Like many innovative products, Tuggo dog toy evolved from a happy accident – specifically a stray bowling ball in inventor Adam Harrington’s backyard.
Now, two reactions to this story:
First, how did a bowling ball lead to a trial run distribution in more than 1000 Petsmart stores across North America?
Second, there was a bowling ball in the backyard?
Why the bowling ball was there is a bit of a mystery, but Harrington assures me during our meeting at BlogPaws 2015 in Nashville last year it’s not some southern U.S. hillbilly tradition to keep a bowling ball in the backyard. But it was there. The dogs found it, gave him a great idea and six months later he was selling his Tuggo product at the 2014 SuperZoo pet industry trade show in Las Vegas and winning Petsmart’s Innovation Station award, leading to a distribution contract.
(Note: BlogPaws 2016 is coming up! Stay tuned. Dogtrotting will be at SuperZoo 2016)
So, what is Tuggo?
It’s a dog toy so simple you’ll be surprised you didn’t think of it. (But then again, you likely don’t have bowling balls in your backyard.)
Tuggo is a plastic ball that comes in two sizes with a rope running through it. Fill the ball with water through a twist valve – give Tuggo enough weight (depending on the size of your dog) – and you’ve got a tug-o-war toy your dog can drag around the backyard on his own, saving your rotator cuff.
Actually, Harrington didn’t really invent Tuggo. His dogs did. He just modified it.
“I was watching my dog in the backyard trying to play with a stray bowling ball and getting frustrated with it,” he told me at BlogPaws, an annual conference for pet bloggers. “So I got the idea to drill a hole through the ball, pull a rope through it and tie knots at each end. That seemed to satisfy the dog for a bit.”
He didn’t think he was on to something until his mother came home from work one day, and the dogs didn’t greet her as usual. Both were sound asleep, exhausted from dragging the bowling ball/rope around.
“We found the ball an acre away,” Harrington says. “The dogs played with it non-stop all day.”
That’s when he knew he had an idea. But bowling balls weren’t going to work. (Imagine the shipping costs). “I bought about 300 regular plastic balls,” he says, “drilled holes through them, added water for different weights, then pushed a tube through, sealed it so it wouldn’t leak, and pulled a rope through the tube.”
Thus the prototype for Tuggo was born. Harrington took them to an Orlando, Florida pet show and sold out within hours.
That’s when production started in earnest. Petsmart took notice at the next trade show, and now Tuggo is available in two sizes, fillable so it’s not heavy when you buy or transport it, and sells for $25 to $30 each. In-store videos explain the concept to customers, and even zoo lions feature in the film. Harrington has had a busy year appearing on televisions shows and marketing Tuggo across North American.
As for the genesis of that bowling ball? “Well,” Harrington says, “it was likely stored in the garage and my Dad tripped over it, said some choice words, and pitched it into the backyard.” Ah frustration – the mother of innovation.
Tuggo comes in two colours (green and blue) and two sizes – a 7 inch one that fills to up to 6 pounds for dogs up to 40 pounds and a 10 inch version that fills to up to 18 pounds for dogs (and maybe zoo lions) more than 40 pounds. The rope can be pulled from either side, so two dogs can pull at the same time.
I filled the small about two-thirds full. My less-than-40-pound older dog Victor pulled it a bit by the rope but lost interest quickly. (This might be because he had other things to do.) Left alone with the toy, he played with it a bit but not all day.
Sasha, the more-than-40-pound younger dog, had more trouble figuring out what to do with it but eventually picked it up by the rope and carried it around. It was too small for her to effectively ‘tug’ it alone, and she hasn’t figured out how to play tug-o-war with Victor yet. (She concedes each time he grabs a toy from her).
But if they did figure out how to play together, this size would work for them because the rope is long enough. Sasha, however, played with Tuggo by herself longer than Victor did, but again, not all day and mainly when it was new.
The find the price of a 7 inch Tuggo here (US). The 10 inch here (US). [affiliate link] Replacement ropes are $4.99 (US).
(Disclaimer: I received a free Tuggo at BlogPaws but no compensation for the review or article. The opinions are my own).
Watch for upcoming posts about hiking with your dog in the Elora Gorge, and camping with your dog in Kitchener, Ontario.