Interview with: Susan Strible
Photos courtesy of: Ruffwear
Outdoor enthusiasts don’t always have a safe way to include their pets in the action. Susan Strible, marketing director for the dog-gear company Ruffwear, explains how the organization is changing the face of human-canine adventures.
What is the origin story of Ruffwear?
Our founder, Patrick Kruse, loved exploring the outdoors from childhood onward, and he always searched for a way to include his dogs. While mountain biking in California’s Los Padres National Forest, Patrick watched his friend struggle to give her dog a drink using a plastic bag. Inspiration and need converged, and days later he created a prototype collapsible bowl. This was the beginning of a new endeavor that is now Ruffwear.
What did the pet-product landscape look like when Ruffwear was founded?
Ruffwear put outdoor dog gear on the map as an entirely new product category. Prior to this, there wasn’t a company catering to active pet owners and their companions. Patrick decided to bring fifteen Ruffwear bowls to the 1994 Outdoor Retailer Show. The bowls were popular with many people, including an L.L.Bean buyer, who ordered 8,000 of them.
Who is the typical Ruffwear customer?
The typical Ruffwear customer is anyone who loves to get outside and explore with their dog. But one group that we are particularly passionate about supporting is working dogs. Working dogs and their human partners have been a part of our heart and soul since we launched our first product. From mountain snowstorms to urban disaster zones, working dogs and handlers have put our gear through rigorous testing in every type of environment. Customers have provided invaluable feedback on fit, durability, and performance, and these partnerships and learning experiences have helped shape our journey.
What factors do you consider when creating a new product?
We believe that our products should perform—and that performance should be measured by the ability to enhance people’s outdoor adventures with their dogs. These guiding principles, along with a desire to push the boundaries and explore, are what drive us to create the best dog gear possible. We design from a dog’s perspective, which is why we spend countless hours testing products before they go to market.
How do Ruffwear products allow people and their dogs to explore nature safely?
When it comes to the connections that matter most, Ruffwear goes all out. Every product we make is strong and reliable by design and built to enhance and celebrate the journeys you and your dog take together. Because every dog-human duo is different, we’ve crafted a variety of different products to choose from so you can find one that’s right for your dog.
What are some of your most popular products?
Our most popular and most essential piece of gear is the Front Range Harness. It’s a padded everyday dog harness that is easy to put on and comfortable for dogs to wear, and it has two leash-attachment options: an aluminum V-ring centered on the dog’s back for everyday walks and reinforced front-clip webbing at the dog’s chest to redirect the dog if they pull on their leash. The harness’s ID pocket keeps dog tags quiet and easily accessible, and the reflective trim and light loop for the attached safety light boosts the dog’s visibility in low-light conditions.
One of our most unique products is the Doubleback Harness. It’s a strength-rated belay harness that opens up new areas for dogs to explore with their humans that are difficult to access. It’s strength-rated to 2,000 pounds and is designed to be comfortable while you lift and lower your dog, meaning they can join you on steep climbs. It can even be used for canyoneering and paragliding with your pup.
What is the biggest difference between Ruffwear and other pet-gear brands?
We’re self-funded, manage our business with thoughtfulness and intention, and give ourselves the freedom to pursue purpose rather than profit. We are explorers at heart and eager to innovate and seek continuous movement in everything we do.
The Ruffwear brand seems to embody everything outdoor enthusiasts love. How critical is the customer-canine experience to your mission?
Our mission is to “inspire dog and human connections outdoors.” There are so many customer stories and experiences that make us proud to be Ruffwearians. Every day, we share stories in our Pack Chat about different customers and celebrate everything, from the small moments to the life-changing ones from our customers.
What three words would you use to describe the Ruffwear brand?
Exploration, connection, and inspiration.
For more info, visit ruffwear.com