Seatbelts aren’t only for people. They’re for any passenger aboard a moving vehicle, dogs included. Carl Goldberg learned this the hard way 10 years ago. His 100-pound chocolate Labrador almost ended up roadkill inside the car.
To avoid an oncoming vehicle in his lane, Goldberg slammed on his brakes and then the fur was flying–into the windshield.
“The incident placed not only my dog’s life in danger,” he says, “but also my daughter, who could have been injured.”
So he set out to buy a good restraint for his retriever. He couldn’t find such a thing, so he made one. The result was the Canine Vehicle Restraint System, which earned the top choice and product of the year awards from Your Dog magazine, published by Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Over the years, Goldberg expanded his Ruff Rider Products to include new models, like the Roadie LX, with sheepskin padding, and a range of leashes, water bowls, collars and other items.
Harnesses range from $20 to $60. They come in sizes to fit 6-pound poodles and 200-pound shepherds. Customers have also strapped in other pets with Ruff Rider restraints, including large rabbits and cats. The harnesses bring in seven figures a year in sales, Goldberg says.
Being aware of your market’s needs, such as varied sizes and shapes of dogs, and providing sufficient stocks of each model is vital to business growth, he adds.
It also helps if you have a unique and high-quality product that imitators can’t easily replicate. According to commercial testing laboratories, Ruff Rider’s restraints can stand up to 7,025 pounds of force, beyond the Society of American Engineers’ 5,000-pound benchmark for human seatbelts. Goldberg tests his harnesses annually at a crash-test facility in Germany.
The toughest part of his business, he says, is getting the word out. Has he considered a celebrity spokesmongrel? No. “I’d use an unknown pet. We’d love to give a new dog a chance at stardom.”