Often, after we have reviewed a certain type of product, we get calls, letters, and e-mail from Whole Dog Journal readers telling us about similar products that we did not review. While we do not – and cannot – test every example of a product concept, when we learn about an exceptional or unusual one that we missed, we like to bring it to your attention. The following are a few notable additions to our product reviews from the past year.
Way back in February, we reviewed long lines – extra-long leashes that can be used to help teach a dog to come (“Know Your Lines”). White Pine Outfitters has quickly leaped to the top of our list of favorite suppliers of long lines. After we tested their wonderful product, we tossed out all our others. The White Pines long lines are costly but well worth the price; the soft, supple, and strong tubular webbing used makes them exquisitely gentle on the hands. In addition, they don’t tangle easily or pick up undue amounts of debris, and they dry quickly even after soaking. If you use a long line for any purpose, you will want one (or more) of these.
The innovation in Aspen Pet Product’s “Comfort Leash” does not lie in the six-foot nylon leash but in the handle: A padded fabric handle made to be worn comfortably around the wrist, with another padded section that is grasped in the palm of your hand. The handle also features a small pocket for a key, poop bag (unused), or a tiny supply of dog cookies.
We like the concept, and found the padded leash handle very comfortable, if a bit warm in hot weather. However, the leash part of the product is made of the lowest-quality nylon we’ve ever seen in a leash: thin and rough. We can’t recommend this product as-is, but if Aspen Pet were to improve the quality of the leash, they’d have a real winner.
Here’s an interesting concept – a Flexi-lead that your dog carries for you! The Click-3 Collar Leash is a retractable 20-inch leash that can be clipped onto your dog’s collar for him to carry when you want to let him off-leash. When you want to put him back on-leash, you simply press a button that releases the plastic casing from a clip that stays fastened to his collar. The Flexi-leash retracts into and out of the casing, which doubles as the handle of the leash. It sounds bulky, but it’s small enough for you to grasp in your hand. To let your dog off-leash, you allow the leash to retract all the way, and then snap the handle/casing back onto the clip on his collar.
This product does have some shortcomings. The maker claims it can be used on well-trained dogs up to 110 pounds, but we’re not confident we’d want this to be our only restraint on a strong puller of any size. And while the handle is comfortable in the hand, it is easy to drop if the dog pulls.
Another drawback is that the leash clip fits only on flat collars that are one inch wide or narrower. Small as it is, it might be too bulky for a very small dog to wear clipped to his collar. Also, the product may also attract the attentions of a habitual chewer; we found our Scottie happily chewing on the handle when our back was turned. Because of the potential for getting chewed, the Leash Collar should not be left on dogs unattended, nor is it suitable for group play environments such as dog parks.
With these caveats in mind, we like it as a handy emergency leash for well-behaved dogs – perfect for temporary restraint during a beach jog, for example.
Car safety restraints
In May 2001, we reviewed car safety belts for dogs (“Safest Canine Seat Belts”). Following that review, two products we had never seen before were sent to our offices for review. We examined and tested the products on our dogs, using the criteria of safety, comfort, ease of use, quality, and cost.
We absolutely love the Safety Seat Vest Harness made by Four Paws Products Ltd. This moderately-priced harness is well designed and constructed, with medium weight soft nylon straps and reasonably sturdy plastic buckles and metal fittings. The fleece-lined yoke that rests against the dog’s chest oozes comfort, and the large size fit our 75-pound test dog like a glove. The Vest Harness can also be used as a comfortable walking harness by attaching the leash to the D-ring at the top of the harness.
Our favorite feature is the simplicity of the design and the ease with which it can be put on the dog. Without even looking at the package instructions, we got it buckled properly onto our test dog on the second try.
The Safety Seat Vest Harness does have a couple of flaws, however. Because the seat belt passes through the harness loop, if he pulls gradually on the harness the dog can move about in the car more than we would like. With the exception of old-fashioned, fixed seat belts, or the fixed belts sometimes found in the middle of the back seat, most modern seat belts will yield and lengthen in response to a gradual pull, just as they do when you move around with your seat belt on. Our top pick of previously reviewed seat restraints (the Doggie Catcher) solved this challenge by buckling directly into the seat belt clip receptacle.
There is also the question of product strength and car safety. As the manfacturer of another seat restraint (the Roadie, mentioned in just a moment) pointed out, we did not conduct laboratory tests to determine the tensile strength of the various seat restraint products. The maker of The Roadie claims that its tests determined that very few canine seat belts come anywhere near meeting the requirement of 5,000 pounds for human seat belts; The Roadie, the maker claims, offers 6,675 pounds of test strength.
Again, we don’t do laboratory testing, nor do we slam on the brakes to test the product in automobile accident conditions. But the Vest Harness appears to us to be up to the job of securing our dogs in the car.
Ruff Rider Products, LLC, is the maker of The Roadie, which is another harness-type car-safety restraint device. According to Rough Rider, The Roadie beats all the other canine car seat restraints on the market in the strength department, and we’ll go ahead and take their word. There is more to a car restraint device than strength, however, and The Roadie falls quite short in several of the other criteria that we examined.
For starters, it is extremely challenging to put on the dog! We are reasonably intelligent, but this harness had us tearing our hair out. Putting it on without instruction was out of the question, and even with help of the printed instructions we failed miserably. Finally, with the help of the instructional video also provided in the packaging (!) and one very patient dog, we succeeded in putting it on. Total elapsed time, 40 minutes. With an uncooperative dog or an owner who is less than agile and dexterous, it would have been impossible.
Also, once on the dog, the harness didn’t fit well. It gapped under the legs, and there were strap ends flapping. Of course, we could not find a size indicated anywhere on the packaging or the harness itself, which the manufacturer sent to us, so perhaps the one we had was just too large for our tester – except that we couldn’t get it on our next-size-up dog at all. The unlined straps also have the potential to chafe the dog’s armpits. Ruff Rider does sell another model that is lined with sheepskin to prevent chafing, but it sells for a prohibitive $75!
We don’t discount the importance of a product that is strong enough to do the job, but if a device is too complicated for the average dog owner to decipher, it won’t get used. If Ruff Rider put more effort into making this product user-friendly, it would rate more WDJ paws. A car restraint harness won’t do you or your dog any good if it’s at home in the dog supply drawer.
Basic rubber ball
At least one more ball bounced its way into our mailbox, and it’s one that we couldn’t pass up.
We have to admit, we have yet to meet a Kong product we didn’t like, and the new Kong Ball is no exception. This is your basic red rubber ball, but made of Kong’s trademark solid, puncture resistant, natural rubber. It is 2.5 inches in diameter, so is suitable only for small to medium-sized dogs. Our most reliable toy tester, a diehard ball enthusiast/Scottie, was so excited about it that he couldn’t wait for us to get it out of the package – he grabbed it up, cardboard and all, and we had to retrieve it from him to release the ball from its packaging.
Our only caveats about recommending this ball are ones we repeat for any toy: Remember that its safety depends in large part on appropriate size for your dog, as well as your own dog’s propensity and determination to chew objects into tiny bits. Although the rubber is tough, it’s not indestructible. Take the ball away from your dog if his oral attentions are causing wear and tear. And make sure that any ball you give your dog is size-appropriate so he cannot get it stuck in his throat.
Finally, the Kong Ball is a hard, solid object, so if you throw it for your dog, and your arm is strong but your aim is off, you could deliver a pretty hard “thunk” to your dog’s head or body. Now, go play ball!
-by Pat Miller