weird commerce

Weird Commerce: Jelly Wellies, Booting For The Family Dog

Those with pets they love won’t be surprised that the overall pet industry annually pulls the leash over $60 billion in the U.S. A minority, but a significant one, is focused on the grooming and accessories. According to the American Pet Products Association, this piece of the industry scoops up more than $5 billion in the market.

Jelly Wellies, made by Brooklyn-based BH Pet Gear, have made a splash and maintained footing in that market with rain boots for small dogs.

“Jelly Wellies are a silicon-based bootie that goes right onto the paws and protects them from the harsh conditions,” said Dana Humphrey, who goes by the name “The Pet Lady,” works with pet products and teaches pet product marketing courses at FIT. “They fill a need for pets that are going out when it’s raining or snowing, and it’s cold.”

The booties come with a matching jacket or raincoat to protect and keep the dog warm in the winter months. Humphrey said there are a lot of different types of boots out there, but these boots have done especially well because they are for smaller dogs or dogs with shorter legs, like Yorkies, French bulldogs or pugs.

“Jelly Wellies have been around now for a couple of years, and it’s done really well,” Humphrey said of the bright-colored booties. “They’re available on Amazon, as well as the manufacturer’s website and certain retailers.”

But rain or shine — and even severe heat — the $29.99 booties have proven that they are becoming a necessary element for dogs.

“Let’s say it’s 100 degrees outside. The pavement can actually feel up to 160 degrees. So, imagine if you’re walking around barefoot, it’s going to be really, really hot,” said Humphrey. “On the flip side, if it’s cold and snowy, the salt that people put out for their cars and for traction actually gets into the dogs’ paws, and it’s dangerous.”

The reason the booties — which, to some, may seem unnecessary considering how long dogs have lived without them — have been successful is that the dog is just another family member who should be wearing clothes for their warmth and protection.

“It used to be that, if your dog was wearing a coat, it would be picturesque, and people would stop, maybe take a photo and say, ‘How cute’ or ‘How novel!’” said Humphrey. “And now, if it’s cold out or snowing and you’re out with your dog and your dog doesn’t have a jacket, someone is going to reprimand you. You’re going to get in trouble.”

She said the perception of dressing up the dog — or other pets for that matter — in warm clothes has completely changed. She said that it’s not only completely normal and acceptable, “it’s even taboo if you don’t.”

“The trend in the pet industry now is that more millennials are now adopting dogs and cats. Younger people are getting pets, as well as empty-nesters, where their kids have moved out of the house and they’ve gotten a pet. It’s almost like a substitution to have a pet that is going to be unconditionally loving them and becoming part of the family,” said Humphrey. “They used to be relegated to the backyard in the dog house. Now, that’s almost unheard of. They are part of the family. They sleep in bed with their owner. Almost 80 percent of dogs sleep in-bed with their owner. This is a total flip from even 10 years ago.”

But because animals have gone for centuries without wearing clothes, there can be a learning curve for dogs when owners start putting on the booties. In fact, in the beginning, the dogs will kick off the booties, dismissing them. She recommends putting two booties on two at a time because it will feel foreign to them. But soon, they’ll learn that it’s a benefit, and they’ll get excited.

“If they know that, every time their boots go on, they get to go outside, it’s going to be a positive reinforcement,” said Humphrey. “Once they start to associate it with the chance to go outside, they’ll look forward to putting them on. We’ve actually seen dogs that will lift their paws up with glee to put the boots on.”

Prior to Jelly Wellies’ launch, there was a testing phase, according to Humphrey. The concept went through a slew of designs and changes.

“They tried it on a few different dogs and found that the velcro system needed to be changed and adjusted so it wraps around the back of the paw and to the front. With this velcro closure, now, we find with most dogs this works well,” said Humphrey. “Nothing is 100 percent, but we found that this design works the best. But it took a couple rounds.”

The company has received no external funding. And, at the same time, the pet industry seems to be growing faster than it has in decade.

Ultimately, while the owners have to be happy, many times, their dogs’ happiness is what they’re most after.

“When your dog has some kind of clothing on and you’re going for a walk, more people are likely to stop and say, ‘Oh, isn’t that cute!’” said Humphrey. “From the dog’s point of view, as long as they’re getting more attention, they’re happy. So, if they know they’ll get more attention if they wear a certain jacket, they’re more likely to want to wear it.”

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