Because dogs are game for anything, they make great buddies for outdoor activities. Manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products are all clamoring for a piece of the outdoor action—from the retractable patent-pending ThunderLeash that converts from a standard retractable leash to a “no-pull” solution in seconds, to RC Pets packable rain ponchos, Kurgo’s backpacks, coats and life vests and a myriad of Insect Shield products from PetEdge. It’s definitely a category for retailers to highlight and watch.
“Customers are increasingly recognizing that, like humans, dogs need the proper gear for comfort and safety outdoors,” said Gordie Spater, co-founder and chief business officer for Kurgo Products. “The recent success of companies like L.L. Bean and Patagonia has also put quality outdoor gear in the spotlight, and customers have started demanding this same quality and service for dog products as well.”
“General fashion is trending toward rugged, outdoor styles,” Spater said. “All of this adds up to immense growth in the outdoor category.”
According to Spater, a simple rule to follow with dogs is that if the dog’s owner is cold, the dog is, too. The right dog coat keeps an outdoor canine toasty.
“Coats like our three-season North Country Coat with LED safety light and waterproof Loft Dog Jacket protect dogs from the elements for maximum comfort,” Spater said.
“We design our products to help make getting out and about with your canine family member easier than ever,” said Jill Connolly, product development manager at RC Pets. “Dog coats are a great example of something that helps encourage you to get outside even on less desirable wet days, as it helps make the after walk clean up more manageable.”
Apart from many other on-the-go products such as travel bowls, coats and buoyant life vests, RC Pets has done very well with their Packable Rain Poncho, which is available in a variety of bright colors. It comes in a convenient carry pouch that clips onto a leash.
A leash is a necessity when taking dogs out and about. Hands-free leashes are popular with active owners.
“A concern for overall pet wellness is encouraging people to be more active with their canine companions,” Connolly said. “Our active leash is a perfect example of a product that encourages you to get outside, as its hands-free design allows you to bike, run or walk with your dog while still having full arm motion. The leash has reflective stitching that is visible up to 25 meters.”
According to Todd Cantrell, vice president of marketing at ThunderWorks, both the standard ThunderLeash and the retractable version “are both selling surprisingly well.” The company has taken to TV advertising to explain how the leash mimics a dog training trick called the Dutch half-hitch. The hitch involves looping a leash around the flank or belly and tightening it to distract and help settle an overactive or leash aggressive dog that may pull hard or become agitated at the sight of other animals or strangers.
Keeping Them Safe
A number of products are available to make outdoor adventures safer for dogs, including sun protection, insect repellants and first aid kits.
Gold Paw Series new Sun Shield Tees are stylish UV-blocking t-shirts designed for warm weather comfort. The light-weight jersey fabric is UPF50 rated, which means it blocks 98 percent of the sun’s UV rays.
“The tees are super comfortable and ideal for wear indoors and out,” said Alyson Brodsky, public relations spokesperson. “Additionally, they’re perfect for all sorts of applications beyond sun protection, including skin conditions, wound care, topical medications and as an anti-anxiety calming aid that can be worn all day.”
According to PetEdge president and CEO Andy Katz, the company’s large range of products that are infused with Insect Shield are “our best-selling products, ever.”
The variety of products available are treated with a patent-pending process that tightly binds a proprietary permethrin formula to fabric fibers, repelling mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.
Katz said that the company’s best-selling soft line products include a t-shirt, a lightweight hoodie, a neck gaiter and bandana. New items that debuted at Global Pet Expo last month include a mesh tank top and a sling carrier.
If a dog is going to be near the water, make sure the owner knows that a life vest is essential.
“Not all dogs are great swimmers, and all the conditions that could cause a person to fall off a boat or dock into the water apply to dogs as well,” Spater said. “[Kurgo’s]
Surf N Turf life vest not only ensures safety, but also acts as a three-season shell in one, so customers have the right jacket for every excursion.”
And, it behooves owners to be prepared for mishaps.
“[RC Pets’] Pet First Aid Kit is well stocked to allow owners to be prepared for any situation,” Connolly said. “As more people bring their dogs on road trips and further afield adventures, it’s nice to know you have the proper supplies and instructions to keep your dog safe and comfortable in an emergency situation.”
After a walk, hike or swim, a dog may need some clean up. Quick Bath Wipes by International Veterinary Sciences solve this problem.
“Our Quick Bath Wipes are pH neutral and formulated to conveniently and safely remove bacteria and odors from your pet’s skin, coat and paws,” said Ara Bohchalian, new co-owner and CEO of the brand. “They are great for using after a general walk irrespective of the weather, as they will reduce allergens tracked inside the home.”
Dog packs make carrying canine gear easier, and Kurgo and Outward Hound have this need covered.
“All dogs are bred for a specific purpose and can get restless and destructive without a job to do,” Spater said. “Backpacks like [Kurgo’s] Baxter Pack make dogs feel like they have a job on the trail, allowing them to carry their own food, treats, toys and travel essentials.”
One of the products that Outward Hound presented at the New Product Showcase at Global Pet Expo last month was the company’s new Pal Pak Harness.
“Not every pet parent is a serious hiker; that’s why we’ve designed our Pal Pak Harness to be more fun and functional for regular walks and trips to the park,” said Paul Banker, Outward Hound’s senior manager for content marketing.
The whimsical harness is available in three sizes and five fun characters, including a unicorn and a pirate.
“We partner with retailers to provide exceptional educational material around our products as well as rich content to help market these products,” said Banker. “With any gear item, robust sizing info is essential. We provide infographics, videos and bold graphic packaging so our retail partners are better equipped to answer sizing and product questions from their customers.”
Solvit Pet Products has introduced a dog step that mounts to the trailer hitch on a vehicle, making it easier for older pets to access the back of a SUV so they, too, can enjoy the outdoors. The Hitch Step folds flat against the vehicle when not in use and its convenience speaks for itself.
The Fun Stuff
“We had a lot of people ask for soft interactive toys that are easier on teeth and gums and also better for smaller dogs,” said Lanette Fidrych, president of Cycle Dog, which produces a variety of fun toys hand-sewn from post-consumer recycled products. “Consumer input resulted in our new line of Fuzzy Flyers. The dura-plush construction combines a soft plush that outer dogs love with bonded inner laminate for durability. The toys have double stitched internal seams for additional protection. They are soft enough for indoor or outdoor flight and tough enough for extended play sessions.”
“To date, our most popular outdoor toys are our interactive toys such as our Ecolast SuperFloat water toys that float above the surface of the water, making it easier for dogs to find in the water,” Fidrych said.