pocket Critters, made from scraps and less “pure” (read: mismatched and unexpected).

The pocket has the most specific logistical requirements. After watching Pipsqueak chew threw some thinner pocket prototypes I chose a double layer of tough twill fabric for the pocket. Twill is a sturdy fabric (our jeans our made of a twill weave) that can stand up to some chewing.

Putting it all together

Once the fabrics for these little guys are all selected, I cut out all of the pieces, then start prepping the pieces for assembly. First I sew together the ears and the tails. For the tails, I use the freezer paper technique I learned about on whileshenaps.com. It makes the odd shape so much easier to sew around accurately, and then it’s a snap to trim them to size.

Pocket Critter cut out and ready to be sewn together | oxforddogma.com
The ears, tail, and pocket have been prepped, and back and front are ready to be sewn together

Then the tail gets sewn to the back piece and the bodies are assembled, with ears sandwiched in place. At this point, I feel a sense of anticipation as I turn the toy right side out — I get a kick out of seeing how exactly the ears came into shape. Each one is a bit different, which is one of the reasons I enjoy making this toy.

Pocket Critters ready to be stuffed | oxforddogma.com
The toys assembled and ready to be stuffed

Next, I stuff them with polyester stuffing (it’s more sanitary than cotton and washes well) so they’re full but not firm, and stitch them closed. Then I stitch the pocket (which has already been sewn together, and pressed into shape) on by hand.

Pocket Critters stuffed and ready for pockets | oxforddogma.com
This batch of toys is stuffed and ready for the pockets to be stitched on by hand

It’s fun to see them go from flat pieces to something with three-dimensional shape and character. I think they’re rather charming (and a little French-like), between the slightly bowed legs, the big ears, and the hand-stitched pocket. Someone who knows my overly-detailed tendencies well asked me if I count the stitches on the pockets. And perhaps the more surprising thing about that comment is that no, I actually don’t count them! I think it’s more playful and down-to-earth to eyeball it in this case.

The final step is to pop them into the washer and dryer to fluff them up and pass my quality control double-check. There’s nothing cuter than a dryer full of fluffed-up Pocket Critters, just waiting for their new doggie friend to play with them.

grey and herringbone Pocket Critter dog toy | oxforddogma.com

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Pipsqueak's flannel and fleece jacket

Flannel and fleece dog jacket

We adopted a little dog from the shelter a few months ago, and as the weather cooled she needed a little jacket to ward off the shivers. Instead of buying one from the store, I decided it would be a great opportunity for a sewing project and used this wonderful tutorial as my guide. (And I got a kick out of how similar her dog looks to ours!)

It was so much fun to make, and when I finished I seriously considered making myself a matching fleece-lined flannel — maybe one day. It’s just so soft and cuddly!

flannel and fleece dog jacket

fleece lining in flannel dog jacket

Now I have a custom pattern, just for Pipsqueak, which is really cool. If I make another, I’d adjust the curve near the tail so it fits her nicer, and the curve around the neck could be smaller as well.

Pipsqueak sniffing around in jacket

Luckily, she seems pretty OK with wearing the jacket, so that makes me happy.