Outdoor loving people typically revel in taking their four-legged best friend along for adventures. However, many explorers need a way to make a car ride to the trailhead easier, safer and cleaner. That’s where Kurgo Dog Products comes along for the ride.
The idea for the company came when co-founder Kitter Spater’s 70-pound plott hound mix named Zelda was repeatedly playing “super-dog” during transit. Every time Kitter would drive somewhere with Zelda, she’d end up skidding over the center console. Finally, Kitter realized that there must be a safer way to travel with her.
Kitter, who has a background in industrial design, created the Backseat Barrier, a cloth boundary that latches across the back of the front seats to close off the arm rest, and any possibility of entry. Up top, there’s a mesh window so that the dog and its two-legged person can still see one another.
Soon after designing the Backseat Barrier, Kitter and his brother Gordon realized that a niche was missing in the market—a dog travel accessories company that could meet the needs of outdoor loving people. They saw a demand from those who might be going to and from the trailhead, and need to protect their hound from driving hazards, as well as their vehicle’s interior from whatever the paws might track in.
More than ever before people are bringing their dogs with them when they leave the house, Gordon explained. Close to half of the U.S. population were dog owners in 2012—a number which continues to grow—and 32 percent of dog owners bring their dogs along when they travel for two or more nights on the road.
Inspired by companies such as Patagonia and Prana, as well as their own parent’s entrepreneurship (they owned a t-shirt printing shop in Vermont in the 1970s), Gordon and Kitter wanted to help people get out of their house and enjoy time with their dog.
When the brothers launched the company, it was an out-of-basement operation. Kitter was earning a masters degree for industrial design at the Pratt Institute, and the school agreed to let him use an incubator space; specifically, a broom closet in a basement, and his brother Gordon worked out of his own basement in Boston. Then, the two moved to Newburyport together, opened an office and began exporting from a facility in Chicago, with manufacturing done overseas.
While Kurgo Dog Products also creates a handful of doggie toys, the company is centrally focused on providing folks with dog travel gear that’s functional and adaptable, with everything from zip lines and crash-tested harnesses to booster seats, with some accessories that double for trail use. But, first and foremost, Kurgo Dog Products make the car ride as ideal as possible for both the pooch and the one behind the wheel.
“We want to help people handle the guilt they have of leaving the house to go to work without their dog, and focus on encouraging people to take their dog with them on the weekend or on vacation, and enjoy that bonding experience with their dog,” explained Gordon.
Where have you gone with your dog as co-pilot?