Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Changing Landscape of Dog Products

 Since I started this blog almost a decade ago (it will be a decade this March) the world of dog products has changed dramatically. There used to be a relative handful of companies and makers, making distinctive products. I purchased many of the products featured on this blog in secondhand stores, but they generally came from identifiable companies with an online presence that I could link to. Often those companies had their own stories, and I have loved researching them as I go along, finding out who merged with who and which products they kept in the lineup (spoiler alert: Outward Hound buys everything) post acquisition. 

When I started this blog, there were two manufacturers of inflatable donut cones. Today there are dozens of different products available from dozens of different manufacturers. There was one recovery suit, and it was not available for sale but had to be purchased from a veterinarian. Today you can find hundreds of different products in all sorts of designs. They are easier to find, less expensive, and becoming more common and popular because they get shared a lot through word of mouth. 

As the products become more commonplace and widespread, the companies behind them are all sort of blurring together. In writing up my recent posts on dog pants and recovery collars, I found that several of the products I had purchased or screenshotted were no longer available on Amazon. In fact, some of the companies were nowhere to be found. The current trend I am seeing is lots of similar or identical products offered from various different companies, with a slightly different brand logo or no logo at all. Obviously they are all coming from the same overseas manufacturers. 

Imported products are nothing new. What has changed is the quality of some of those products. Our familiar and beloved manufacturers like Ruffwear and Lupine and Hurtta haven't gone anywhere, and nobody matches their quality and customer service. But there used to be those guys, and the affordable pet store stuff, and then stuff from unfamiliar overseas manufacturers. That stuff was reliably poor quality. I know most of the dog products I buy from familiar and well-established brands are also manufactured overseas, but those had the security of being from a familiar company with a reputation to uphold. 

Today, I can buy a recovery suit, cone, collar, leash, bowl, toy, etc from an unfamiliar foreign brand on Amazon and be relatively certain it will hold up at least as well as the affordable pet store option. My no-name dog pajamas do not have a familiar company standing behind them, and they don't have the design consideration or quality found in my Medical Pet Shirt. I may not be able to find that company or product again when I want to share it with a friend or write about it here, but there will be ten more just like it waiting for me. Maybe even more, in even more different styles.

So what am I paying for when I buy a RuffWear Front Range harness instead of a RabbitGoo harness from Amazon or  a no-name harness from Temu? I am not only paying for quality and customer service. I am also paying for innovation. Companies like RuffWear are the ones creating not only new products, but new kinds of products. We didn't have mass marketed, high-quality escape-proof harnesses or structured, padded walking harnesses until RuffWear showed us how great they are. Everyone else is copying. 

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