This episode of The Dog Show features Stew Anderson. Stew is the founder of Beast & Buckle, a designer of reversible dog harnesses, dog collars, and leashes for discerning dogs (and the humans who love them).
Not only do Beast & Buckle have a range of unique and funky product designs, but they also donate 5% of sales to animal rescues.
In the interview, we compare the differences between a walking harness and a collar, and Stew shares his insights into choosing the right product for your dog.
Find out more about Beast & Buckle here:
Will: This episode of “The Dog Show” features Stew Anderson. Stew is the founder of Beast & Buckle, a designer of reversible dog harnesses, dog collars, and leashes for discerning dogs and the humans who love them. Not only do Beast & Buckle have a range of unique and funky product designs, but they also donate 5% of sales to animal rescues. In the interview we compare the differences between a walking harness and a collar, and Stew shares his insights into choosing the right product for your dog.
Stew from Beast & Buckle, welcome to “The Dog Show” today, thanks for coming on.
Stew: Oh, thank you for having me, I’m so glad to be here.
Will: Yeah, it’s great to have a fellow French Bulldog owner on. I think we share something in common, that our French Bulldogs have inspired us to get into a business about dogs. So always good to meet people kind of doing the same thing from that perspective. But do you want to tell me a bit about how you actually got into business? I believe it’s got something to do with a French Bulldog named Clark?
Stew: Oh yeah, Clark is literally sitting, like, on my leg right now. His ears are burning right now, he’s listening very carefully. Yeah, he is, like…I mean he’s just…I can’t even being to describe how much he means to me. You know, I got him a few years ago, he’s three now. I got him in 2017 when he was two months old and, like, it’s been…I mean it’s been amazing. Because, like, I was in a really, really bad place, my father had died rather tragically, he had committed suicide, and I just…I didn’t know what I was going to do. You know, like my career I was trying to kind of, like, work through pain and wasn’t happy at all, just, you know, was not fulfilled. Was really falling, you know, month after month into a darker, darker place.
And so I decided to get a dog. I had grown up with dogs, I really…I mean I’ve always loved dogs. I just…early in my career I had been moving around a lot, which, you know, wasn’t really great for having a dog. So it wasn’t really the right time, I don’t want to have a home that isn’t right for a dog. You know, I want to get a dog when it’s, you know, the right time for them, not necessarily just, you know, like, because I want one.
So the time was right. You know, my family convinced me and I started looking, you know, at rescues and puppies and different things. And, you know, as soon as I saw this picture of Clark, I mean it was right. And it was kind of fortuitous because, you know, there had been a few times in the process where I was ready to say, “Okay, you know, I like that dog, let’s…you know, is that dog available?” And I was just a little bit too late like two or three times. And then I was able to kind of get Clark just in the nick of time. And it’s worked out perfectly, he’s been amazing.
And my life turned around from then. And, you know, since then I thought about really what I wanted to do, and I wanted to spend time with my dog and I wanted to spend time focused on dogs. And that’s when I started Beast & Buckle. I mean I took my knowledge of, you know, working in advertising, running, you know, Facebook and Google ads for people and doing things on the agency side and I said, “I’m going to start my own e-commerce business.” And that was over two years ago now. And we started in fall…you know, fall in the United States.
Will: “Autumn,” we call it out here.
Stew: And then, you know, we launched in February of 2019. So we’ve been selling for a little under two years and, I mean, it’s been a whirlwind. But I’ve been able to kind of…you know, I’ve definitely been able to spend lots of time with Clark, which is the best part. And then I’ve also met, you know, hundreds and hundreds of dog owners who are super passionate about their dogs, as well. I’ve connected with various different rescue organizations that, you know, we’ve been able to help.
So as far as, like, the goals that I’ve had since getting Clark in terms of what I wanted to do professionally, I’ve been able to fulfill pretty much all of those. It’s been great.
Will: Well, that’s exciting. Look, I’m very sorry to hear about your dad. But I guess if there is anything good to come out of that, it sounds like you’ve kind of been inspired to take a good path with…well, you’ve obviously got Clark as a companion, but also now your career, as well, is on track. So, I mean, it’s a very sad story, I must say, but it’s also there’s some light, right?
Stew: There is. And I think the other thing, too, is…and this has been, like, really inspiring, I mean it sometimes brings tears to my eyes, is I get messages from people or they’ll comment on, like, a social media post and they’ll say, you know, “I’ve been through something similar and I know exactly how you feel. You know, my dog was there when I was at my…you know, like, at my worst and, you know, when I needed somebody the most. And, you know, people let me down, but my dog never does.” And just being able to…I mean even just selfishly for a second having other…you know, knowing that I’m not the only one going through something and having that comfort brought to me is something…like, that alone is, like, you know, really, really important to me. But it’s also great to just be able to, you know, talk through things with people and help them and hear people’s stories.
It’s really inspiring and I’m glad that what we’re doing at Beast & Buckle has been able to kind of help people. I never want to be kind of, like, doing something just, you know, because it’s a business or for money or something, like, when I can have that tangible effect and when I can really hear about, you know, the effect that something that we’ve done, whether it’s a video or something, you know, whether it’s… When I hear that something that we’ve done has had an effect on somebody that’s that positive, yeah, it’s just really important to me.
Will: It’s interesting. I’ve, you know, noticed that the dog lover community in particular really rally around each other. There’s something to do with, like, you know, that shared love for dogs, you know, makes you want to support everyone else that’s doing something similar.
Stew: Absolutely. I think, you know, like, I look at Facebook as, like, the kind of, like, meeting place for a lot of stuff these days.
Stew: It’s kind of like the digital square where everybody kind of comes together. And, you know, some people might like certain pages or be part of groups, but, like, I’ve found that, like, Frenchie owners are in, like, every Frenchie group because, like, they want all that content. I think my newsfeed is probably about 80% French Bulldog content. You know, nothing brings people together like…you know, like dogs. Because as soon as you identify another dog lover, especially somebody who’s got, like, the same type of dog that you do… And I think you know from having a Frenchie that, like, Frenchie people are, like, super, super passionate about their Frenchies. Like, I mean, it’s just you could talk all day with somebody and having never met them before. Just talking about your dogs, just talking about what they do, you could talk all day. So it’s pretty great.
Will: Well, you’ve got the dog lover community, but then the Frenchie community is even more kind of, yeah, I guess…I don’t want to say “crazy,” but it’s borderline, like, cult-like, I guess, in a way.
Stew: You know, I think the best word to describe it is just “passionate.”
Will: Yeah, “passionate” is probably a nicer word than “cult.”
Stew: It’s very, very passionate. And, I mean, one, like, I think, like, it’s just, like…part of it is just the breed is just so wonderful. They’re the cutest, most adorable, most loving dogs. All they want is, like, the affection of their owners. And, like, you’ll notice me, like, repositioning myself throughout the thing. It’s because Clark will literally try and, like, get closer and closer and cuddle up, like, closer and closer to me as much as he can, and he does this all day. Because all he wants is to be around me and to cuddle up on me, sit on me, lean on me. I mean, like, that’s the breed. And so, like, people love them for very understandable reasons.
And I think the other thing that kind of gets people passionate, and this is the unfortunate side of the breed, is just because there are so many medical issues that are associated with the breed and so many things that when you’re going through them the first time you don’t really know how to handle them and you seek out support. This builds a sense of community. So, like, you know, IVDD is a very serious issue that is common in French Bulldogs as well as, you know, some other dogs, like Boston Terriers and pugs. You know, a lot of the brachycephalic breeds suffer from this kind of thing. As well as, like, the breeding issues that are, you know, definitely affecting all of those breeds. You know, when you’re a first-time Frenchie owner, you really…you know, unless you’re, like, a veterinarian or you’ve had another dog from another breed that suffered from it, you don’t really know exactly how to deal with it.
And, you know, luckily we live in an age where not only is professional information available readily online, but you have access to all sorts of people who have been through this themselves. And so, you know, if you’re having an issue like we’ve had with Clark, you know, Clark has had a couple flare-ups with IVDD that we’ve been fortunate enough to treat with, you know, anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers and bed rest. Or, sorry, crate rest, for dogs. But I was able to go online immediately and reach out to people and groups and, you know, join groups specifically for IVDD to get as much information as possible. Because nothing matters to me more than, you know, having, you know, a health and safe and happy Clark.
And, like, that really brings people together. You know, again, it’s the shared experience. You know, you’re going through something stressful, you’re going through something sad and hard and difficult, but other people are there to support you, to guide you, to help you get through it. And so that is more common in the French Bulldog community than it is in other areas. You know, the breed has many great qualities, but, you know, there’s just a lot of health issues facing it and that’s only increasing right now due to overbreeding.
Will: Yeah, definitely. That’s an interesting insight you make about that’s kind of the layer which may bring people together more often, because you’re probably right. But I think as well one thing about the health issues is the unknown. As you said, when you’re going through the first time, just having someone else that goes, “Oh, you know what? I’ve been through this, as well, and I’ve come out the other side knowing that,” or, “This is how I dealt with it,” can be comforting. Because when you’re first dealing with an issue, whether it’s IVDD or, you know, all of the other challenges that Frenchies can face, yeah.
So, Stew, just to sidetrack a little bit and start talking about Beast & Buckle, because I’m sure we could talk about Frenchies for the next four or five hours.
Stew: Maybe even longer.
Will: Yeah, exactly, exactly. So you started by creating dog harnesses. So what was it about harnesses that attracted…why did you start making harnesses rather than collars or some other product for French Bulldogs?
Stew: Yeah, it’s a great question. I think for me, like, probably the first inkling that that was the right product to do was my sister had a French Bulldog and, you know, she bought from one of the bigger brands. And I was like, “Oh, you know, it’s fun.” You know, a lot of these harnesses have, like, designs and they’re, you know, a little bit, you know, higher quality than some of the stuff that you can get at pet stores, Amazon, you know, places where a lot of people are getting their stuff. And I remember her saying to me, she said, “Yeah, you know, they’re kind of fun, I just wish there were some better designs out there.”
And so I thought about that. And then when it was time for me to get my Frenchie and when I was thinking about, you know, what I could do, what sort of business Clark and I could start together, I remember that moment. And I talked to her again and I was just like, you know, “How are you feeling about what’s on the market?” She’s just like…she’s like, “Yeah, well, there’s some good stuff, I guess. But, like, you know, there just isn’t anything that really speaks to me.”
And so I thought about it and I was just like, “Well, here’s my sister who’s, like, very much like me, super, super passionate about her French Bulldog and buys every accessory under the sun and, you know, is, like, just obsessed.” And so if she’s out there constantly looking for different things to buy for her Frenchie and she can’t find a harness with designs that really are fun for her or, you know, make her happy, make her excited… You know, this is like…it’s like…this is fashion. Like people get excited about clothing, this is, like, fashion for dogs. So, like, if there isn’t something out there for her who is, like, the easiest to please because she loves doing stuff for her Frenchie, then there’s a market opportunity there.
And so that’s how we entered the harness market. We wanted something that, you know, people could get excited about, we wanted something that… You know, like, I like to be creative and I like to work with creative people to, you know, kind of do fun things. And so with harnesses you kind of have that canvas. You can create this, like, kind of, like, fun or funky or kind of goofy pattern, or something that’s, like, kind of, like, super cute or fashionable, and you can create something that people will want and get excited about.
And so, like, the harness was kind of, like, the perfect fit for that, and it’s grown from there. Now, you know, we do, you know, other products, but the harness is really kind of the core thing just because it’s, like, you know, I have a French Bulldog and the French Bulldog breed is probably the best market for harnesses. So, I mean, because more than any other breed they need to be walking on a harness rather than walking on a collar.
And so it’s grown from there. You know, we’re making a few different types of harnesses now that we weren’t making at first, and we’ve started doing things like hoodies and food bag holders and other accessories. And we’re working on some other stuff that’s not out yet that I can’t talk about. But the harnesses are…they’re actually, like, fun. Like they’re really fun to work on. And when you, like…the process of, like, finishing a design, building it, and then, like, seeing the first finished units, like that feeling of excitement and satisfaction, like, that has not decreased at all in the two years since we first rolled off, like, the first Beast & Buckle products, like, off the assembly line. Like that has…like, every single time. Like every single time I’m just like, “Oh my god, I’m so excited, this is great.”
Like we have some new stuff for 2020 that’s coming in, like, probably about a week and, like, I’m, like, counting down the days. Fiancée gets sick of hearing about it because I’m just like, “Yeah, I’m, like, really excited. Here are some pictures.” Because, like, it’s exciting. Because, like, you’re holding in your hand something that you designed, something that you created. It’s, like…it’s yours. It’s a surreal feeling. And it’s a feeling that, like, hopefully, like, this notion that, like, I’m still going to be as excited about it every single time we do a new release, like, I hope that never goes away. It’s a great feeling.
Will: Yeah. Actually, we may as well just, while you’re mentioning all of the colors and the designs and everything, we may as well have a quick chat about that. Because that’s the one thing that kind of caught my eye with the brand, was just, like, so much personality and so many different unique designs which I hadn’t seen before. You know, you’ve got doughnuts and burgers and dinosaurs and tie-dye, and all these bright and, like… And for me what it represented was the French Bulldog personality in a way because they’ve just…they’ve got such a unique and, I guess, bright personality which is hard to explain to someone that doesn’t have a Frenchie. But someone that does have a Frenchie I think would look at your harnesses and your products and automatically kind of relate that to the personality of the French Bulldog.
Stew: Yeah, I think that’s actually a really good point. You know, I always describe Frenchies as having, like, very, like, human personalities. They have expressive faces, they show emotions, but they’re all, like…they’re, like, goofy. Like they like to kind of, like, goof around. And so, like, the fun harnesses or, like, just, like, the more, like, lighthearted stuff, I think, serves…you know, serves the market pretty well.
And it’s funny because, like, originally when we first launched, we were, like…our thing was going to be that we were going to be a little bit more, like, fashion-focused. Our thing… I was like, “You know what? We should try to do some more fashion patterns. Mix in obviously lots of, like, the fun and kind of, like, more lighthearted stuff, but offer some more of this,” because that’s something that, you know, was missing in the market. And we found very quickly that, like, we, one, liked working on the fun stuff a lot more and they were just, you know, for the most part, doing a little bit better, they were more popular with people.
And so we’ve really embraced that and still, you know, focused on having things that look great. They’re not just fun, but they’re also, like, pretty cool. You know, like, and we still have fashion patterns that do well, we did a Christmas plaid this year for the holidays that did very well. But, you know, most of the time we’re doing…we love doing fun stuff. You know, we’re in the United States and we love our food here, so doughnuts, pizza. You know, we have some more stuff that’s coming on the way that’s going to be along, like, kind of that same vein. And then just, like, thinking about what kinds of things people like and what could be fun on a harness.
Like that’s another thing that we, like…yeah, it kind of, like, stresses you out because you want to make sure that whatever you’re designing is something that people are going to like. But at the same time you’re just like, “Oh, what do people like? Like what can we can try?” That’s really cool. And so that’s how we come up with things like…you know, like dinosaurs, or, you know, in the past we’ve done, like, you know, sailor theme or sports. It’s fun.
And, like, you know, like, the other, like, great thing about the business, too, is that people always submit ideas. So we have no shortage of, like, good ideas that come from our customers. They’re always like, “Oh, man, you guys should do this.” And, like, a lot of time I’m just like, “Man, we should do that. Like, that’s a good idea.” And we know we have at least one customer here who will definitely buy it. So there’s, like…there’s no shortage of things that you can put on these harnesses, it’s great.
Will: Well, I think what you need to do is, like, observe your Frenchie for, you know, a couple of hours and you’ll probably come up with 1,000 different ideas.
Stew: Oh yeah, Clark is…he’s quite the muse.
Stew: Because he’s definitely one of those Frenchies that has that human personality. And he…one of the things that we’re going to do in 2021 is we’re going to have him and I in, like, more of our content, we’re going to do some videos. Some very, I would say, lighthearted goofy videos of us to kind of promote some of the harnesses, which is something that people have been asking for. So I’m very nervous to do that, but at the same time I think, like, you know, as long as he’s up for it and he’s not having, like, a flare-up of IVDD and he can get around. You know, filming something fun, I think we can probably give the customers what they want.
Will: Yeah, I think that would be a bit of fun for you, as well. It’s probably, like…the feeling of… You mentioned when you kind of design a new harness and you get the designs in or, you know, you get the first product in, it might be a similar feeling kind of when you produce a video, as well.
Stew: Yes, definitely. Like when we filmed… You know, the main video that we have is the one that you, I think, had mentioned…might have mentioned earlier. It’s, like, you know, a video that’s telling our story on our website. And that one is, like…it was, like, a…it was a very, very hard video to film, you know, emotionally. But, like, when it was done and I saw the finished kind of product, I was just, like…yeah, it was that same feeling. It was like, “Man, this is something special.” And, you know, it’s inspired me to keep doing, like, the same kind of stuff and, you know, reaching out and creating content for people that might be…might have gone through the same things that I did in the past.
With this content coming forward, we’ll probably do more content that speaks to…you know, takes a more kind of, like, serious tone and talks about, like, our values and what we stand for as a company and, you know, like what we believe we should be doing aside from just kind of selling stuff. But I think, like, right now it’s also time to kind of show off the kind of more lighthearted sense…or lighthearted side of, you know, me and Clark because, like, we’re two just incredibly goofy guys who have a good time running this business. And yeah, I think it’s definitely time to show off a little bit more of that, too.
Will: Yeah, for sure. And I think that, you know, obviously mirrors with the style of product that you’re selling, as well.
So you mentioned earlier kind of, you know, the harness for a French Bulldog is a more appropriate walking apparatus than the collar. Why is that? And are there other breeds… You probably mentioned the flat face breeds and things like that leading you down that path, I guess.
Will: But yeah, why harnesses over collars though, what makes them a better walking option?
Stew: Yeah. So, I mean, a veterinarian will give a very technical…like, very thorough, technical, medical, like, description of it. I’ll give you kind of, like, the easy kind of layman’s kind of description. But essentially it’s physiological, the way that their bodies are structured and where, you know, like, their pulling or if they’re kind of even just walking forward, where kind of, like, the…where the collar or harness is going to kind of, like, push or pull against their bodies, like where that weight displacement is going to occur. You know, it can cause, like…a collar can cause a lot of issues for them just because, you know, like, where their throats are, how they breathe, I mean the way their bodies are shaped.
So a harness is going to support them much, much better. It’s going to have… Like, you know, long-term they’re going to be much less likely to suffer issues with, you know, their backs or have, you know, exacerbated breathing issues. I think you’re going to see a trend where dogs overall are using harnesses more often. You’re already seeing it, even for large breeds, as vets realize more and more just how much better a harness is. Because, you know, it really is, like, you know, if a dog is pulling, especially a large dog with, like, high pull strength… Because that’s really how, you know, wearable dog accessories are…collars and harnesses specifically are kind of evaluated, you know, it’s based on the pull strength that they can withstand. But, like, in a harness that pull strength is kind of spread across the entire chest rather than just a very small section of the throat.
And when you hear it described like that, you’re like, you know, “That probably sounds like something that’s pretty good for any dog.” It’s just, like…it’s these dogs specifically need that. You know, a collar is bad, it’s just not the right thing to have them…if you’re leash walking them. You know, if they’re in the backyard and they’re running around off leash, yeah. You know, you can put a collar on them, have their ID tags. But, you know, if they’re walking on leash, you do not want them…especially since Frenchies, I’m sure you know, are a bit stubborn. They like to pull. You know, if they don’t want to go somewhere, they’re going to flop right down. Like you don’t want to have…be training them or guiding them on a leash or having them pull on a leash and have that kind of, like, pulling right against their neck, it’s not good.
So, you know, the harness is kind of the first step, and then beyond that, you know, there’s different types of harnesses that even, you know, within the same breed dogs can use based on their individual needs, as well.
Will: Yeah. I think I’ve heard it described as stress distribution before. So, like, kind of rather than having all the stress on the throat or the…yeah, of the dog, it’s just distributing it across the chest where they’ve…it’s allowed to be distributed, I guess.
Stew: Yeah, yeah. It’s the same kind of thing. Stress, weight, it’s the force of weight.
Stew: It’s basically, yeah, you don’t want all of that up against a dog’s throat, it’s not good.
Will: You mentioned, as well, I think some people might opt for a collar anyway so they can have the ID tags on their dogs as well as a harness. Is that something you’ve noticed with your customers, as well?
Stew: Yeah, we have a lot of people that will buy both the collar and the harness. We have some people that will put both on at the same time. Which is, you know…it’s interesting. Some do it for fashion reasons. Like, because I’ve asked, I was like, “Hey, you know, we’re trying to learn more about how people use our products, can you tell me about this?” And they’re just like, “Well, we just like the way it looks.” And, you know, that’s pretty cool, too. We have, you know, a D ring on our harnesses so that people can throw ID tags on there, as well. But most of the time I think it’s people want the ability to use either one for the right circumstances.
So a lot of the times, because we get tons of Instagram pictures that we’re tagged in, you’ll see that out on a walk they’re in the harness, most of the time they’re wearing the harness. And then if they’re kind of, like, lounging around at home or they’re clearly in, like, kind of an enclosed backyard, you know, they might be wearing the collar. But most of the time people, I think, you know, especially in the brachycephalic community, you know, Boston Terriers, pugs, Frenchies, they’ve got the harness on almost exclusively.
And, you know, collars, we do sell them, but they’re not necessarily, like, a big seller for us. You know, we have bundles that offer them, we sell them individually, but most people are coming to us for the harnesses. It’s just like, you know, if you have a Frenchie, you know, and, you know, you don’t want to spend a ton on dog products and you’d rather have more harnesses, you’re probably not buying collars. So yeah, I think that…and I think that’s the direction a lot of breeds are going to start to go.
Will: I guess it depends on your situation, as well. For example, I live in an apartment. So when we’re at home, my dog doesn’t wear anything because you’re inside, it’s fine, it’s not a big deal. But if you’re in a yard where he can potentially get out, maybe you’d prefer an ID tag. And you probably don’t want your dog wearing a harness all the time, right? Like it’s more so just for walking and things like that. So I guess there is the benefit of that from that perspective. But when it comes to walking, leash walking and things like that, the harness is probably the best option.
Stew: Yeah. You know, it’s funny, people always ask me, like, “Is Clark just constantly cycling through, you know, like 30 different harnesses, does he just have a close full?” And I say, “Clark is a normal dog, he likes to wear nothing.” You know, if he’s at home, right now, you know, he’s with me, he’s not wearing a harness. You know, the harnesses are for when he is, you know, going outside, we’re going for walks, it’s for the right time.
And I think when I tell people how to properly use a harness… Because there’s a lot of, like, new Frenchie owners who want to make sure that they’re not just putting them on their dog properly, but they’re also, like, using them properly. I say, “Hey, you know, like, you don’t have to put this on him all the time.” You know, your dog really should be wearing it when he needs to be wearing it. Because, like, your dog doesn’t want to wear anything. Even something that’s super comfortable, you know, like, most dogs are just going to want to run around with nothing on.
There are some dogs that will literally…you know, we get some messages from people that are like, “Yeah, your stuff is so comfortable, like, our dog likes to sleep in them.” And I’m just like, “Well, that’s great, but, like, just, you know, make sure that, like, they”… You know, because, like, any time a dog wears anything for an extended period of time, you know, it can cause potential skin issues and things like that. So just something for people to kind of be aware of. But, you know, if you’re using a high quality harness, whether it’s, you know, one of mine or somebody else’s, like, if it’s a high quality harness, it will be comfortable for your dog to wear. It will be, like, as comfortable as possible, I guess, for your dog to wear. He’s always generally going to prefer to wear nothing though.
Will: Yeah. Going nude around the house, I think, is their preference.
Stew: Yeah. Part of the Frenchie personality, just roaming around like nobody is watching.
Will: Yeah, exactly. So you mentioned before about picking the right harness. What kind of features am I looking for when I’m picking a harness?
Stew: It’s interesting, I think, like, you know, obviously it’s…there’s some stuff that’s, like, very breed-specific. So, you know, if you have a big dog, you need to make sure that whatever harness you’re putting on your dog will support its weight, its pull strength. You know, the physiology of a large dog and a small dog is not just kind of, like…in some cases it’s not just a case of, like, the dog being bigger and therefore being, like, an increment of, like… I’m trying to think of the right term. Like incrementally stronger. Like the actual structure of a lot of these dogs that are bigger is different, which means the physiological needs of a harness is going to be different.
So you want to get a harness that’s really built for a larger dog. You know, the smaller and, like, small to medium size dog market is really where the majority of harnesses kind of exist right now. There’s plenty for big dogs, but most of them are small and medium size dogs. And so when you’re looking there, I think, like, there’s different options for some individual needs. So there are some… You know, the traditional harness goes over the head, it’s usually a single side. You know, they have some mesh either on both sides or on the inside. You have a strap that goes around the back. And that’s kind of, like, your simple harness.
You’ll see plenty of different options in pet stores, on Amazon, at stores like mine. That will suit many small to medium size breeds as long as its high quality. If you have a dog with, like… You know, some dogs are really finicky about stuff going over their head or touching their ears. Or some dogs have, like, thick necks or they have a head that is proportionally just a little bit differently sized to their body. They might need a different type of harness.
So there are some harnesses that have adjustable necks. And these will be other single-sided harnesses, you’ll have an additional strap or two straps on the neck where you can actually loosen it and tighten it based on your individual dog’s needs. So, you know, those are great. You know, if you have a dog that’s super finicky about stuff touching their ears, it’s really hard to use a lot of conventional harnesses. So these allow you to fully loosen it up, put it over the dog’s head like, you know, nothing was there. It would be like putting on, like, an extra large T-shirt on, like, a small person, and then, like, tightening it so that it’s then comfortable and providing proper support.
You know, similarly if you have a dog with a kind of, like, elongated chest. Like, you know, a good example of this would be like a Dachshund, maybe a Corgi. But different breeds. Like some dogs kind of one-off just might have, like, a longer space between, like, kind of, like, the base of their chest and, like, up by the head and neck area. Step-in harnesses can be better for them just because they’re built a little bit more for that than a traditional harness. I have some customers that have Dachshunds that fit our harnesses great, I have others where they’re just like, “Hey, it’s just not long enough.” I’m just like, “Hey, we don’t make a step-in harness right now, but, you know, here are some ones we recommend, this is what you should do.”
You know, I think it’s really sad, like, sometimes where I have to tell somebody, like, “Hey, I know you love this harness that we make, but it’s not going to be right for your dog because of this thing.” The number one thing that you always look for in a harness is not necessarily what it looks like, but does it suit your dog’s health needs.
Stew: Always make sure that the dog’s health is number one. Because their health and comfort, you know, if you put them in the wrong type of harness, you know, and that can even be the right kind of harness but just too tight or too large, those things can cause problems. You know, basically it would be like the same thing for a human being. Like if you have a…like if you have shoes, like I have flat feet and I have joint issues. Like if I wear shoes that are too large for me or they don’t provide the right arch support, I’m going to exacerbate the issues that I have already and might develop new ones. It’s the same thing with this. This is, like, a support item, it’s providing support to their bodies. So you want to make sure that something fits right and is built for their type of body.
Now luckily most breeds, you know, it’s just a matter of finding the right size. You know, most harnesses out there, they’re well constructed to cover the needs of most small to medium size breeds and you can kind of pick something. There’s tons of options out there on the Internet. I mean there’s hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands and thousands, of different designs available in high quality harnesses. But just always remember that your dog’s health and safety is priority number one.
Will: Yeah. As you said, it’s much harder to find the right harness for, you know, a dog that has a different structure. So, you know, the bulldog breeds have the bigger heads and, you know, like a bit of a stout structure, whereas, like, the Dachshunds and things that have the longer bodies. So I guess that’s where the challenge comes in. If you’ve got…if your dog has a unique structure, whether it’s one of those breeds or another breed which is just a different structure, you really need to kind of do your research and try out some harnesses. And then once you’re happy with a brand or a style, then you can kind of, you know, get excited about getting all the beautiful designs at Beast & Buckle.
Stew: And it’s funny because, like, even for my company stuff… Because we work with our manufacturing partner to develop all the products and work with them on sizing. Like, my dog Clark who’s, you know, my little cofounder, he is actually kind of, like, an interesting fit on our own products. And I had to kind of… And I know this sounds weird, but, like, he’s got a very unique body shape for a Frenchie. And so I knew if I made something for him, it wouldn’t necessarily be, like, the ideal fit for most French Bulldogs or most Boston Terriers.
Now it fits well, it’s just like we have, like, based on his weight, most dogs that would be shopping with us would be wearing, like, an extra large reversible harness. He wears a large because his body is, like… Like if you’re a Frenchie owner, if you saw him, like, most of the time when we meet other French Bulldogs, he is, like, a full head longer and taller than most other Frenchies. He’s very tall, very lean. He looks like a Boston Terrier, but you can tell he’s a Frenchie.
So, like, he’s one of the only dogs that we have where… You know, like, we have two…we have a few different harness lines. Two of which size very similarly and he’s one of the only dogs where, like, he actually wears two different sizes in these two lines that size vary similarly.
So it’s kind of interesting when people are just like, you know, “Do you have any, you know, customers or dogs that you know that kind of, like, have some sizing issues?” And I was like, “Yeah, mine.” Like, I know it’s my own company, but, you know, like, I’m the example.
Will: Yeah, yeah.
Stew: But it’s all a matter of kind of trial and error, it’s just like humans. You know, like I think most people are probably…anybody who’s bought something, you know, from a clothing store online has probably returned something because it didn’t fit. Like I don’t think I’ve ever met one person who has got a 100% success rate ordering clothes online. You know, you’re going to order something, try it on your dog, and, you know, you’ll know pretty much right away if it’s going to be a good fit or not. And then you just, you know, return it, exchange it, and, you know, try to find something different.
In most cases if you find a company that you like, you know, it’s one exchange from one size to the next, whether that’s one size smaller, one size bigger, and you’re good. And then you can, you know, figure out how many harnesses you need, how often you want to buy one, what do you want to get with it. But, you know, the size thing is important once you’ve kind of identified which type of harness you want.
Will: Yeah, yeah, definitely. So with Beast & Buckle you’ve donated, you know, over $20,000 worth of product to rescue organizations, you also donate a portion of your profits, too. What made you choose that as an avenue for the business?
Stew: It was…it’s very important to me just because, like, I…you know, when you’re working in this space, and especially with French Bulldogs, I mean, like, it’s a…I’ve always cared so much about animals and dogs. And there are so many animals that have no one to speak for them, no one to help them. You know, they’re…like, you know, like dogs rely on us to take care of them. You know, kids, you have one, yeah, you have to take care of it. But eventually it becomes able to feed itself, it becomes able to make its own dinner, take care of itself. Dogs, you know, that’s not the case, they rely on you.
And so when you have dogs that have special needs, health issues, you know, they get dropped at shelters. I mean there are so many tragic stories, there are so many dogs that need help and not enough people, you know, doing enough to help them. There’s a lot of great people and a lot of organizations doing great things, but not enough of them are properly funded and not enough of them have enough recognition.
And so for me, you know, I’ve been very fortunate in my life to have success in my career, and so I don’t need to make all the money in the world. I have pretty simple hobbies, simple interests. You know, I’m never looking to, you know, own a yacht or some mansion or something like that. For me the real value is, you know, yes, I do need to put a roof over my head and support my family, but I want to be able to make a difference in the lives of all these animals.
And so, you know, the reason that that’s so important in the French Bulldog community is because, you know, with all these health issues that they’re having, you know, there’s a lot of them that are surrendered because their…you know, their owners can’t afford their medical bills. Or, you know, just, like, many dogs, and this is…you know, it’s awful but it does happen, you know, a lot of them are just abandoned by people because, “Oh, you know, it’s a senior dog and I want to get a puppy for the kids for the holidays. So we’re going to take our 10-year-old dog and drop him at a shelter.” Or, you know, their medical bills might not be the issue, but they just don’t want to take care of them anymore. I mean there are so many awful things that happen to these sweet, sweet dogs who literally want nothing more than just the love of their families.
And so we find the organizations that are having the best effect, like the most helpful effects in the lives of these dogs, and say, “How can we help?” And so early on the easiest way for us to do that is, you know, as a growing business who…you know, who’s tight on cash, is, like, “Hey, we’re producing products. You know, we are going to donate as much as possible, you know, to these organizations.” Because I don’t think you’re going to find a rescue, or an organization that works with rescues, who’s ever going to say, “Yeah, we’ve got enough leashes,” or collars or harnesses. Like they’ll always, always take them because they’re…like, they’re always in need.
And then, like, what we do now actually is we’re not just doing the percentage of profits. We’ve actually changed that to if somebody places an order on our website, we are donating 5% of that sale directly to charity. And so in the holiday season we’ve been able to raise tons of money that make a huge difference.
You know, we are primarily working with an organization called NOWA Foundation that helps people who rescue French Bulldogs pay medical expenses. Because that’s the number one barrier to people adopting Frenchies, is they’re worried that since the dog was most likely surrendered due to medical issues, they’re worried about being able to cover those medical costs. And so this organization steps in and says, “Hey, if you adopt this dog, we’re going to help you with that so we can make sure that this dog has a loving home.” Because obviously, you know, like, you don’t want, you know, a French Bulldog who’s sitting in a shelter or bouncing from, you know, foster to foster, you want them in their forever home.
And so we’ve been able to raise a ton of money for that. And then, you know, I think at this point I believe we’re above $25,000, potentially above $30,000, in retail value in terms of how much just pure product we’ve donated. Hundreds of harnesses, hundreds of leashes, hundreds of collars. And, like, that’s…I mean that’s the stuff… I mean, yeah, I get excited when we’re, like, you know, sales are good and we have new stuff coming, people are happy about that. But, like, when I hear back from organizations and they’re just so thankful that we’ve, you know, made a difference and taken them from, like, needing a ton of equipment to needing nothing really, I mean, there’s no better feeling. Like that’s what keeps the business going even on the days that are really difficult. It’s just knowing that we’re making that difference, it’s huge.
Will: Yeah, it’s great that you’re giving back to… I mean dogs give us so much, and obviously Clark in particular has helped you through some tough times. So giving back to that community is very good.
Stew: I mean I know the effect that my dog has had on me. And if I can do even 10% of what he did for me for some other dogs out there, I’ll be very, very happy. So, I mean, dogs do everything for us. We don’t deserve dogs, dogs are…they’re too good. They’re so much better than humans and, like, they’re just full of love. And so, like, I think, like, I try to live my life based on the mantra of, like, you know, be the person that your dog thinks you are. Like, that’s how I try to live. And I think if we keep doing what we’re doing with Beast & Buckle, I think I’m at least on my way there. And then if we can inspire other people to donate to these organizations, make them aware that there’s organizations out there that are helping dogs, that alone kind of, like, makes the work worthwhile. It’s a really great aspect of running this business.
Will: “Be the person your dog thinks you are,” I like that. Cool. Okay, so where can people go to find out more about Beast & Buckle, check out your story, and also see all your cool harnesses and other products?
Stew: The best place to buy our stuff is on our website, www.beastandbuckle.com. If you’re in the United States, we’re also available on Petco’s website, petco.com. They’re a big retailer here in the States. We’re not available in their physical stores yet, but we do sell online for them. But of course we would love to come see you at beastandbuckle.com. And if you reach out to us on our chat tool or call us or e-mail us, you will speak directly to me. I mean we’re a growing business that’s achieved a lot of success, but we always answer all of our messages personally. Me and Clark sitting there at a desk talking to people. Like no matter what, you don’t even have to want to buy anything. If you just want to talk about your dog, you can call us.
Will: Yeah. Ask things about their Frenchies, I’m sure you get a bunch of questions about that now.
Stew: Oh, those are my favorite calls. I love it when they’re just like, “Hey, we want to have one of your harnesses in the future, we’re thinking about getting a Frenchie.” And I’m just like, “All right, let’s talk, let’s do it.” And I sing the praises of the dog. So, but no matter what, if anybody wants to call us, I literally will be the person answering the phone.
Will: That’s good to know. So I’ll make sure we share the website and the socials and everything in the show notes and everywhere we publish the episode. But, Stew, thanks so much for coming on “The Dog Show” today, I’ve had a lot of fun talking about Frenchies and harnesses and hearing about your story. You’re doing some great stuff with rescue organizations, as well. So thanks so much for coming on.
Stew: Oh, it’s my pleasure, I can’t tell you how happy I am to record the show today. I’m just sorry that I recorded it with the mustache I’m growing here over the holidays.
Will: Adds a little bit of character, why not?
Stew: I have a face for radio, I think is the way they usually put it. But, you know, I occasionally make an appearance on video here, so this is a special occasion. But I’m very, very thankful that you had us on and thank you so much.
Will: Great. Well, have a good day.
Stew: You too.
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