Dog Beds at Crufts 2016

Here we are again, off to Crufts to sell our luxury dog beds in hall 5, stand 56. Every year we pack a huge trailer and a huge van full of our best dog beds and drive from Aberdeenshire to Birmingham to sell to the dog owners waiting for us to arrive at NEC. It is a very, very busy time and it is delightful to meet so many of our fans and new customers. We constantly have visitors who bring a friend to show them the Tuffies stand. It’s hilarious how they will go and show the friend all the wonderful waterproof dog beds and tell the friend about all the benefits of the product and finally get the friend to buy one for his or her own dog. Other visitors to the stand sometimes listen in and get all the information that they need straight from the horse’s mouth as it were. It is of course a far more credible and true assessment of how great the dog beds are when it comes from a complete stranger, who simply love the large dog beds for their own Great Dane or maybe some of the small dog beds for the pack of toy dogs that they own. To be honest we even sometimes hear some new Unique Selling Points from our own, old customers when we hear them talk to friends.

 The Tuffies dog bed stand at Crufts 2015

The Tuffies dog bed stand at Crufts 2015

It is also funny to witness how some devoted customers know the web site inside out. They will often tell their friend how to get to a certain product, for example how to get to the luxury dog beds by going down the Shop page till you see the right one and then click in. How to see the possible colour choices etc etc.

The need for chew proof dog beds and the excitement that it is actually possible to get a nice, warm, padded chew proof bed is overwhelming when you are at Crufts and speak to customers. Chewing dogs is a terrible problem everywhere and they might be large dogs or just small dogs, but if you have a chewer, you will know all about it and the frustration builds up when you yet again spend bad money on dog beds that will just be chewed. Luckily, Tuffies has the only warm, pleasant chew proof dog bed with inter-changeable covers on the market and it’s such an important solution to those unfortunate dog owners that are faced with the problem. Sometimes prospective customers don’t believe it when we tell them the benefit of the chew proof dog beds with interchangeable stuffing, but when other customers are in the stand, they turn round and say that it is actually true that the beds are chewproof.

It is also important to go to shows to tell everyone that it is ONLY the Really Tough Tuffie that is chew proof and not any of our other strong and durable dog beds. Strong and durable is very different from chew proof and it is sometimes a difficult message to get across to someone who in their own mind WISHES that our beautiful dog beds are all chewproof. The fact is, that dogs can chew anything that you can cut with scissors and that’s the end of the situation.

See you all at Crufts, we look forward to seeing all the known faces and to meet new ones that you bring along to see our fantastic dog beds.

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Looking out for dog beds

On the yearly trip to France to ski, one’s eyes are always out for DOGS and hopefully also for dog beds. First thing that happened, however, was that I stood in a pooh. It has always been my observation that in France there is not quite as much a culture of pooh picking and pooh bags as there is here. Pooh left on the pavements is not uncommon. However, we must not be too smug because in my opinion the good manners of British dog owners is a relatively new thing. Of course SOME dog owners have been picking up from their dogs’ toileting for many years, but the wide spread good manners of British dog owners is not that old.

I walked to the ski hire shop and got a pair of skis. I later sat outside and hugely admired a little wirehaired dachshund walking on the lead with its owner. My husband dryly remarked that it was probably ITs pooh I now had on my boots. In fact the boots that were now sitting in the ski hire shop. Nice.

Anyway, dog beds are always on my mind, also when I am on holiday, so I always peek into cars that look like dog owners’ to see if they have warm dog beds or maybe luxury dog beds in there. The obvious choice is waterproof dog beds, but it really doesn’t seem to be the big thing in France either. They are suffering from not having Tuffies over there to make them really good and practical dog beds, they tend to put a bit of carpet in the back, but that’s fine. We, here at Tuffies are sending an increasing number of beds to France, I think we have sent one every day for the last week. The problem is that it is very expensive to transport big, bulky and heavy dog beds across to Europe, but many people are prepared to pay for this because the choice of great dog beds in France seems to be extremely limited.

Tiny dogs are very popular and we met a lady with a Chihuahua in a bar in the ski resort. She apparently had it running with her up as she did the tough mountaineering skiing up hill and then she put it inside her jacket as she skied down. How cute is that!!! It didn’t need a small dog bed, it just needed a warm jacket to sit inside. It was so cute in the bar as well, just sitting there on a stool, watching the world go by.

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Moving Dog Beds in to New Office

We are a relatively small business in charge of running the manufacturing and selling of fantastic dog beds, so moving the office 30 meters should not be too big a challenge. A few people carrying invoice files and chairs and computers and other paraphenalia should be a job of one afternoon. NOT. In fact, everything above, yes, except the computers. I was aware that when we started making waterproof dog beds 16 years ago, we only had one computer and more has been added and technology has moved on, but I was not aware of how complicated it had all become. Of course more and more has been added to the system, bodged on by well meaning IT experts and it has all worked ok. So as we have been making more and more great dog beds, not only has the work shop expanded, but the office now has 7 computers, a card machine, 5 printers and a scanner. These have been bolted on one by one and the amount of spaghetti at the back of our desks and on the floor is enormous. So I called in our great chap, who helps us with such stuff. I asked if he could assist in moving the offic e computers over to the new place. The conclusion to the enormous files was to have one hard drive, which you pull from on all the computers. Cloud was an option, but I have many thousand pictures on my files, which meant that we would have to pay a substantial extra amount to keep all these images in the cloud and it would eat up no end of our limited Giggabytes to get them there. We are rural and have satellite broadband, so there is a cap on it before you have to pay extra. Mike, the IT chap, decided we had to have one hard drive for all the computers. Well, what ever the experts say!! So we got that and it took four hours to move all my images, most of them of beautiful dog beds and strong dog beds for web site and advertising purposes, over from the holding computer to the stand-alone-hard drive. We are now in our new premises and it is absolutely brilliant. I had a 14 hour session in here last Saturday, making all the carousel photos of all our dog beds, such as luxury dog beds, waterproof dog beds and raised dog beds. I found it very easy to concentrate and get peace for what is a very creative job. Having had a Labradoodle, an Doberman and lastly and lovely, almost white, Labradoor modelling for me, I had a rich pool of material. Only obstacle was finding my way round this new computer and getting it all right. FINDING things can be seriously tricky. But we all feel very grown up now in our new office premises. Of course, we also have a nice selection of our sturdy and durable dog beds on display in here.

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Photographing Dog Beds

To present our products as honestly and precisely as possible is very important in order to give our customers and prospective customers the best chance possible to determine whether our first class dog beds are the right ones for them. As the internet is the number one option for an increasing number of people when they want to purchase good dog beds, photographs of the items are simply essential. It is also, from a business’ point of view becoming more and more demanding as the internet image quality is getting better and more professional all the time. We have to keep up, making nice images of our amazing dog beds. OK, 75% of our sales are via Word of Mouth or reorders because customers have seen our waterproof dog beds or perhaps our raised dog beds at friends’ houses and decide they want one or customers simply come back for more when they receive one, so that all their dogs can have a Tuffie. But as we are placed on page one in Google for the phrase Dog Beds, we obviously have prospective customers, who see the site and want to know more. When they go in to our shop, they need to be shown an honest and true picture of our products. And that is no mean feat, but we do get it right when we try hard enough.

We have a studio here and the old saying “Never work with Children or Animals” becomes very true. We have “models” coming to our studio, who are supposed to be very well behaved dogs, but who don’t know the “Lie down” command.

Some dogs are well behaved, but they are nervous and won’t stop panting. When you are a dog with a small understanding of photography, the studio looks worryingly like something a veterinary surgery might have.  And the lady with that scary camera could look like a vet. How are they to know that we just want them to lie nicely and still on any one of our Luxury dog beds and be still?

It all ends up with a lot of useless images that have to be discarded.

What often happens if the dog has potential for being a model, is that he or she is quite nervous at first and won’t sit still, never mind lying down, it pants and jumps out of the bed. Then, after some time, they start to get tired and the warm dog beds start to have an effect, so they begin to nod off, often against their will. If we all sit silently and quietly, the dogs often close their eyes for a little while and we get the chance to take the photos.

Others of course just turn up, see the gorgeous dog beds and jump in and fall asleep. My own dogs are certainly used to that. They quite like it when I call them in from the garden to model, they walk in, get in the warm dog beds and fall asleep. It’s quite a shame to wake them up when it’s finished.

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Cleaning waterproof dog beds

 It’s amazing the abuse I give my waterproof dog beds. My dogs live in the garden, where they have a large lawn, a patio, an area of woodland and a pond. On the patio they have two little kennels with warm waterproof dog beds in. I have given them nests to keep it all a bit more cosy after the lovely lining that I had made has come out. Yes, my young dog got very annoyed every time I left her at home and worked the other two, so she used to spend the day pulling all the lining out of the kennel, so they have become slightly draughty now. The nests, however, help keeping the dogs warm and secure round the base.

GWP in a large Dark Red Durasoft nest

GWP in a large Dark Red Durasoft nest

Needless to say, it gets terribly muddy out there, especially in the autumn if we have prolonged periods of rain. The patio helps hugely in keeping the beds free of mud, but gradually everything gets covered in mud on the wooden surface and the dogs start dragging it in to the kennels on to the waterproof dog beds. This seems to be no problem at all, however, because nothing goes through to the base of the bed and the stuffing never suffers any damp from this. It’s brilliant because the dogs never sit on a damp, soggy dog bed, but always enjoy total insulation from the floor.  I do sneak some blankets in if it’s particularly cold, so they have warm fleece to bury in to. They love digging around and make themselves a cosy place. In nature I assume, that dogs go in to their little cave and take grass etc with them, where they then make their own natural dog beds by digging and moving around.

 It’s a miracle, when I occasionally take the beds out to clean, because they never smell and always just seem dusty, which is all the mud, that has dried up and turned in to dust.

Washing the base cushion of the nest

Washing the base cushion of the nest

The most incredible about these dog beds is that they don’t smell despite the stuff that is constantly dragged in there. I feed my dogs very raw food indeed. They get tripe daily and sometimes half a chicken, which is often consumed in “privacy” inside the kennel on the dog beds.

Tippex eating a deer head on the patio

Tippex eating a deer head on the patio

I also feed them the odd macabre deer head, which takes them several days to finish and a lot of the eating, again, is done on the dog beds. And yet, there is NO smell. The fact that there are no soft fibres that allow the damp to linger prevents bacteria to dominate and start smelling.

Fantastic dog beds all round.

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Warm Dog Beds

At this time of writing, my dogs have had a good hour’s walk and it’s late afternoon. They are sitting out in the garden with their bum on the snow, watching the world go by. Perfectly happy. I did consider putting jumpers on them all this morning, but it is a still, frosty day and it’s dry. They do like their jumpers when it’s a windy and really cold day, but clean frost and no wind is just nice. If I sat outside doing nothing, I would get very cold now, but dogs are different. They also have lovely, warm dog beds for them to choose from inside their kennels. In fact they sit outside in preference to being in the kennel because they don’t feel the cold. Of course, like all dogs, they spend a considerable amount of time sleeping and they mooch in to their lovely warm waterproof dog beds when they get sleepy.

Spaniel enjoying a waterproof nest

Spaniel enjoying a waterproof nest

The trick for keeping your dog warm in the winter has everything to do with keeping an eye on the weather. If it’s just warm, drizzly rain, I know my dogs want to sit outside at least for some of the day and they don’t mind getting a bit wet on top of their coat. Again, they have the opportunity to go in to their kennel dog beds if they choose to.

Paula Ford's dogs in waterproof mattress bed

Paula Ford’s dogs in waterproof mattress bed

So in the morning, I look at the weather and if it’s warm and still, I let them out just as they are and they have fun in the garden, playing, barking at the odd cyclist and lounging on the patio, relaxing.

If it’s really cold with a bitter wind and perhaps rain, I put fleeces on them before I let them out. They all look ever so snug and happy and they still choose the kennel with the warm dog beds as it’s not nice at all to be out. But at least I know they are really warm and comfortable in there.

I have a feisty young dog, who loves playing with my older gentleman, the 6 year old GWP, and time and time again I get them in at night and he is wearing shreds because she has been pulling at this clothes.  A great big L-shape was in his jumper yesterday.

But as long as you don’t over dress them or give them far too little to keep them warm, they will be OK as long as they have warm dog beds to go on when they choose.

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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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