January 28, 2022
By: Peter Gregory
Got a sewing machine and lots of imagination? Think puppies look cute in coats? Then a dog accessories business could be perfect for you!
The UK’s pet accessories market is going from strength to strength (source: BBC News), but it’s not an easy market to break into. Animal lovers can be tough to please, and you have to produce high quality work that looks great and stands up to wear and tear.
Before you start your canine accessories business, let’s look at some of the potential product lines in this exciting niche!
If you have a good understanding of fabrics and a little upholstery experience, then dog beds can be a really good product to start a business with. You might have to comply with UK furniture labelling law, and attach the relevant fire safety labels (see our guide here). You also need to pick a good foam or filling that is both odourless and toxin-free (OEKO-TEX Standard 100 is a good label to look for).
Dog beds tend to come in three main styles: mattress-style, walled and ‘cave’ style beds (these have an awning that your dog can hide under). There are good reasons for each style of bed — it all depends on the age, temper, size and sleeping patterns of the dog (source: RSPCA).
Dogs just love to chew on rope toys and plushes! Dog toy products are great if you want a high-volume business with lots of returning custom. If a dog really loves the toy you make, they will wear it out very quickly, and the owner will want to buy another one from you!
Dog toys should always be made from non-toxic, colour-fast materials. Ideally, the toy should stay in one piece, even after it has been chewed beyond recognition. It should be very difficult for any parts to become detached from the toy. The last thing you want is a dog to swallow a stray button or stud.
Fold-out car seat carpets are great for large and hairy dogs! Car seat carpets are vast pieces of material that a dog owner can fold out to cover the back seats and footwell of their car. Just like a standard car mat, a dog car seat carpet stops the car’s upholstery from getting dirty and worn down.
A car seat carpet should fit the full width of a back seat. It needs to be made from non-slip material (so that the dog can’t injure themselves when the car is moving), and it’s helpful if the mat has holes and hooks to accommodate headrests and seat belts. At the very least, the car seat carpet should allow pet owners to secure their dogs with a seat belt harness (this is a legal requirement – see rule 57 of the Highway Code).
You might also want to set rigid panels into the carpet, or add some foam padding to make things extra-comfortable. Just remember that this product will get very dirty. It needs to be easy to wash and dry. If you end up making a bulky product that won’t fit in a washing machine, then consider using a wipe-clean fabric to make life easier for your customers.
We might not like talking about it, but every dog does it! Every dog walker in the UK carries a roll of dog poo bags with them (…and if they don’t, they should!). The design challenge with a poop bag holder is to give the dog owner something light, functional, clean and stylish, all at the same time.
Generally speaking, poop bag holders have a few common features. They have a clip at one end so that they can be attached to a lead or belt loop. You’ll also need an opening in the middle (rubber eyelets are best) so that you can pull a single bag out at a time. Beyond that, the world is your oyster! Some holders have built-in torches and velcro straps, and some even have hooks where you can hang full bags.
Dog jackets aren’t just for show! If it’s freezing outside and you’re walking a short-haired dog, you need a jacket that will keep the dog comfortable and safe.
If you want to make and sell dog jackets, you need to produce every design in multiple sizes from day one. Just looking at the UK’s top 5 dog breeds alone, sizes range from Labrador Retriever to Miniature Dachshund (source: statistica). Consider using reflective hems and patches so that dogs can be easily seen by cars and cyclists in those dark cold mornings and evenings.
Dog booties might sound absurd, but there’s a growing number of pet owners investing in these products! If a dog is walking on a recently-salted pavement, the hard grit can irritate the pads on their paws. Ice can form in between their toes in really cold weather, too (source: Blue Cross).
Snuffle mats are a great way to get dogs to use their noses and slow down their eating. They’re easy to make, too! Snuffle mats are covered in long, thick strands of felt that naturally flop and tangle. Dog owners can hide dog treats in the snuffle mat and their dog has to work hard with their nose to sniff out the food.
If you want to make snuffle mats commercially, you need to make sure that what you’re doing is better than anything someone can make themselves at home. Watch out for the weight of your snuffle mat, too. A good snuffle mat should be difficult for a dog to pick up and shake, but if it’s too heavy, then your postage costs will be extortionate (see our advice on keeping postage costs low)!
Treat bags give you lots of room to get creative! You can create a dog bag in almost any shape or size, from just about any material you can think of. Treat bags tend to come in two types: ‘open topped’ bags make it easy for the owner (and the dog) to dip in and grab a treat, whereas the zipped versions are better for long-term treat storage.
You can combine treat bags with other functions (poop bag dispensers, pouches for jackets and leads and so on), and you can add straps and belts, depending on how you see the product being used. Consider stitching a wipe-clean lining to the inside of the treat bag, so that it’s easy to clean out crumbs and keep the bag hygienic.
After the dog’s bed, nothing is more important to their comfort and wellbeing than their blanket!
The best dog blankets are made from heavy, fluffy fabrics that a dog can snuggle into. Nowadays, most dog blankets are made from polyester fleece, but the choice of material is up to you. Just stick to machine-washable, tight-knit fabrics. You don’t want a blanket that catches on paws and you definitely don’t want a blanket that needs to be taken to the dry cleaners if a pet has an accident.
A collar and lead is the first thing that any new dog owner buys, so you might think that it’s a great product to start out with. Just remember that dog owners don’t tend to buy more than one or two collars for their pet. Your collar design needs to be outstanding if you want to win sales in this highly competitive product line.
Classic leather and tweed options never go out of fashion, and nylon is a great choice for the more advanced harnesses. Whatever you do, leave room for a name tag and make sure that every collar you produce comes in lots of different sizes. Collars should get longer and wider as dogs get larger. This isn’t just an aesthetic thing — a thicker collar will feel comfortable on a larger dog when their owner is pulling them back on their daily walk.
Dog handbags aren’t just for fashionistas and supermodels! Most people with a toy dog breed want a carrier.
Dog carriers make it easier to get short-legged dogs home after a long walk, and they’re essential for vet trips. Dog carriers need to have a firm base so that the dog can sit or stand comfortably in the bag. They also need some sort of full or partial zip at the top so that dogs can’t jump out or escape in transit.
That’s it! We hope this list gets the creative juices flowing and gives you a steer on some of the challenges involved in making each pet product. Designing for pets can be a huge amount of fun. Just make sure that what you do is safe, durable and comfortable for dogs of all sizes and you’ll be on your way to a great business!
Thanks for reading!