Why is it important to
match the dog with just
the right leash?
NEW MATERIALS & TECHNOLOGIES
Manufacturers are keyed in to the product attributes that consumers
demand in the dog walking and outdoor gear segment and are
incorporating materials and introducing products to serve those needs.
Michael Parness, chief marketing officer at Outward Hound in
Denver, said that consumers are more aware than ever of what they are
buying and what materials are in the products that they buy.
“More technical properties from the outdoor industry continues to
come to the pet industry like waterproof, breathable materials, neoprene,
3M Thinsulate, adjustable belly straps to maximize fit and balance, along
with eco-friendly materials, bright colors and progressive manufacturing
processes,” Parness said.
Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear in Bend, Ore., said
the company has used and adapted materials used for constructing
tents to develop its performance dog gear.
“We launched what’s now the Quencher Bowl on the premise that if
waterproof tent fabric can keep water out, it can also keep it in,” Strible
For environmentally conscious consumers, manufacturers are using
recycled materials to make leads, such as Lupine Pet’s eco line, said
Kirbay Preuss, general manager of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich.
Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M.,
added that other natural materials such as hemp and bamboo also are
trending for leashes.
For those concerned with safety, safety-locking mechanisms and
reflective components are available. Correlated with safety is the
demand for products that are made in the USA. Preuss said that durable
products are important as well, and she is seeing fire hose as a newer
material. To meet the concern for cleanliness, manufacturers are
introducing antimicrobial collars to the market.
Outward Hound in Denver has debuted several products for dogs that love a little adventure. These
include the Dawson Lifejacket, Durango Coat, Telluride 2-in-1 Coat with 3M Thinsulate, Silverton Coat
with 3M Thinsulate, Hipster Waist Pack and 2-in-1 Bottle & Bowl. The company also added five patterns
to its Dublin Dog Collar line.
“For 2018, our updates include adding mesh for our backpacks to keep dogs cooler, additional
multiuse storage on backpacks, increased adjustability for belly straps to maximize fit and balance
on lifejackets and backpacks, along with more durable material usage on existing backpacks and
lifejackets,” said Michael Parness, chief marketing officer at Outward Hound.
In February, Ruffwear in Bend, Ore., launched the Knot-a-Hitch campsite dog-hitching system, which
allows dogs to roam while remaining on leash.
“Our inspiration came from the materials and techniques of rock climbers, so we included strong,
reflective kernmantle rope and an easy-to-use tensioning system,” said Susan Strible, director of
This month, the company will launch several more products, including the Trail Runner System and
the Hi & Light Harness, a lightweight, low-profile adventure harness with four points of adjustment.
Coastal Pet Products’ popular K9 Explorer line has been extended with K9 Explorer Brights.
“The Brights extension features a reflective buckle for added nighttime safety, reflective stitching
and natural colors that coordinate with outdoor scenery,” said Cathy LeDonne, product development
manager for the Alliance, Ohio-based company.
The company’s active sport line, Pro, which includes reflective, bright, team-colored collars and
leashes, will be expanded this summer to include a line of fully adjustable waterproof collars, leashes
and harnesses in fun, bright colors, LeDonne added.
Kurgo is making some updates to its outdoor line.
“This spring, we will be updating our Journey Harness to make it even better for hiking and running,”
said Kitter Spater, co-founder and chief creative officer of Kurgo in Salisbury, Mass. “We will be adding
more padding and making the chest plate more comfortable. We will also be switching the buckles to
aluminum, which means they will be strong but rust free for dogs that tend to get wet while adventuring.
“We will also be making our award-winning Quantum Leashes reflective,” Spater added. “This
is one of our most popular hands-free leashes as it can be adjusted six different ways to run or hike
Earlier this year, Kurgo launched its joring line, a system to use for joring sports with dogs. Spater
said that these sports, popular in Europe and gaining traction in the U.S., are sports where the dog pulls
a person in a similar manner as a sled dog would.
“On the apparel side, our new Cooling Coat for dogs will be launching at retail this spring,” Spater
said. “Since dogs cannot sweat, this coat can be wetted and placed on your dog. It will emulate
sweating and wick the heat off a dog, cooling them during extreme temperatures. This spring, we will
also be launching the Mud Dog Rain Coat, which is a high-quality rain coat for dogs that are out in the
wet hiking and running.”
FOCUS ON FIT AND FUNCTION
Whether it’s a leash, harness or life vest, when it comes to products for outdoor adventure,
the fit is crucial, which is why dogs should be able to try them on while in the store,
according to industry insiders.
“Fit is key for wearable gear, so making it easy for consumers to know what size is best
for their dog when in-store is key to customer satisfaction and a happy dog,” said Michael
Parness, chief marketing officer at Outward Hound in Denver, adding that girth plays the most
important role in getting sizing correct. To that end, the company offers online, video and
“Having a tape measure on or near a display is a great way to help customers measure
their dog in-store or simply a sign on display with ‘Ask an Associate’ to measure your dog,”
Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash on Life in Albuquerque, N.M., said that if customers
understand the fit and function of a product, they are much more likely to purchase it.
If a real dog is unavailable for demonstrating purposes, a mannequin can also be a good
visual tool, said Susan Strible, director of marketing at Ruffwear in Bend, Ore.
Even lifestyle images can do the trick, insiders added.
With so many products in this category, there are many creative ways in which to
“Display colored leads and harnesses in a color pattern that is appealing to the eye,” said
Kirbay Preuss, general manager of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich. “Rotate which colors you
stock in front based on the season.”
In addition to offering a good assortment of colors and sizes, it is important to focus on
communicating how these products can benefit consumers as well as their dogs, according
to Bryant Baxter, sales and marketing coordinator at EzyDog in Sandpoint, Idaho.
“Display imagery or exhibits that your customers can relate to and emphasize how a
product’s unique key features can benefit their lifestyle,” he said. “We find it helpful to show
videos and lifestyle images that we provide to our customers as people can instantly relate to
this type of display.”
Shrout has noticed that accessibility is a key factor when it comes to sales in the outdoor
gear and leash category. To that end, Long Leash on Life clips its collars to bars, which
creates quick access for shoppers, he said.
Strible suggested that retailers merchandise products by brand rather than by category,
as customers can see how the products work together.
Cathy LeDonne, product development manager at Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio,
said merchandising similar products from different categories can help retailers tell a story.
“For example, setting an endcap with specialty leashes, travel water bowls, seat covers,
travel harnesses and water-friendly toys help create a one-stop shop for the adventure-seeking pet owner,” LeDonne said.
“If you really spend the time looking at different leashes,
you will see they offer features and benefits. The old ‘put
your dog on a simple lead’ is no longer the traditional way.
Consumers now want double leads for walking multiple
dogs, they want tips on why retractable leashes don’t help
with pulling, they want leads with double handles to allow
for controlling the distance the dog can wander. A dog needs
the appropriate leash based on its breed and behavior to
help set them up for success.”—KIRBAY PREUSS, general
manager of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich.
“Matching your dog with the right leash could
save your dog’s life when you least expect it and
is one of the most important training tool you
could own. Every dog is different, with training
and handling playing a key part in choosing the
right leash based on size/weight/breed and overall
temperament of your dog. The goal should always
be keeping your dog safe and always under control
when out on a walk—day or night.”—MICHAEL
PARNESS, chief marketing officer at Outward
Hound in Denver
“Where you are walking will help determine what type of leash you should use. In the city or busy walking area, a
shorter leash makes a lot of sense to help keep your dog close. If you’re out hiking, a longer leash is fun to help them
explore, but we always recommend using one with a traffic handle in case you need to gain control quickly.”
—ADREANNE TESENE, co-owner of Two Bostons, which has stores in Illinois
“Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and have different behavioral character-
istics. Some dogs pull more than others, and their owner could benefit from
a leash that offers a sturdier grip. A training leash can help tame a misbehav-
ing dog. A hands-free leash can be great for a well-trained dog and reward
the owner by freeing up their hands. Some leashes are designed specifically
with smaller dogs in mind. It’s essential to pair your dog with the leash that
accommodates your goals and is best for your dog for the best walking
experience.”—BRYANT BAXTER, sales and marketing coordinator at EzyDog
in Sandpoint, Idaho