Safely adventuring with little dogs

Grand Tetons Yellowstone 2017 Pipsqueak and Bosco in their Adventure Harnesses

I finished the test versions of the Adventure Harness just in time for our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Bosco and Pipsqueak got tons of good use out of them! It was easy to wipe off dirt and mud, although they needed a deeper clean when we got back home.

Adventure Harnesses with leash and bag dispenser for Pipsqueak and Bosco

The harness is made from a water-resistant nylon fabric and features a cargo pocket — where we stash extra poop bags for when we accidentally run out of them in the Bag Dispenser — and clear plastic ID pocket in case you get separated from your fur baby. The strap on the back is made from reflective material, and the harness closes with sturdy hook and loop (which is like Velcro® if you’re not familiar with that term).

If your little dog could use a more rugged version of the Comfort Vest Harnessrequest a custom order in my Etsy shop and we’ll get your order in!

Silent ID tag for dogs that startle easily or get their claws caught

A few months after we adopted our Dachshund, Bosco, I noticed he would get his short and squatty front paw caught in his collar. It turns out, one of his toenails was getting stuck in the loop for his ID tag. I couldn’t stand to watch him limp around like that! So I came up with a simple solution: an ID tag that slips onto the collar like a sleeve.

Bosco wearing his new silent snag-free tag
Our dog’s silent dog tag that slips onto his collar prevents his toenails from getting caught in the metal loop on a traditional ID tag

It worked so much better for him and he hasn’t gotten his paw stuck up by his neck again. Plus it’s really cute to easily see his name on his collar.

I’ve made a few for a little Morkie named Maks (who you may have seen in the previous blog post about summer harnesses) in fabrics to coordinate with his handcrafted Oxford Dogma gear:

denim collar with personalized ID tag and green and navy bow tie for Maks
This classic denim collar features contrast stitching, so I continued that look with the slip-on ID tag
Maks bow tie and collar with personalized ID tag
A Ralph Lauren-inspired collar with matching silent ID tag that slips onto the collar like a sleeve

The outside features your dog’s name stitched in nice heavy thread, and the inside is printed with your contact information and optional county ID number. It’s machine washable just like the collar, and it’s best to lay flat to dry.

Each tag is made custom for you based on your collar size, dog’s name, and contact details for $12 each. If you’d like to treat your fur baby to a quiet and comfortable ID tag, simply Request a Custom Order in my Etsy shop with what you’d like made.

A smart and stylish harness for your small dog

A comfy dog is a happy dog

Pipsqueak in her new custom harnesses by Oxford Dogma

For dog moms and dads, the safety and comfort of our little fur kids is super important. Making them happy makes us happy! When I asked a friend what she loves most about her little Alaskan Klee Kai, she said:

“She doesn’t care what we do as long as she’s with us.”

I think that pretty much sums it up! When they’re with us, they’re happy. So I wanted to create a way for them to be with us in a safe, comfortable way.

I designed this back-clip harness for all the dog parents like me who struggled to find a way to hook a leash to their small dog (about 20 pounds or less) that doesn’t hurt, cause discomfort, or slip off.

Little dogs have big needs

When hooking a leash to the collar on a little dog, their necks and windpipes can be damaged. Or they can wiggle out. The harness vest is a healthy and safe alternative to the collar for times when you need to control your dog — such as on a walk. A collar is still useful for attaching ID tags, and expressing your dog’s individual style.

With a loop on the back near the shoulders, a leash clips safely on the little dog’s back, keeping the strain off the neck.

Miska in custom comfort vest harness with leash
Miska the Pomeranian wears her custom comfort vest harness with leash attached at back.

Designing a harness that’s safe and easy

For small dogs, harnesses are great, healthy alternative to hooking a leash to a collar. But people tend to have a love/hate relationship with them. I asked a friend to tell me about her favorite pet products:

“Her harness because it allows me to control her without yanking her neck (even though there are a few things that bug me about it)”

When I asked my community what they wish they could change about their dog’s harness, the same drawbacks came up over and over:

  • Questions about how to put it on or how to use it — “Hard to get on and confusing! I wish they could be put on from the top down, instead of the dog having to step in it.
  • Feels like it’s either crushing them or too loose — “I’m never sure if it fits right. Is it supposed to wrap around their chest? Behind the legs? Below the rib cage? Also, making sure it fits tight enough so they don’t wiggle out, without being constricting or uncomfortable.” + “…it feels like I’m crushing her ribs trying to close the clasp but anything less than that is too big
  • They slip out of it — “Bailey also can slip out of her harness easily, which is scary. If she puts enough force in the right direction or backs up quickly, I’m left with an empty harness in my hands.” + “I really like the harness I use now but occasionally if my Basenji backs up real fast, I am left holding an empty harness and leash.
  • It rubs under the front legs — “I always worry about how badly it rubs against her armpits in the front.

I struggled with all of these things with our dog, too.

prototyping the new dog harness design

After experimenting with some different concepts, I arrived at a vest style harness that’s simple to use:

  • You put it on from the top down, so your dog doesn’t have to step into it
  • Each harness is made especially to your dog’s measurements, and you can also make minor sizing adjustments with velcro straps
  • It wraps snugly but doesn’t constrict or crush — you control how tight it gets
  • The vest shape, with wide velcro straps and long (but not too long) length, means your dog won’t slip out

Is this the right harness for you?

Some harness styles are meant to change a dog’s pulling behavior (these tend to be the designs that pull and rub under the front legs). This particular harness is not a training device for strong pullers. I experimented with a design that had a front loop to help discourage pulling, but it just twisted the harness around too much. I learned that this is why those low-slung harnesses that rub under the front legs are shaped the way they are!

the Comfort Vest Harness doesn't train small dogs to stop pulling on the leash but it holds tight if they do
Bosco, our 16-lb Dachshund, is a strong puller. The harness is secure, but it doesn’t train him to stop his pulling.

In addition, many harnesses are made of rugged nylon webbing, suitable for all-weather wear and outdoorsy dogs that tend to get dirty. The Comfort Vest Harness that I designed is intended more for city dogs, who spend most of their time in parks and on sidewalks. Although it is machine washable for easy care.

Kiara the Pomeranian wearing a Custom Comfort Vest Harness
Kiara the Pomeranian, wearing a Custom Comfort Vest Harness

Made-to-measure

During the process of test-fitting the Comfort Vest Harness to a variety of small dogs, it became clear that the best way to ensure a good if that people and pups are happy with is through custom orders. Each harness is tailored to the measurements, color preferences, and fabric weight needs of the loving pet parent.

Charlie wearing a small harness
Charlie the Chihuahua wears a “fitting harness”, a special version of the harness made from plain fabric specifically for testing fit during the designing phase.

The Comfort Vest Harness will be available soon in my shop. If you’d like to get updates about it, sign up below:

Subscribe for harness updates emailed directly to you

To get emails about the new Comfort Vest Harness, along with more Oxford Dogma news and updates, sign up here.

Your dog’s signature accessory

Does your dog have an accessory that you totally identify with them? For some, it’s a color (like a Yorkie I know who only wears purple) or a pattern (Bosco, my Dachshund, doesn’t look like himself without his navy and white gingham collar).

Bosco wearing a navy blue and white gingham collar
Bosco is a 16-lb Dachshund and he’s wearing a Medium collar

The collar is that signature thing — a part of their identity and look — that they always have on. Which is why collars are so much fun to design and make!

It’s not just a place to clip a leash

For small dogs, I recommend a harness over a collar for hooking your leash, to protect delicate necks. (I’m actually working on a harness design right now — sign up below for updates) But even if you don’t hook a leash to your dog’s collar, it’s still a basic necessity. At the very least it’s a good place to hang an ID tag in case your pup gets lost. But the collar also lives at that intersection of your personal style and the personality of your dog. It reminds me of the way parents express their style with outfits for their little kids: it’s a blend of their own style and what they see in their child.

My quest for special and personal

When we first adopted our dog, Pipsqueak, she came with a paper collar.

Pipsqueak on the day I adopted her from HALO animal shelter

I showed up at the shelter without any sort of collar, leash…anything — a totally unprepared new dog mom! The next day, we bought a standard nylon webbing collar, just to feel the need. It was so dull and impersonal. Plus, even though it fit her properly, it was too narrow for my taste. It had one of those side-release plastic buckles that always made me nervous to use — it was so easy to pinch her fur or skin in it.

A chance to express your style

After I created Oxford Dogma, I had many dog parents ask if I make collars. I never wanted to make them just to make them. I wanted to find a way to put my own spin on them. And so I designed a collar that I was excited about and I just love how it looks on dogs!

Pipsqueak in her new black and white gingham collar-2
It’s hard to believe this is the same little girl I adopted two years ago! Her new handcrafted collar is so much nicer than the original nylon webbing one we bought — and the paper one from the shelter ;) Pipsqueak is a 10-lb Chihuahua/Jack Russell/Mini Poodle mix and she’s wearing a size Small collar

I use familiar materials like cotton and silk + classic colors like navy blue, camel, red, pink, yellow + timeless patterns like plaid, gingham, stripes, and corduroy. It’s just so cute to see pups in these sophisticated and refined styles — the juxtaposition is a delight.

The materials are upcycled from garments that I hand-select. I get especially excited when I find something from Ralph Lauren, Brooks Brothers, or other iconic preppy designers. Using these materials feels good because the final products are more unique than if I sourced my materials from the same place as other makers, and I also like reducing the resource impact on the plant. Re-using over buying new is my preference.

I designed them so they’re wide enough in proportion to the dog for a nice, strong band of color and pattern around their neck. They’re strong and sturdy, getting thicker as the size goes up for larger dogs. But they’re soft and flexible, to be comfortable to wear and touch.

Originally there were three sizes (small, medium, and large) but recently I added an extra small size for the littlest dogs.

gingham and plaid collection-9
This stack of collars shows how the four sizes (XS through L) compare to each other

One of my favorite elements of this preppy-looking collar is the metal buckle. I don’t have to apologize to my dog for accidentally pinching her in a plastic buckle anymore! ( I still find myself apologizing to Bosco almost daily when my feet bump into him under the table during dinner. But that’s another story…)

And while I love a refined and classy look, I also love things that are easy to take care of. So I made sure this collar stands up to being washed in the machine. If it gets a little grungy, just pop it in the washing machine, on a gentler cycle. Bosco tends to get a little messier than his sister, so I hit his with a stain remover (Zout is my absolute favorite) before washing and it comes out all clean and bright. I do recommend laying flat to dry instead of putting it in the dryer — that helps make it last longer so you are able to use it for a good long time.

We’re entering the time for holiday portraits! Have you considered getting your dog a new signature accessory for your family photo?

Choosing the right collar for your dog

You may be wondering how to choose the right size collar to order for your fur baby. Here are some tips to help you measure:

  • If you have a printer, you can use my collar sizing tool (just make sure it’s printing at actual size, and not shrinking or enlarging)
  • If you don’t have a printer, you can use something long and flexible, like a strip of paper or a shoelace, to wrap around your dog’s neck. Note where the end meets, and lay it flat on a ruler for length.
  • Or if you don’t have a ruler, measure the strip against something standard like a regular business card (which is 3 ½ x 2), or a sheet of 8 ½ x 11 paper.

Once you have their neck circumference, you’ll know which size collar to zero in on:

  • for neck measurement of about 6 to 8 inches, choose an Extra Small collar
  • for 8 to 10 inches, choose Small
  • for 10 to 13 inches, choose Medium
  • and for 14-17 inches, go with Large

To pick out a new collar for your dog, visit my shop. You can view by size, or browse the entire collection. If you see something you like but it’s not available in the right size, just contact me about a custom order.

Custom portraits capture the unique personality of your pet

custom pet portrait available this month at oxforddogma.com

Earlier this year I made a few pet portraits as a way to thank some of my biggest Oxford Dogma supporters (and loving pet parents). I’ve always loved to draw, and of course I love pets, so it was a great opportunity to combine the two.

custom-pet-portrait-of-Fiona-by-oxforddogma.com

Of course I had to draw my little buddies, too:

custom pet illustrations of Pipsqueak and Bosco by Oxford Dogma

Well, the response was so great — a former client even emailed me to see if I’d make portraits of her two dogs for her husband’s birthday gift — that I decided that I wanted to offer the custom portraits in my shop. And this month it’s happening!

Starting August 26, you’ll be able to order your own pet portrait.

Charming custom portraits created with flexibility in mind

Every fur kid has their own unique personality, and a portrait that captures that personality can be used in all kinds of ways:

  • Make a framed art print to decorate your walls or desk, that makes you smile every time you glance at it (this would be great as a part of a gallery wall)
  • Order custom greeting cards to share your special boy or girl with friends and family (who wouldn’t love getting one of these in the mail?!)
  • Bring your pet with you even when you can’t actually bring them with by featuring your pet on a t-shirt or tote bag (I got a t-shirt printed of my Pipsqueak portrait, and it’s so fun to wear)
  • Enjoy your morning coffee in a personalized mug with your pet’s cute and charming portrait printed on it (“World’s Best Boss” indeed)

And since the artwork is created as a scalable vector digital file, it can be used in many, many more ways.

“That’s such a Pipsqueak look”

You know how your dog has this look or pose that just cracks you up? We can capture that in the portrait! Our dog, Pipsqueak, has this intense stare, where it looks like she’s reading your thoughts (or bending your mind).

Is there a trademark accessory that your fur baby always has on? We can put it in the portrait. When we adopted our Dachshund, Bosco, I made him a blue and white gingham collar and without it, he’s just not Bosco.

The fun part is that people who know your pet will see the portrait and instantly get who it is.

Custom portrait illustration of Angie the Corgi making her infamous eye roll

Stay up-to-date

I’ll be sharing more details between now and August 26 on Instagram and Facebook if you’d like to follow along. Or you can subscribe to my emails below. And as always, I donate 5% of each sale to a local animal shelter to help pets in need.

Update: Pet Portraits are now available! To get a custom portrait of your dog, fill out this form and I’ll follow up with next steps:

Gingham + Plaid: polished yet casual

gingham and plaid blog preview

A collection of cute accessories that give your dog a casual yet polished look

As the weather has started to warm up, I’ve become fixated on creating some new items focused around gingham and plaid. Especially in colors that are fun for summertime.

Gingham and plaid handmade dog accessories roundup

Pink and white gingham dog collar / Pink and white gingham poo bag dispenser / Madras plaid and salmon pink poo bag dispenser / Madras plaid and salmon pink dog collar / Red, white, and blue plaid dog collar / Navy blue and white gingham poo bag dispenser / 6-ft navy blue and white gingham cotton leash for small dogs

Why gingham and plaid?

My affinity toward these classic fabrics is rooted in my love of order, systems, and patterns. But they also bring to mind summer picnics and easy, breezy days by the sea. They’re timeless and classic without being dull. They’re polished, yet casual.

Or perhaps childhood memories of watching Gilligan’s Island reruns after school bubbled up in my unconscious: Mary Ann often wore a red gingham dress. And of all the characters on that show, I’m a Mary Ann (trust me, I took the quiz).

A special summertime version of plaid is Madras style plaid. It’s often found in bright, vibrant colors that come together with a fun energy. Who wouldn’t love a beachy vacation stroll in Madras plaid shorts? Apparently it’s been an American staple for quite some time:

“Cotton plaid madras reached American soil first in 1718 as a donation to the Collegiate School of Connecticut (otherwise known as Yale)”
– Checkered Past: A Brief History of the Madras Plaid Shirt

A few people have told me that putting a gingham or plaid collar on a dog transforms them. It gives them a really sharp and confident look — like you didn’t know what they were missing until they were sporting the dapper accessory.

Bosco wearing a navy blue and white gingham collar

Dobbie wearing a plaid collar in red white and blue plaid

gingham and plaid collection-9

I’m particularly excited about expanding my bag dispenser design to include some of these fabrics as accents on the outside. My inspiration board has many preppy summer outfits (pink, navy, and tan was one of my favorites!) that combine a few different colors and patterns, and I wanted to coordinate three different fabrics for the bag dispensers. It provides more of an opportunity to play patterns, colors, and textures off of each other.

gingham and plaid collection-28

The collection

To outfit your dog with these cute and preppy accessories, visit the my Etsy shop.

The one-of-a-kind Mutt Love Dog Leash

Mutt Love Dog Leash from Oxford Dogma

Celebrate what makes mutts special and unique

Do you wear your mutt-owner status with pride? The Mutt Love Dog Leash was inspired by the lovable mutts of the world, with their mix of mysterious bits that makes them special and one of a kind.

I’m always looking for ways to design and create my products conscientiously, keeping the resource impact on the planet in mind and making as little waste as possible. One of the reasons I like to use reclaimed materials is to keep stuff out of the landfills. Wastefulness really bugs me! Finding new uses for things that are typically discarded is a mission and challenge I find really rewarding — the same approach applies in my kitchen, too. It wasn’t always that way though.

Before I started making more things from scratch, whether it’s a loaf of bread, a cake, or a dog leash, I wasn’t very aware of how wasteful I could be. But the process of making things with my own two hands instead of buying them from the store has given me a much bigger appreciation of the work that goes into the making. I save leftovers, I save jars, and I save fabric scraps.

So as I’ve created new handcrafted items in my workshop from reclaimed materials, like the Bag Dispenser and Tailored Dog Jacket, it leaves behind various bits and scraps that are too small, or the wrong shape, for many things. But they’re perfect joined together into something new and meaningful.

The design and materials of this dog leash are inspired by shelter pets of mysterious backgrounds. It’s the mix of mysterious bits makes them special and one of a kind — both the leashes and our furry family members!

Mutt Love Leash in reclaimed black white grey LSH113

Mutt Love Leash in reclaimed black white grey LSH113 with bag dispenser

The leash is 6 feet long, with a soft yet sturdy feel in your hands. It’s 5/8 inch wide, making it a good size for a small to medium dog, with a ring for attaching an accessory (a Bag Dispenser is perfect here). The materials are a mix of twill, corduroy, and wool, all reclaimed from cotton trousers and wool sport jackets in classic colors for timeless style. It’s made in small batches, and no two are the same.

With the special Mutt Love edition products, my mission is to highlight all that we love about mutts. These are often the animals found in shelters, in need of their forever home — the underdogs. All pets deserve love, but there’s a special place in my heart for those that wound up without families or homes and just need adopting. It’s why I choose to donate a portion of every sale to shelters. If you’ve adopted a mutt, you know how good it feels to invite one into your life. It brings joy and it brings challenges, but it completes you in a way that few things do. In fact, it’s hard to stop at one!

Each Mutt Love item is one-of-a-kind, just like your fur baby. To find the handcrafted Mutt Love Dog Leash that’s a fit for your family, visit my shop >

Mutt Love Dog Leash from Oxford Dogma