Monday, October 13, 2014

How Not to Write a Dog Product Review

As an avid fan of pretty much all dog gear ever, I thoroughly enjoy reading user reviews. Amazon product reviews are where I first learned that the ComfortFlex harnesses fit well on dogs who need a longer chest strap than is found on the Hurtta Lifeguard or EzyDog QuickFit. While many people post useful information, not everyone seems to understand what makes a good review, and what just makes them look like a stupid customer.
Photo by Erin Koski

"My dog chewed it up."
Is this review for a durable chew toy, like a Kong, Busy Buddy Bone, or Nylabone? Great! I totally want to know that your dog destroyed it in five minutes, which parts your dog was able to remove or obliterate, and what toys actually hold up to your particular power chewer.

Is this review for a supervision-required puzzle toy, harness, leash, or other object that was not intended to be chewed? The fact that your dog destroyed when left unsupervised tells me nothing useful about the product itself, but it does give me a little window of insight into your unrealistic product expectations. Seriously, who actually thinks that a nylon Kong-brand harness is going to be chew-proof?

"My dog wouldn't play with it."

I want to know that your dog thoroughly enjoys chomping on every rubber toy she's ever laid jowls on, but weirdly avoids this one. I want to know that your dog will fetch absolutely any object you throw except this specific toy. I want to know that you tried slathering it with peanut butter, and your chow-hound still won't go near it. If your dog only likes certain styles/shapes/brands and this one didn't make the cut, I want to know what she does consider play-worthy. Just knowing that your dog didn't like it is less than helpful when I have no idea whether yours is a picky pooch or a toy fanatic.

"I bought the wrong size."
Good for you. How about writing a real review when you've acquired and tried out the correct size?

Ordering errors are only helpful to other potential customers when the cause was something other than user error. If the products run small or large, I would love to know what size your dog measured as, and what size actually fit. Experiences with hard-to-fit breeds are also extremely useful to other customers. That you ignored the sizing chart and can't believe your 80-pound dog is too small for the XXL Ruffwear gear is just a story about you the consumer.

"It smelled bad."
Well how was it supposed to smell? I am forever amazed when people complain that scented products like the JW Megalast Ball and the Starmark Everlasting Treat Ball smell like vanilla when they are specifically advertised as being scented.

Again, this information is potentially useful when it includes more detail. Knowing that you can smell the newly-opened treat ball or Extreme Kong from the next room tells me a lot more than merely reporting that it has a smell. Likewise, I would love to know what you did to eradicate that old-tire smell. I love reading "still stinks after two weeks on the porch" or "smells better after a dozen trips through the dishwasher". Knowing that you returned it because it smelled so bad is still more helpful than just reading that you didn't like the smell.

"It just arrived and I haven't used it yet."
Great! Come back and write a review when you have something to say.

The more a given reviewer has used a product, the better a review they will be able to leave. "It looks like it fits ok" is way less helpful than "it's still going strong after a month" or "it rubbed my dog's hair off after a week". That said, immediate reviews for something that has outperformed other products are always nice. I would love to know that your power chewer destroys black Kongs in five minutes but has been working on her GoughNut for at least ten. If your dog hated the last six harnesses you tried, and didn't hide under the bed when you put on the Planet Dog Cozy Hemp harness, by all means post a review.

Product reviews exist to help other consumers make informed decisions. If we all kept that in mind, review sections would be more informative about the products, and less informative about the reviewers and their unrealistic expectations or inability to read directions.

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