Going for a walk with your dog can be a great experience. Some outdoors accessories can make it even better.
Ruffwear is one of the leading dog accessory companies around, and we tried out some of their products on a four day wild camping trip in the Trossachs.
We tried an Approach Pack â€“ which allowed Ruby, our Springer Spaniel, to carry her own food, plus some other bits and pieces besides. We also had a collar and leash, plus a collapsible food/water bowl.
We tried the Crag collar and Flat Out leash both in red. They are made from the same durable Tubelok webbing (Ruffwear’s own design) â€“ which seems tough and also dries quickly when wet. The leash is extra long (1.8m), and quickly converts from hand held to waist worn. You just unclip the aluminium Talon Hook to adjust in seconds. I really liked this feature, as we were walking on a trail, but often had to cross roads, so I just wore the leash around my waist so it was always available when I needed to keep her under control. Plus I was able to open gates, or quickly secure Ruby to a fence post. Having the leash around my waist was a bit of a revelation to me. Our Springer does pull, and sometimes you feel your arm is coming out of its socket. But she didn’t seem to pull as much when secured from the waist, as I guess there is more core strength holding her back. Even when you do hand hold the leash, the handle area is padded to allow for a bit of shock absorption.
The Talon Clip on the leash is really strong looking, and designed for easy one-handed use. I found it pretty simple to use â€“ you just pinch it to attach to, or release from, the collar. The collar is similar in design to the leash, having a Talon Hook to take it on and off, and an aluminium v-ring for securing the leash. Thereâ€™s a fastening point for a name tag, and if you donâ€™t like those jingling around, then thereâ€™s a nice touch in a silicone silencer. The collar is nice and wide, so it doesnâ€™t dig into the dogâ€™s neck.
I love the collar and leash. Weâ€™ve been testing it daily for over six months now, and neither shows any sign of wear and tear.
We also took with us the Quencher packable dog bowl. This is lightweight, scrunches flat, and gives your dog something to eat or drink out of. Obviously, itâ€™s waterproof too. Thereâ€™s not much else to say, other than I wish we had had the cinch top version of this, as often Ruby doesnâ€™t eat all her food. The cinch top allows you to shut the opening, to pack it up and save for later. Itâ€™s a great thing to have in the back of the car, for a quick water/food stop.
The product we were most interested to try was the Approach Pack. This is essentially a saddlebag for your dog, and allows her to carry things that she might need on the trip (food, waterproof jacket), or things for you (first aid kit, tent pegs). For our dog we chose a small (there is a sizing guide on the Ruffwear website). This has a capacity of 9 litres.
The bags are positioned over the shoulders of the dog, to keep the weight forward, around a secure harness frame. Ruby was happy to put it on, and the buckles are adjustable to get it fitting correctly, so it wonâ€™t slip. You need to balance the weight to keep the bags evenly distributed â€“ but there is a surprising amount of room. Two large pockets either side, and two smaller pockets above. You mustnâ€™t overfill, and the rule of thumb is no more than 25 per cent of your dogâ€™s overall body weight. There are also external cargo loops, but I didnâ€™t use those. I felt it was better not to have things hanging off the pack. The pack itself is showerproof, but we encountered torrential rain over four days, so it did let in water. You can buy a waterproof cover as an accessory. Our dog likes water but doesnâ€™t get out of her depth, so if your dog likes jumping in a river for a good swim, this might not be a great option, as the contents will be soaked, and it could weigh them down.
Thereâ€™s a grab handle on the top of the pack, so you can negotiate your dog over walls or stiles, and thereâ€™s a v-ring, like on the collar, so you can attach a leash. I tried the leash in this position, but the pack slipped a bit as Ruby pulled against me. There are also reflective strips along the sides of the pack which is useful in low light.
I could see that Ruby was definitely slower with the pack on. It stopped her going too crazy and running off, and probably gave her more of a workout than when on a normal walk. She found it difficult to judge getting through gaps in fences with the pack on too, and sometimes got stuck. Generally though, she was happy to wear it, and it seemed comfortable and secure. Everyone we met on the trail thought she looked adorable with her mini rucksack on.
All the Ruffwear gear we tried on our trip stood up well, as the materials used are all extremely durable and of a high quality. Check out the website for more canine products from seatbelts to lifejackets.
Flat Out leash: £29.95
Crag collar: £20.95
Quencher bowl: £13.95
Approach pack: £89.95