Developing Raised Dog Beds

Our plastic formers, who make our Chew-proof dog beds are very good and knowledgeable. Nichola, the boss, took my foam model back to their factory to have a think about how to   develop the tool. The first thing that happens is that they get a tool maker to make a wooden tool, which can be used to form a small number of dog beds before the heat and strain is too much and the wood starts to break up. This is very important because if there are any changes to be done, it is cheaper to change the wooden tool than to change a metal tool once it’s made.

The wooden tool for the first plastic bed in the machine.

The wooden tool for the first plastic bed in the machine.

I went to the factory when the wooden tool was ready to witness the first Raised Dog beds being made. It is an impressive process as the plastic is gently melted just enough to get soft and “formable”, but not so it breaks. There is air blown in under the sheet so that it forms a humongous bubble suspended in the air only fastened on the edges. The operator presses a pedal and the tool is shut upwards at the same time as the machine shifts from blowing a bubble to forming a vacuum and the plastic sheet suddenly looks like a Raised Dog Bed. It’s like magic and a bit frightening as it suddenly jumps out of the plain sheet.

Brand new raised bed just off the forming machine.

Brand new raised bed just off the forming machine.

We were all very excited and I immediately stood in it to test that all was well. The staff at the plastic formers did give out a gasp, which was slightly surprising, and they seemed very relieved that I didn’t break it by standing in it. I should maybe have known that there was not quite the confidence in the product as I would like. However, it took my weight, and I was happy. As I got out in the car park I met a family with a Labrador, who willingly let me put their dog into the bed and it fitted perfectly.

The real production could start once the metal tool had been formed, which takes a few weeks. So eventually we could see the end of the tunnel and expect our Raised Dog Beds to arrive very soon, which made me stick my neck out and launch them on line. Orders were coming in and we had a looong list when we finally took delivery of the beds. This was going to be another fine string in our bow of top quality dog beds, which we are renowned for. We took the first ones off the pallets and our hearts sank!!  They had weak areas and were clearly not strong. They were all sent back and a new, improved batch came a few weeks later. They were ok, but we were not overly happy. Reluctantly we sent them out and to our utter heart ache, some broke in transit.

 Some were strong enough and customers were happy as the concept is spot on and very popular, but of course we can’t have the inconsistency in quality. Basically we had to start again. We have now changed the type of plastic used to a fantastically strong mixture of plastics and we are awaiting the latest batch in the next few days.

Gollum sleeping in the Medium size, far too small.

Gollum sleeping in the Medium size, far too small.

I have to say that the ones we kept here for doggy testing have been fantastic. They are everything you need to ask for in perfect dog beds. They are high off the ground, they are stylish, they have sides for draught exclusion and for the dog to rest his head on, they are fabulously simple to dismantle for washing, so they are hygienic. Our dogs go straight for them out of choice. I can’t wait to have them back in our repertoire of top quality dog beds.

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Modern Dog Beds

There are usually two things that come in to mind when you hear the word “modern”. One is “fashionable” or “in” and the other is “contemporary” or “technically advanced”. One of our latest developments in dog beds is the Raised Tuffies dog bed. This was an idea that came on the scene a few years ago, but it was pickled in our pursuit of other things and because I couldn’t really see how it was going to be implemented. Only about 10 months ago did I come across a page on the internet, which showed garden furniture.  I was merely looking for web site design inspiration when I saw what gave me the light-bulb moment to pursue the next generation of dog beds for us. It was a plastic garden chair formed in one piece giving it a double wall. With my limited knowledge of plastic forming, I thought this, sensibly priced, chair would have been a simple vacuum formed product. I called upon our fantastic vacuum formers who produce our Chewproof dog beds, the Really Tough Tuffie. They are very keen and very keen on dogs, which turns out to be incredibly important during the process of developing the product. The main lady came to see the chair and the verdict was straight away that this one was an injection moulded item, which is out of our bounds as the TOOL itself would be in the region of quarter a million Pound Sterling……!!  So could it be vacuum formed? Yes, we could have a go. Anything can be done for money of course, but not everything can be sold if it costs too much, so out of the various plastic options I went for one particular type, which was the cheapest and the plastic formers were confident that it would form well and be strong. The tool was developed, which is in itself a lengthy process starting off with me using every saw, knife and cutter to hand carving out my dream bed in several layers of building foam that I had glued together. Making foam models like this is almost only possible in the summer where you can be outside because all the tiny bits go everywhere and they are slightly static so they cling to your hands, your arms, your clothes and even your hair. Finally, in-between running the business of making our top quality dog beds, I finished the foam model. Here it is and you have to use your imagination to understand that it is of course hollow.

Foam versionThe next part of the development takes loads of time and I will try and illustrate this in next week’s article.

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Hypoallergenic dog beds

Without aiming at making hypoallergenic dog beds, we have done it by default. 15 years ago we set out to make super easy-to-clean dog beds and researched the world trying to find the exact right fabric for this purpose. We have always supplied two types of hygienic and washable dog beds so that everyone has a choice. There is the more textile-like Durasoft waterproof dog beds, which feel more like an upholstery fabric, yet still waterproof and then there is our Wipe Clean dog beds. The latter is super hypoallergenic. The most common allergy in dogs according to what we hear from our customers, is the house dust mite allergy. It is a big problem where you have fabric and stuffing, in which the mites can live and breed. That will always be the case when you have a permeable fabric, which will allow the mites to crawl through and furthermore allow moisture to penetrate as all insects and their maggots need some degree of moisture. With our Wipe Clean fabric there is no penetration possible at all and any dirt or dust gathering on the surface is easily wiped off preventing insect eggs to hatch.

 We find that customers are calling us to ask for Wipe Clean dog beds for their dog because their vet has suggested it. This is an accolade for our products and we are very proud to be on the vets’ radar.

 We make two kinds of dog beds and if your dog is severely allergic to house dust mites, the mattress bed has to be the most recommended bed as opposed to the nest type bed. This is because the nest does have a lot of fabric and stitching in the base, which are difficult to clean completely and can therefore be a breeding place for the odd mite. The wipe clean nest is wonderful in the ease by which it is cleaned and you will never see hairs stuck to the sides, but it has its limits in terms of house dust mites.

Rotweiler in an XL Wipe Clean nest

Rotweiler in an XL Wipe Clean nest

Jane Pritchard's three pugs in an XL Wipe Clean nest.

Jane Pritchard’s three pugs in an XL Wipe Clean nest.

The ultimate in hypoallergenic dog beds are the Wipe Clean mattress dog beds. Your dog is comfortably supported and happy while no house dust mites get a look in. Even if you put a Luxury Fleece on it, it can be washed very easily and kill all unwanted guests.

Diana Angus's happy dog upside down on a Wipe Clean mattress

Diana Angus’s happy dog upside down on a Wipe Clean mattress

Here is a customer’s picture of a bespoke size Wipe Clean Tuffie dog bed.

Poppy on her custom sized canal boat Tuffie

Poppy on her custom sized canal boat Tuffie

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Dogs in your bed, not on the dog beds

My qualified guess is that a lot of us do this. Here at Tuffies we speak to dog owners all day and it does slip out every now and then, that the dogs often sleep on or in the owners’ beds, which sometimes can become annoying and they are now looking for good dog beds that will compete with the soft, white linen. It is a tough competition because dogs are not only sleeping in the humans’ beds because they are somehow nicer than the dog beds, but because domestic dogs are so attached to their owners that they will do anything to be near them at all times. Many dogs, of course, have never been allowed as much as a look into the bedroom and would not know what they are missing, but the ones that have tried sleeping on the duvet next to their master will always prefer this. Obviously with the right training the dog should be able to understand a friendly command: “Go on your bed” and the dog should just stay there all night if it is in your bed room.

However, there are many people who are happy to have their dogs in the bed permanently. You’d better be a bit nifty with the vacuum cleaner if you do this every night. From time to time, if I am on my own for a night I pick a dog to sleep on my bed. Just one night and everything is full of grit and hairs. I leave the other two dogs on their dog beds in the sitting room because it would be impossible to get any room in my bed with three big pointers there.

I have never had a flee on my dog, so I don’t worry about itchy results of this, I just think it’s jolly nice to hear the deep snoring of the dog beside me. Waking up in the morning you just have to reach an arm out to clap a hairy face, which results in a wagging tail at the other end. All my dogs are well behaved and stay put till it is getting up time. I then get myself in the office where there are plenty of dog beds and my companion happily settles down on one of those simply because they are now near their master.

I remember once, it must have been about 14 years ago when Alice, my Hungarian Vizsla was a pup/young dog and we went camping. It was freezing cold and I had only brought one of the little travel dog beds, which, for a wee Vizsla, was not warm enough. She had the sense to see that my sleeping bag would be nice and warm, so she stuck her head in to it and carried on till she had her nose by my feet and her whole body completely wedged inside the sleeping bag. There she stayed all night. Not that comfortable for me, but she was happy and we kept each other warm. Who could resist this with a young dog?

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Raised Dog Beds in the Garden

Now that we are so close to launching our Raised Dog Beds (we can almost touch them), it is nice to look at how the ”indigenous” Tuffie dogs use and enjoy the prototypes. The prototypes are the Raised Dog Beds that we have learned from and they are not good enough to be sold as Tuffies standard, but we can still observe how much they are used, how and by whom.

Tippex the GWP in a Raised bed prototype

Tippex the GWP in a Raised bed prototype

 

Gollum, GWP, also using a medium Raised bed

Gollum, GWP, also using a medium Raised bed

The Raised Tuffie Bed should really be used with a Raised Tuffie Bed Liner specially made for the beds as this gives the dogs the best warmth and comfort.

Raised Tuffie with a fitted liner

Raised Tuffie with a fitted liner

  

In the office, where some of the prototypes are sitting, there is just a blanket thrown into one of them and ONE dog, Tippex, is addicted to it. We have a lovely nest with a nest cover and we have a big Sink-in Tuffie sitting here, but she always heads straight for the Raised Tuffie. The other two dogs, Gollum and Gaia always go in the nest and share a large. They fill it right up and sleep more or less embraced, but that’s where they want to be. Gollum, granted, is too big for the Medium Raised Dog Bed, so he has a reason for not going in to it, but Gaia can just fit in and she does go there from time to time. It is not too easy with just a blanket because it slips round a little bit while the dog gets in, which clearly is a bit unsettling to them, but once they are in, they are happy with the messy fit. The good thing is that I never find the blankets fall out of the Raised Dog Beds from us because the sides are quite high.

Gaia happy in a Raised dog bed prototype

Gaia happy in a Raised dog bed prototype

 

I have also put some of these beds out in the garden. Although the dogs have their own patio, where they can enjoy the sunshine in the summer, the sun can’t quite reach it in the winter as it is at the north side of the house. While they love lying out on their dog beds in the sun, they now prefer to lounge on their Raised Dog Beds under the apple tree where the sun can reach them and where they can watch the world. They can also keep a perfect eye on what it going on down the road. I see them watch and when that cyclist from the neighbouring farm comes past the FLY out of their dog beds in order to do their scary job. The beauty is that they succeed every time: they bark and the cyclist is “scared away”. Result.

 After that, they mooch back to their sleeping place and enjoy a little more sleep in the sun. It is always musical doggy arm chairs as they all swap round where they slept before. It also becomes a bit of a race who can reach the favourite lining or cushion first.

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What Should a Dog Wear?

Miniature Schnauzer on a Sink in Tuffie

Miniature Schnauzer on a Sink in Tuffie

Good question. I am totally in the “nothing” camp and I hate seeing dogs dressed up in clothes as if they were babies. The only textile products dogs should be using are their dog beds.

Well, I am not totally adverse to clothing. When I work my dogs away and they have to stay in the car over night, I usually put a fleece on them if it is in the middle of winter. Although three of them together in the back of a truck generates a lot of shared heat, it is still better to make sure they all have warmth.  They all have thick dog beds so nobody ends up on a cold base of the car, but still, in the highlands I have come out to an over iced car in the morning and been very pleased with the dog beds and the dog fleeces. Also when I let them out in the back garden in the winter they may need a fleece. I make the fleeces my self and when they run around and play rough, they often accidentally tear each other’s fleece jumpers, so it’s best if I can quickly make a new. Last winter I ended up making an extra armoured jacket for Gollum because the young Gaia just kept on ripping his fleece. I used the same, strong material, the Wipe Clean, that we make strong dog beds out of and it certainly put a good stop to the ripping. His jacket is a little bit more stiff than a pure and nice fleece, but he is cosy as toast in under it. Lovely to take them in from the garden in the evening and find them with fresh, cold noses, cool ears and toasty bodies. They are really happy that way.

Should dog wear collars? I never have collars on my dogs when they run around in the garden. They have quite a good doggy area with a patio, where they have their little kennels for rainy days, stuffed with warm dog beds and they have outdoor dog beds on the patio. But they also have a little wooded area with tall grass to do their business, a pond to swim in and apple trees for their five a day. But for the reason of the trees, I find it too risky to allow them collars out there as they can get strangled. There is no need for them to wear them anyway. Only when I work the dogs in the heather or in thick wood land does the collar become essential. When they stop on point, you can sometimes hardly see them, especially the darker two, unless they wear their orange collars. With tippex, who is white and black it’s a little easier. In woodland in the winter where the light is bad it is also important to see them better with a fluorescent collar.

Gollum retrieving a bird

Gollum retrieving a bird

If I walk them in town, I also put a lead on of course, but I do not understand whey people put halters on their dogs. You need to teach them to walk to heel so you don’t need uncomfortable halters on them.

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Liners for Raised Dog Beds

Now that our Raised dog beds are just about here to be lined, there are suddenly big obstacles for seemingly small problems. We have made patterns for liners that fit beautifully inside the raised bed. The biggest problem is to cut the pattern so precisely that it simply fits and wraps itself round the thick surrounds on the bed. I did this over a few weekends and evenings and ended up being rather proud of the result.

Raised Tuffie bed with Autumn check liner

Raised Tuffie bed with Autumn check liner

However, I had ignored all along that there will have to be some way of attaching the liner on the outside of the bed to make it fixed and tidy when a dog digs and moves around. My first inkling was to drill holes and put a toggle though. I got my self all fixated on this idea and couldn’t see past it. I could not find the right toggles either so I went and bought dowling and cut pieces out to make my own toggles. The problem just got bigger because you need to make very large holes to push the toggle and the rope through.

But then I thought of hooks and looked through pages and pages of photos of hooks finally finding a company in Mexico that would make the correct size of hooks for our raised dog beds. They will screw on perfectly and make it easy to simply pull the rope at the end to make the liner fit beautifully. Of course, having bought a sample of those hooks I narrowed it in to finding both American and UK companies that are able to make the right sort of hooks.

Cocker Spaniel in a medium Raised Tuffie

Cocker Spaniel in a medium Raised Tuffie

I went to the workshop this morning to fit the hooks to the raised dog beds with liners that I had already made last week and it’s absolutely perfect.

We are now waiting for the first consignment of our raised dog beds early next week and we can then fulfil our orders that have come in as pre-orders on the web site. We are very, very excited about this new product as it simply has everything you ever needed in dog beds.

These dog beds can be kept clean through and through and are super comfortable for your dog, who also appreciates hugely to be higher up from the floor. Wonderful.

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Dog Beds and Sandy Beaches

Dogs love the beach. What is there NOT to like about a sandy beach with a nice sea lapping in at the shore? Tippex loves to be taken in the car to the beach with my son or daughter in Aberdeen. As Fergus is heavily in to tennis, he always takes a racket and a ball along.

The other day Tove took Tippex in her car, but forgot to have dog beds in the car, so the back of it was already hairy by the time she reached her destination, but she wasn’t too worried.

 On the beach it is all about whacking that tennis ball a long way out and let Tippex retrieve it.See the ball where I put the arrow.

Tippexs runs out for the ball by the sea.

Tippexs runs out for the ball by the sea.

She grabs the ball in the sand.

She grabs the ball in the sand.

She is now 10 years old and I haven’t used her much this year for the grouse, not because I didn’t want to, but the two younger dogs did the work no problem and having three dogs out is usually too much, it ends in chaos. I have often been on the grouse moor and brought her for back up, but she has to spend most of her day in the car, which she does not approve of. She has beautiful waterproof dog beds in the car, but by the time we return from the hunting, she has been digging them up and tumbled them round and round. Poor soul.

Tippex returns with the ball, exhausted.

Tippex returns with the ball, exhausted.

So a good run on the beach in the city is just heaven for her. She is off as fast as she can go, scoops it (and a load of sand) up and hurls back with it.

I am not entirely sure how many times she can do this, but if it is not too hot, it is many, many times. The German Wirehaired Pointers have fantastic stamina, but they are not good if it is hot. Tippex is a resourceful madam, who will always find a muddy puddle to lie down in to cool off, but on the beach, it’s easy to just jump in the sea.

 When she thinks that she has done enough running, she lies down and hogs the ball to make sure it does not get  pinged off again.

Finally Tippex needs to lie down and rest.

Finally Tippex needs to lie down and rest.

Tove said that Tippex would sometimes lie ON the ball to hide it (or have a paw on top of it) while she caught her breath. Making herself sandy dog beds in the beach is great for getting that sand right in to the coat.

 Obviously, on the way home in the car, if you don’t have good, nest dog beds with sides on, she sand and salty water will be shaken everywhere.

 Dogs love balls. Here is Christine’s Max’s with three he collected to play with.

Max can pick up three balls

Max can pick up three balls

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Cleaning my Friend’s Dirty Dog beds

My dog enthusiastic friend, Anne, has got Tuffies Dog Beds absolutely everywhere. In the kennels, in the house (kitchen and conservatory) and in both cars. She has never paid us for one because she has six dogs and is the perfect place for us to test durability, likability and cleanability.  Her dogs will give the dog beds a good old wear and tear and we have every access to see how the beds and prospective products get on. When we first brought out our Durasoft we needed to know how well they would keep clean and, if dirty, how easy they would be to wash. One of Anne’s Labradors has mouth cancer and although not suffering from it, there is a big tumour on her lower jaw, which means she SLOBBERS like mad. She is also of the greasy variety of Labradors that leave a greasy shine inside the nest, so there was everything to go for in terms of getting her dog beds super dirty. Her Durasoft Tuffies Nest looked terrible after about six months, so I said I would love to clean it.I have to say that even I had my doubts that I would be able to do that well enough.

 It really was not bad. I timed my efforts and it took two minutes to take the cushion out and put the fleece in the washing machine. Then I turned the surround inside-out and with a bucket of hot water and a washing up sponge I rubbed the nest thoroughly all over. This took seven minutes. I found the hose and hosed it all down, three more minutes.

 I now let the nest hang outside to dry in the wind and sun. With all the seams and nooks and crannies it didn’t feel completely dry even after a few hours, so I took it inside and put it up to dry in a nice, warm place. To be honest, it did take till the following day before I wanted to give it back to Anne because it needed to be 100% dry. She has lots of dog beds for her working dogs and would not be left without anything for the dogs to sleep on.

 As I wasn’t going up in her directions any time soon, I just sent the washed nest on the courier to her address. She called me when it had arrived and she was utterly delighted. She could not believe it was the same nest!!! Looking so good after looking so dirty.

 It’s fair to say that she was quite embarrassed that I had washed her dog beds, but of course I just did it as a part of the research. She will no doubt do it herself next time.

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Waterproof dog beds still keeping water out?

Here at Tuffies we do as much testing as we possibly can to make sure we are selling the highest quality dog beds. We have our fabrics tested for hydrostatic head at an independent laboratory, where we send unused, used and washed fabrics to see the durability to water-resistance in every way.

We also, from time to time, get a bed back from a customer, who has a complaint and we make sure we get to the bottom of the problem and every time it is a misunderstanding, not a fault (except sometimes a manufacturing fault, but never fabric or quality fault). Recently we had a call from a lady, who said she had bought lots of waterproof dog beds from us over the years. She told us that it takes around a year for her dog to dig a hole in them, so she replaces them every year as she said that our dog beds are the strongest there is to stand up to her dog’s sharp and relentless claws. However, she said that the latest one she had bought only lasted four months and was not waterproof anymore. We sent her a new bed and got the “faulty” one back.

The first thing I did when it arrived was of course to open it up in order to see how wet it was inside. It was bone dry. You could see the heavy claw marks across it, but it was still totally waterproof. It would seem that where she lives and where the dog bed sits in her house there is a lot of relative humidity in the air, which will cause the dreaded condensation underneath. It has to be said that with the wet and cold summer, we have had, this problem is probably bigger this year than when we have just moderate and normal summers. Everything is damp even if you don’t feel that it’s clammy. So when you put waterproof dog beds down on a cold tiled floor, they are guaranteed to trap moisture underneath.

If you are not used to deal with these things, you might mistake this from “leaking”. When you lift up the bed, it feels like water has seeped out from the inside, but that is obviously not the case, it is just condensation on the outside. The good thing is, that this is waterproof, and the stuffing will remain nice and dry. If it had been a water-permeable material, all that condensated water would have been absorbed in to the bed, leaving it cold and clammy for the dog.

The problem that can arise when you have the condensation is that mold will follow pretty quickly too. This is unsightly and can cause smell. As we can’t change physics where humidity in air precipitates when it is cooled down (on the tiled floor), we will have to solve this problem in a different way. This is to raise the dog beds off the floor. If you have simply crude pallets, it will work fine, but you may prefer this arrangement to be in the kennel and not in your living room. In the house you could simply put the bed on a little slatted wooden frame to allow airflow. It will look neat like that.

Bottom line is, that you have a dog bed that is DRY INSIDE because the cover is waterproof.

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