Dog Approved: Getting Feedback from Canine Wear Testers

There’s a critical waypoint in the journey a product takes. It comes after the early musings and sketches in our product designers’ books, and before it’s donned by canine explorers around the world. 

It’s Research and Development (R&D), and it’s where we dig deep into the psyche of dogs as they interact with the world around them, allowing us to truly design from a dog’s perspective. What’s it like for a dog to run full tilt down rock-strewn singletrack? How do their paws bend, legs move, and shoulders flex? Or, what’s so engaging about a pinecone that utterly delights them when it’s thrown? The texture, the irregular bounce?

In thinking from their perspective, we aim for more than a gear solution that just works – we strive for a solution that enhances their freedom and experience as they join us on our adventures.

Designers are constantly gathering feedback and learning in the R&D of new and redesigned gear. A significant chunk of that feedback comes from testing it all out in the field.

TRAIL TESTED. DOG APPROVED.

Gear is constantly being tested by the Ruffwear pack through all iterations and stages of design. These dogs get after it day in and day out, and our Product Development & Design Team has a keen eye for spotting the subtleties of how gear interacts with canines as they move about. 

Is the gear moving with them as they hurl over logs, are they staying warm where they need to, is there a feature we’ve added for the human’s benefit that actually gets in the way of the dog’s experience? Are dogs able to explore with us longer, is their tail relaxed and wagging?

[PD Dog Giles testing an early iteration of this season’s new Pacific Ring Toy at Ruffwear HQ]

In the final stage of testing, though, we pose these questions to our pool of wear testers. This crew includes working dogs like avalanche rescue and canine detection teams, office dogs at the Ruffwear HQ, Ruffwear ambassadors, and even some legacy hall-of-famers that have proven themselves to be particularly crafty in wearing out our gear. And because they live in varying climates and regions, they can expose our gear to an array of conditions.

FALL/WINTER 2019 WEAR TESTING

We count on these dogs to run, roll, splash, pull, wiggle, sleep, and whatever else it is that canines are inspired to do in our gear. We look to their humans to be in tune with them in order to observe, gather, and share the feedback they are constantly giving.

Not only can we learn from their experiences, but we figure if it works for them, it’ll work for you.

This season, our wear-testers put in over 7,200 hours of use in the field in the final stage of testing. Here’s a little look at the observations a few of them made and the feedback they shared with the Product Development team.


TESTER: MARV

FIELD OF EXPERTISE: Rolling in dirt. Amateur Abrasion Afficianado. Master Napper.

PRODUCT TESTED: Mt. Bachelor Pad [Redesign]

TESTING LOCATION: Since it was easy to roll up and bring along, we tried it in a mix of indoors and outdoors places – in the car, at the office, and any outside activity. 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: The moment my human unrolled this, I instantly knew this was my spot and settled right in, no matter where she put it.

HUMAN OBSERVATIONS: I love the new color and the size was perfect for him. I left it outside on the ground and it did great durability-wise. Baylee laid on the pad as well and I was surprised how quickly her hair accumulated on the top. Baylee’s fur naturally came off the bed as I moved it around to different locations.

I found it pretty easy to roll back up, but couldn’t get it exactly in the nice fold it came with. I love the new zipper feature where the buckle and webbing go when it is in use. The non-slip was great on the bottom.


TESTER: NOODLE

FIELD OF EXPERTISE: Trail Ace, Indefatigable Disc Dog, Scooter Specialist.

PRODUCT TESTED: Flagline Harness [New]

TESTING LOCATION: Hiking Squire Lakes Trail 

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I tested it out at the park chasing discs before taking it out for a longer adventure on the trail.The harness fit perfect with my scooter, and I was able to run max speed without restriction.

HUMAN OBSERVATIONS: Putting it on/off is really easy! On the trail, I was able to easily lift Noodle over roots and rocks that were too large for her to conquer on my own. Because she didn’t wiggle a bunch while being lifted, I knew she was comfortable and secure. It made helping Noodle out easier.


TESTERS: KONA, CALI, RUGER – WEST COAST HEELER PACK

FIELD OF EXPERTISE: Master Log Jumpers, Brush Ninjas, Champion Stick Chewers.

PRODUCT TESTED: Overcoat Fuse [New]

TESTING LOCATION: Broomhill (British Columbia, Canada)

CONDITIONS: Rain

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: I could move freely with no restrictions while running and jumping to higher ground! (Kona)

HUMAN OBSERVATIONS: “Coat kept Kona dry and stayed in place, straps did not loosen. It is nice to easily have the option to leash up the dogs right on the jacket, this is a huge convenience. With Cali, it didn’t restrict her off trail adventures. Came out with no rips or snags. I cannot speak for pulling as I do not encourage the dogs to pull, so any pulling done would have been minimal.”


PRODUCT TESTED: Pacific Loop Toy [New]

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Not only was it a fun way to play with my human, it was tough enough to handle my mad tugging skills – I LOVE to tug.

HUMAN OBSERVATIONS: “All the dogs have tugged with this toy together. Ruger and Kona especially are very rough when they tug. After weeks of serious tugging the toy is still in like new condition.

Ruger is strong and I felt comfortable tugging with him. Being able to have a solid place to be able to grip onto the toy made it easier for me to tug with Ruger, as well as, tug with one hand in order to reward with pets with my other hand. I always like to have a collection of good tugging toys for my dogs. Plus to have it survive with Kona and Ruger tugging it says A LOT!”


That’s just a fraction of the testing our gear goes through. But we do it to be confident that our gear will do it’s job – so you too can be confident when you and your pup are putting our gear to the test as you find new ways to explore together in vastly diverse conditions all across the globe.


Want to hear more about designing gear from a dog’s perspective? Check out a podcast Outside Magazine did recently with our Product Development team and Founder, Patrick.

2 thoughts

  1. Hi,

    It would be great if you could design a couple of jackets for tripods. We already have the Cooling jacket and
    the flotation jacket and they are great. Velcro closures are what work for us. Our Sycamore is a Schnauzer mix and even with three legs he loves to go on long walks.

    I enjoy reading your stories about dogs and their journeys with their owners, paddle boarding, hiking etc.

    Keep up the great work.

    Regards,

    Cheryl Alusow

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