Getting into a new activity with your dog, be it skijoring, camping or hiking, means new gear! Harnesses, backpacks, booties, the list of things you can buy is endless! With so many options on the market, it can be completely daunting for someone just starting out. What makes this boot brand better than that one? This harnesses comes in my dog’s favorite color, but that one doesn’t. How are you to find the best, with so many choices out there? If you are headed out to do some shopping, keep these tips in mind.
The good news? You got choices! The bad news? There are so many choices! While big box stores and larger retailers often have lower prices, it’s the smaller stores who have the owner/employees with more knowledge. You spend the money on support and know-how or you save the cash and go it alone. It’s a personal decision and it’s really up to you! Spend some time browsing the companies’ selections and reading testimonials and reviews. So do you go for the Big Box price or the Small Store Know How? This can be a tricky one! Do you want to save money, or grab something that’s going to get the job done?
Speaking of money and saving it, there are those who will tell you their more expensive piece of gear is better than your cheaper gear. Nope. In many cases, more expensive just means more expensive. I have used $30 gear that worked just as well, and in some cases better than the $120 counterpart.
The more competition there is in the market, the more companies have to distinguish themselves from each other. In the dog eat dog world of commerce, some consumers fall for the “bigger is always better” price tag trick. Avoid anything that’s out of the ballpark. Most companies with similar product lines will have similar price ranges. Too cheap and too expensive can both be warning signs to avoid that brand.
Everyone is different and has different needs. The gear you need should work for you and your situation. Take an honest look at your circumstances and your budget. How will the gear be used? If you are just getting into a sport, by all means, save some cash and buy the entry level package. You can always upgrade later should you need to, but most times, those of us participating in dog sports at a recreational level won’t need to be upgrading.
It’s a thing. Way too often, keyboard warriors with more opinions than experience will freely pass out unsolicited regarding the appropriateness of your gear. So if you are unsure about your gear, ask someone who knows. An expert, ideally from the place you bought the gear from is ideally qualified to tell you if adjustments are needed and how good a fit it is on your dog.
Anytime you get new gear, keep an eye on your dog. Gear should enhance their performance and not limit their range of movement or cause them sores or hair rubbing.
People should stick to running their dogs, not their mouths. If the gear is safe and gets people out, there’s no shame in that. If the dog and human are out there making memories and getting off the couch, then by all means, you do you!
Those of us who with experience in our chosen sports need to step up and shut down gear shaming when we see it. Everyone’s personal preference is just that, a preference. The more brands we have out there making new and innovative products, the more we all benefit. The more people who are welcomed into our sports, the more we all benefit.
Kevin Roberts lives for adventure. Together with his pack of rescue dogs and his husband, he spends as much time outdoors as possible. Kevin lives by the motto: “Get outside and play with your dogs!”