Many of the innovative products started out as personal projects with the inventor’s own pet as the influential force. This is particularly true of the fabulous selection of travel related items specially manufactured to cater for spoilt pets on the go.
Brian O’Donnell of Snoozer Pet Products in Greenville, South Carolina typifies this new breed of innovator, as his own family pets were the inspiration for the range of pet car, bicycle, ATV and golf cart seats plus various other travel related paraphernalia which today accounts for more than 80 per cent of his business.
“I’ve been manufacturing pet products for more than two decades but what has transpired with regard to pet related travel items in the last five years is truly phenomenal. Owners want their pets to share in their own recreational activities,” says O’Donnell whose initial focus was on producing various car seats catering to all dogs both large and small.
“It’s all very well providing pets with a stylish and comfy look-out seat, but safety is of the utmost importance. Once we were happy with our technology, we patented our harness and pet restraint designs and started incorporating them into various other recreational seats for bicycles and ATVs. Next the design was adapted to fit a golf cart catering to the thousands of retired people who live on golfing estates around the country and who are reluctant to leave their pets at home while they are out golfing. Now we’re working on a design for motorcycles.”
“There’s no question that dogs enjoy watching the passing parade when traveling,” says Melissa Kann of Doggie Driving in Boulder, Colorado. “We designed our faux fur covered seats to fit securely on the back seat of a car with a clipping system used for sturdy climbing gear. They have an adjustable safety strap to prevent the pet from leaping out and can be used on motorcycles too.”
Next to car seats, bicycle carriers are the next big thing, ranging from attractive wicker-styled baskets to center-mounted carriers that can be removed and converted into shoulder travel bags, full of useful compartments to stores, keys, leashes and water.
According to Kevin Shirak of Baik Cycle Products in Ontario, Canada, there are bicycle carriers for small children so one for pets was the next logical step.
Like so many other manufacturers, he confirms that there’s a patent pending on his company’s detachable carrier. The design is suitable for cats and small dogs and its construction ensures the pet’s weight enhances the stability of the bicycle.
When it comes to travel gear, now that Fido has “wheels” to participate in various outdoor activities, a helmet is a logical accessory.
Zoomer, the motorbike-riding miniature Dachshund belonging to Kay Tabor of Richmond, Virginia was the inspiration behind her range of Zoomer Gear helmets.
“I made a helmet specially for him and people stopped me wherever we went,” says Tabor who is an avid triker (a motor bike with extra wheels).
“We utilize the same ABS plastic used for construction site hard hats. They are specially designed with customized foam pads to cater for pets with stand-up ears and also have adjustable chinstraps. They can be personalized with special airbrushed designs and are suitable for any kind of outdoor activity even riding a snow mobile.”
While both O’Donnell and Tabor admit that their products don’t as yet have specific safety ratings from the United States Department of Transport, they concur that this is the next logical step.
Ahead of cell phones, pets are considered the third worst in-car distraction. While the Automobile Association of America is unable to provide safety statistics relating to pets on the move, a spokesman for the organization says that they do stress that pet should be restrained and, like small children, are safer in the back seat of the car.
Traveling in safety and comfort is the focus of Honda’s new Fido-friendly bowWOW car. Judging by a recent poll conducted by MSNBC, more than 64 per cent of dog owners say they would consider buying a car that takes pet passengers into consideration. So no doubt there will be more canine concept cars at motor shows in the not too distant future.
According to Richard Shiu of Best in Show pet boutique in San Francisco, California, all kinds of car seats and restraints sell very well while various types of car seat covers and throws are also extremely popular.
“They’re practical,” says Shiu. “They preserve the car interior and when they get stinky it’s just a matter of tossing them in the wash and then they’re good to go again.”
The range of recreational gear and products on the market extends well beyond suitable seating for Fido to enjoy fun days out an about with a pet parent.
Okay, so what does the average pampered pup on the move need?
“Everything!” Say manufacturers who collectively back this statement by producing literally everything under the sun.
Here’s a run down on pet travel essentials. Savvy retailers, taking cognizance of this growing trend, should certainly consider setting up a special in-store travel section to capture this growing market.
For dogs that are large enough to carry their own accessories, a snug-fitting canine backpack will allow a pet to carry it’s own water, treats and a mini first aid emergency kit. There are various styles on the market made from a lightweight but durable nylon fabric.
The sun has it’s own dangers for pets and a special cooling bandana that is soaked in water and relies on airflow to keep body temperatures from rising is another popular item along with protective eye wear and sunscreen to offer a shield against skin cancer.
“Many pet owners do not consider the sun a threat because of their pet’s hair coat,” said Roni Di Lullo, President of Doggles, based in Diamond Springs California, makers of protective eyewear and sunscreen for pets.
“There are areas of a dog’s body that is lightly haired and lightly pigmented such as the stomach, nose and ears which are all prone to damage from ultraviolet light. So it’s important to use sunscreen and one that’s specifically formulated that doesn’t cause irritation.”
For pets that enjoy hiking, a day at the beach or simply riding in a convertible, flexible eyewear offers protection from UV light, foreign objects and the wind. This can be particularly helpful for large breed dogs that suffer from pannus, a progressive, non-painful, inflammatory disease of the cornea that is exacerbated by exposure to ultraviolet light and altitude.
Sun visors are also proving to be a practical yet fashionable item along with ergonomically designed boots that protect paws from extremely climatic conditions.
“Dog owners are discovering the practicality of canine footwear,” says John-Carlos “JC” Ynostroza of Gooby Pet Fashions in Los Angeles, California, the makers of Hound Hikers.
“It’s sensible for dogs that enjoy a very active lifestyle to wear footwear in the snow, when hiking rough trails or even when out walking on a hot sidewalk. There’s the cleanliness factor too.”
Certain beauty products are also considered travel essentials like paw balms made from shea butter that alleviate dryness and cracked paw pads for hot surfaces or from damage from the salt strewn on icy sidewalks. Shampoo and conditioner packs are also useful to cleanse the coat after swimming and ultimately help keep car interiors clean.
Specially designed pet umbrellas, foldout tents and camping beds are all designed to be easy items to take along for the ride. While pet futons and sleeping bags double up as comfortable travel zones as well as sleeping places that can also be set up anywhere and at time.
Its probably only a matter of time before Apple manufacture a special pet Ipod so that pets embarking on a journey can listen to those doggone songs being composed and packaged to provide soothing music for furry ears.