Function and Fashion
BY SANDY CHEBAT
Style and performance are among pet owners’ top riorities when picking out a collar, leash or har- ness, reported industry insiders.
Jennifer Cao, co-founder and vice president of ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif., noted that the category is trending
toward offering pet owners more functionality.
“We’re seeing a trend in this industry for more func-
tional products, such as leashes and harnesses that cor-
rect pulling, minimize choking, allow for hands-free dog
walking, etc.,” Cao said. “These innovations are great be-
cause dog owners have different needs, and these prod-
ucts help make dog walking easier on the dog and the
Consumers are also seeking durable products that
will hold up in various scenarios, said Eran Konorty,
founder and CEO of Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto.
“With the different seasons and the active lifestyle of
dogs, consumers are looking for something that will be
used all year long, and sometimes under severe conditions,” Konorty said.
According to Cao, demand is rising for products featuring varied materials such as leather, rope and fashionable accessories, as well.
“Modern dog owners love to express their personalities through their dogs’ accessories, purchasing products that relate
to their own accessories,” she said.
Customers at Dog & Co. in New York typically look for pieces
designed with both fashion and function in mind.
“Trends in this category are
definitely following human
fashion and design trends—
colors like blush and mint, as
well as fresh, nontraditional
hardware in metal finishes like
rose gold,” said Melinda Montney, owner.
Leather is a leading choice
for customers at Augie Doggy,
which has stores in Ontario,
“Leather seems to be popular for durability and the look and style,” said Barry Coren, owner.
“Our stores are of a higher-end nature, and we cater to a customer
who’s looking for quality more than price, so we carry a lot of leather
and waterproof options.”
With a focus on reclaimed, hand-sourced leather goods, Austin,
Texas-based Boots & Arrow offers one-of-a-kind collars that feature
hand stitching, solid brass hardware, laser etching and hand-painted
details, said Kristin Moses, founder and creative director.
“Each piece is handcrafted from the upcycled leather of reclaimed
cowboy boots and sewn locally in Austin,” she said. “Because all our
collars and accessories are made from reclaimed materials, every sin-
gle piece is completely unique.”
Across the country, retailers and manufacturers report a surge in
“While there is a constant increase in sales for [leashes and collars],
the share of harnesses is growing faster,” said Cathy LeDonne, catego-
ry manager at Coastal Pet Products Inc. in Alliance, Ohio. “Consum-
ers want a more pleasant, comfortable walking experience with their
pets, and they see harnesses as a solution.”
Jennifer Arnold, founder of We For Dogs in Milton, Ga., attributes
the harness trend to a decrease in consumer interest in pinch collars,
choke chains and head collars.
“People see harnesses as a more friendly option for walking
their dog,” said Nicole Back-
us, product manager—toys
and behavior for Radio Sys-
tems Corp. in Knoxville,
Tenn. “It takes little to no time
to acclimate to a harness and
requires little training of the
owner or dog.”
Arnold added that the
boost in harnesses matches an
overall trend toward “trying to
give the pet as much comfort
as possible. People are paying
attention to meeting their animal’s needs.”
Jamie Popper, business development manager for Blue- 9 Pet Prod-
ucts in Maquoketa, Iowa, said consumers want dog-friendly harness-
es designed for the pet’s comfort and to retain free-range motion.
“Another piece is harnesses that have multiple adjustment points,
which allow for a fully customized fit,” she said, adding “there’s a
big trend for front attachment harnesses for control while teaching
While dog owners are favoring comfortable harnesses, such as
mesh or step-in products, Melissa Whitton, owner of Most Valuable
Pets Inc. in Lexington, Ky., said cat owners generally have one main
question: Is it escape-proof?
Another departure seen in this category is away from retractable
leads, said John Hollingsworth, director of sales and operations for
DOOG USA in Carrolton, Texas. Instead of the typical 4-foot-long
leash, he’s seeing more 6-foot leads, along with multidog leashes
and ergonomic innovations so leashes feel comfortable in the owner’s hand.
When it comes to collars, leashes and
harnesses, dog and cat owners seek
style as well as proper function.
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“We’re seeing a trend in this industry
for more functional products, such
as leashes and harnesses that correct
pulling, minimize choking, allow for
hands-free dog walking, etc.”
—Jennifer Cao of ZippyPaws
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