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Pet Containment Products: They've Come A Long Way, Baby

Updated on September 3, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

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The industry term is pet containment products, but we know them as: collars, leashes, harnesses, tie-outs & trolleys, carriers, crates, gates, barriers, and kennels.

They’re the pet supplies that keep our pets confined, contained or isolated…and safe.

It wasn’t too awfully long ago that pet containment products were strictly utilitarian; they did the job you expected of them. Period.

Our expectations of them were pretty low because they were a tool, and tools aren’t supposed to be things of beauty or works of art. Then, apparently, someone said, “Why not?”

I think it started with collars and leashes. They used to be black, brown or oxblood leather.

Some leashes were made of steel chain of varying strengths. Then the benefits of nylon were discovered and our dogs and cats wore black nylon collars and were walked at the end of black nylon leashes.


Then someone took a gamble that we wouldn’t consider our dogs sissified by wearing colored collars, and we started seeing blue, green and red collars and leashes.

As those became universally accepted, they started getting brash and bold by introducing such exotic colors as teal, berry, wine and hot pink.

The next logical step was patterns and designs, which we saw emerge; and then came the collars studded with bling.

Now we have collars and leashes of every imaginable color or style, and even those that glow in the dark. When you're driving at night, you'll notice that some have little blinking lights on them.

Those glow-in-the-dark orange collars are very popular with runners who bring their dogs with them on a run, and hunters, who are thinking safety. Many runners are on the roads at dawn and dusk, when the air and pavement are cooler. The cooler pavement favors the dogs' pads, the cooler air favors both.

The orange collar on a dog in the woods hunting with its owner could very well be the distinguishing factor in the dog not being mistaken by other hunters for a game animal. It also makes it somewhat easier for the hunter to keep track of his dog while amidst brush and forest debris.

Those collars are also useful to folks who hike with their dogs, as a means to keep track of the dog's whereabouts should the animal wander off trail.

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The fact that pet owners would shell out pretty good money for pretty tools wasn’t lost on the guys who make carriers, crates and kennels, either. But, a collar for under ten bucks was one thing. Would people pay more for already fairly expensive tools, just to have them be prettier? The answer was yes.

Pretty carriers came first, in the way of the soft sided designs. These were basically fabric bags with a shoulder strap in which people carried their little yippy dogs. An instant hit in the big cities, it took a little longer for them to gain acceptance in suburbia.

And they were pricey! As I remember, they were 20 to 30 bucks when they first came out in the 90’s. And if you thought that was a lot, you could buy one on Newbury Street in Boston for $375.00. Of course, that fabric bag had a designer name on it!

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The folks who made hardware to contain our pets decided that those implements could use some updating as well.

So they stepped up to the plate and created pieces that were more furniture than pet containment products.

The early crates weren’t made to be taken apart and reassembled frequently. They had long pins at each corner that had to be removed in order to disassemble them.

Of course, after doing that a few times, the pins often got a little bent, which made it difficult to thread them through the 3 or 4 loops they had to go through.

It was so inconvenient that folks just left them up. When the dog wasn’t in his crate, it was just an ugly cage spoiling the ambiance of a room. But we didn't mind. That was state of the art, so we didn't know they were a pain in the neck.

Until the containment gods came up with one-piece collapsible crates that folded in on themselves, creating a neat little package.

They still didn’t do much for the household ambiance, but at least we could fold them up and stick them under the couch.

Of course, even that became an inconvenience to a population that increasingly demanded convenience. What’s was the alternative? How about a crate that looks like an end table.

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For decades we kept our dogs confined to a room by using those accordion style gates, or other gates that folks used to keep children from tumbling down the stairs. Nowadays, you can get gates that are not only effective, but they’re pretty handsome, too.

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The standard for outdoor pet containment has been the chain link kennel, basically a chain link box for which you can purchase an optional sun screen to go over the top. But even those have evolved to become eye candy for your outdoor décor.

These new style kennels are great for folks who have a beautifully landscaped yard, or a delightful patio or deck for entertaining. Or, for folks who just don’t like the looks of a chain link box.

Keeping our pets contained, confined and safe is no longer simply a matter of utility. Now it can also be a matter of fashion.

It Would Be Interesting to Know Your Opinion

Do You Approve of Pinch Collars?

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Do You Approve of Using Carriers For Purposes Other Than Travel?

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Do You Approve of Using Crates To Confine Dogs?

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Do You Approve of Trolleys and Tie-Outs?

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Do You Approve of Stationary (stake-in-ground) Tie-outs?

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Do You Approve of Kennel Type Cages?

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 4 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Yeah, a little different pet culture at these coordinates. Not everyone has fenced in yards (zoning ordinances, you know) nor does everyone allow the dog to have free roam of the house. Some containment devices are frowned upon in certain circles, but are generally accepted otherwise.

      I'd probably find a different set of values if I journeyed 100 miles in any direction. Especially if I journeyed East...I'd be somewhere on Georges Bank walking my lobster.

      I think I'll go back into edit mode and add a poll question about containment devices.

      I think you're right about Henry Ford except that the quote has been modified in the retelling over the years. Originally, I think he said "You can get a dog leash in any color...." I think he predated nylon.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you an yours have a very Merry Christmas...and that Santa brings enough raw chicken feet for everyone. Merry Christmas, Doc. Regards, Bob

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Interesting article. I certainly understand others wanting to lock their dogs away from their lives, but I personally do not see banishment and cages as an acceptable alternative.

      By the way, wasnt it Henry Ford who said "You can get a nylon dog leash in any color you want, as long as it is black." Maybe he was talking about something else...cant remember.