The inventor of the Quencher soft-sided, packable dog bowl — now iconic in its 22nd year of inimitability — continues to bring his passion for four legged friends to the office every day and is still intimately involved in the design of Ruffwear products for outdoor dogs.
Whether at work on a Search & Rescue team, multi-day backpacking or playing in the park, dogs and owners lives are continually improved by this brand that shockingly has few competitors in the outdoor space.
How do you stay focused on the mission, yet still fresh and relevant after all these years?
Everything we build provides a solution. We’re building gear that each of us at Ruffwear want to use, that inspire us to get outside and be adventurous with our dogs.
Once we know the gear works for our internal R&D team in our own backyard of Bend, we expand our testing to include demanding dogs and their humans/handlers who are recreating in diverse environments around the globe.
Over the years needs, have continued to change. By staying abreast of technology advances, Ruffwear is able to incorporate new fabrics, sewing processes, hardware, materials and more into our products to address everyday needs.
Tell us about your work with Search & Rescue and Ski Patrol…
Ruffwear was founded by addressing a single need — to create a solution for a thirsty dog.
Creating solutions that are well received and appreciated by the user is a driving force for our designs. Guide Dogs, Assistance Dogs, Conservation Canines, Search & Rescue, Avalanche Rescue Dogs…these groups all have strong bonds with their dogs and rely on each other to do incredibly important work. Being part of the process and in the presence of handlers and working dogs is an amazing experience. Being buried under six feet of snow and waiting for a dog and handler team to find and dig you out — you learn what’s working and where improvements can be made.
Walking in a simulated scenario with a guide dog quickly allows us to understand the courage and trust that sight impaired individuals have with their guides, and their gear. The knowledge we gain from our relationship with these dog/human teams provides insights that inform and drive Ruffwear product innovation.
If we can make our gear intuitive for a sight impaired individual, or create gear that works seamlessly for a handler and avi dog team, that’s when we know we’re taking steps in the right direction. If Ruffwear works in these challenging conditions and diverse needs, it will probably excel for those of us who may be less demanding of our gear.
What does Ruffwear do to help these organizations?
My personal passion comes from our successes of doing something that comes naturally to us — building performance dog gear and experiencing the benefits that individuals and organizations gain from the gear we create. We collaborate, observe and listen to specific requests and challenges they are experiencing.
We volunteer and we outfit select working dogs with Ruffwear harnesses and gear that allows them to focus on their work. Our work with Conservation Canines allows us to put our gear through an accelerated testing process, condensing years of typical use into a few short months. This allows us to think differently…reinforcing where needed, reducing bulk and weight where it is a burden, changing configurations, cut and fit to maximize performance. We feel good knowing the observations made by Conservation Canines is leading to a better understanding of the pressures facing threatened and endangered species.
What is your personal favorite game-changing Ruffwear product?
I like our K9 Float Coat for all the great experiences and memories created while Otis and I kayaked whitewater rivers in the West, being able to focus on running drops and boating at my best knowing that Otis was well protected and visible running the riverbanks. Knowing we can each focus on our pursuits and not be preoccupied with the performance of our gear is always game changing.
I also like our Grip Trex dog boots for the relationships built during the development and manufacturing process. We were able to gain the confidence and trust of a well-respected footwear factory and our ability to incorporate Vibram into the Grip Trex project was an indication that Ruffwear had turned the corner in being a trusted brand. Grip Trex changed the way many look at dog boots and they have helped everyone from dogs out for a walk around the block to service dogs engaging in work around the globe.
My favorite game changing Ruffwear product is not a product at all – it’s the opportunity to impact a mindset that we can change our way of thinking. I believe Ruffwear has had a positive impact in the way we live, work and recreate with our canine companions, creating new opportunities, freedom, comfort, experiences, adventures, perspectives.