Jinks as a business idea started last year (2018). Caitlin was simply grumpy with her PhD, and getting nothing back, and Amy as a costume/prop designer (and dog fanatic) saw some gaps in the dog market, for both her skills and for vegan dog businesses. We joked for a while about setting up a shop. We’d not known each other long, we’d both got puppies at the same time who decided for us that we would be friends, so naturally, all we talked about were dog things, and what we wished existed to make dog ownership and training easier. We finally decided on new years eve that we were going to make Jinks a thing!
We spent the next 5 months seriously researching dog behaviour, any legal requirements, and how what we wanted to make could be made best for dogs, and the humans training them! That is, and always will be, our priority. Dogs.
We spent those 5 months seeing what was out there, how far the gaps we saw extended and made way too many spreadsheets on materials we were interested in. Almost every component in our products comes from a different place and we make it a point to buy from the UK/EU where possible.
Our dogs aren’t perfect, but they’re not perfect because they’re animals. Link changed into a different dog when his hormones kicked in, and we’re working through the consequences of that, we’re making progress on his time. A little later, Jasper went from angel dog to feeling defensive on the lead, again when his hormones came on. Our lives kind of revolve around them, and how we can make them happy and comfortable. Every part of everything we make for Jinks has them in mind. Which leads us to this post.
We started with tried and tested standard designs for dog items but made them how we want them, how we feel they are best, and what is actually useful to dogs.
It is hard work to train a dog! Link is a particularly full of energy border collie, he makes you feel like you need eyes in the back of your head sometimes! Jasper is stacked, with a dog heading to the 30kg mark it’s responsible to make sure they are gentle and respectful of their size! We wanted to develop products to help in all aspects of a dog's life, from simple dog walks, play and training sessions, to photo sessions and high-drive agility training, plus everything in between.
Every product started life as an idea in our heads, then a rough drawing, then paper mock ups and canvas prototypes. Some have been developed and released, others left on the cutting room floor, and others still being worked on until we are completely happy. The first few makes of a new products get doled out to our dog loving friends for rigorous testing and we get honest feedback.
We wanted to use Biothane for our leads and collars as there aren’t any local businesses using the material and it is a great vegan alternative to leather, with the added bonuses of being water-proof, stink-proof and comeng in lots of fun colours!
We tried standard designs (that have been around for years in the leather world) for our BioThane collars, but something wasn't right, after testing our first traditional buckle collars, the d-ring just wasn’t holding down the excess length adequately, so we added in a strap keeper. We also felt that the holes in the Biothane collars needed finishing. Rather than leaving the internal webbing exposed to get wet and fray, we added eyelets! They help prevent the holes in the biothane stretching with wear and add a professional, sleek finish.
Having tested both the fixed length, quick release collar and the traditional buckle collar, we decided to merge the two together (we’ve since realised they exist over the pond - but we hadn’t seen them in the UK). We love the design, the adjustability of the traditional buckle plus the easy on-off of the quick release buckle! After sending our collars out into the world, and some fab customer feedback, we are still pushing ourselves for new ideas and have now released long lines with grab handles (that we’ve not seen before), our acetal buckle sports collar (we’ve not seen on BioThane items) and our greyhound collar is coming soon. We decided early on to charge the same for Silver, Gold, Rose gold or Black coloured hardware, and only charge the extra money it costs us for Neochrome hardware. We don’t want to ‘mark up’ products this way, we believe our things.
The snuffle box idea came early on as Link got easily spooked by the shadows in the barn at agility training. Caitlin put a snuffle mat in a box for easy transportation and it also helped block Link’s eye line. The snuffle bag idea came quickly after seeing how well the box helped to settle Link. Now every dog at our agility class has their own snuffle bag! Keeping calm around distractions, and being well adjusted dogs is our priority. As our favorite, local, R+ trainer says ‘if it feels like you’re rewarding for doing nothing, then you’re doing it right!’.
Paracord items came next, and we’ve made several styles of items, however we thought they weren’t different enough to what is already on the market, and some items needed some further development. If it’s not right, we take a step back and work to make it so. We are now almost ready to release our simple leads with gorgeous paracord and more complicated, but useful knots at the handle to ensure safety as well as style!
We’ve been through several designs and 4 different prototypes and still haven't launched our treat bags, after our friend Rachel introduced us to the trainers pouch - we couldn’t do better than that, yet, so it’s not right for our website yet! (visit www.unlockyourdog.com to get your hands on one from the lovely Rachel!)