I hate pet gear. So does my dog Elvis, a rescued Boston terrier/chihuahua mutt who is my family’s best buddy. Everything on the market is either cheaply made or poorly designed. It’s a sentiment that Minali Chatani, the cofounder and head of brand at Wild One, is familiar with. “The idea to create Wild One [emerged] when we realized that somehow pets were not being represented at all when it came to lifestyle brands and products,” she says over FaceTime. The Brooklyn-based startup was founded in 2017 by a group of pet and design lovers, and it shows in their first batch of products, which launched in September 2018. Chatani’s mission with the fledgling startup is simple: “make pet products that look good and work well.”
That’s easier said than done, based on my experience with other brands. So I decided to put Wild One’s promises to the test, trying out their brand of no-nonsense, ultra-functional gear for two months.
Every time I needed to buy Elvis a new harness (after the old one inevitably got destroyed or too gross because they’re so hard to clean), I would face an endless list of crappy nylon harnesses that not only looked terrible but were a pain to put on but didn’t seem to feel comfortable for Elvis, whose skin they squeezed when they were too tight and irritated whether they were too lose.
Wild One’s $75 harness is a whole other animal. The company says this $75 dog garment is made with non-toxic, pet-safe components–in fact, they’re the same materials you find on human-grade mountaineer gear, from the large, cushioned stretch-poly base that feels extremely soft to the touch to the large woven straps that never touch your dog’s body. Its surface is big, which distributes the force of the leash pull across most of the dog’s core. It’s also really easy to put on, with dual attachments that lock over the dog’s back, not on the side or the underbelly. Elvis, who was always itching and trying to take his harness off, now just lays around in it.
There are other clever design details, like dual attachment points for the leash that are made of carbon steel coated with a rubber material. Why the coating? So it doesn’t make any noise when you attach the leash. It’s a brilliant touch that totally eliminates the annoying cling-clang metal-to-metal sound of all harnesses I’ve seen. The totally silent walking is a blessing. It’s also really easy to wash, both with a wet rag or in the washing machine.
The startup’s leash is another example of quietly smart design. It’s not retractable, which in addition to being terribly annoying, easily gets tangled and can lead to serious injuries to both dogs and people. Plus, according to experts, retractable leashes lead to bad habits for dogs, too.
Instead, Wild One’s designers figured out another way to make their leash adaptable to the kind of walk you want. Made with a core of woven nylon with a flexible polymer coating, it features two zinc-alloy snap hooks. One gets attached to one of the two d-rings on the harness. The other is located at the end of leash. When you want to give your dog more freedom of movement–say, at the park–you attach the end hook to the nearest d-ring, turning the short segment of the leash into a handle. When you want to restrict movement, you attach the end hook to the d-ring in the middle of the leash. That way you effectively halve the length of the leash, keeping your dog near you in a busy urban environment. It’s a simple and clever solution for pet owners who want the flexibility of a retractable leash–but not the safety and behavioral hazards they bring.
Wild One also debuted a collar, carrier, and bed. The $45 collar is made exactly like the leash, with the same woven nylon core and the easily washable rubber-like polymer coating. The $180 carrier is very simple and compact, with a padded base, internal collar attachment in case your dog gets a bit anxious inside, and a weather-resistant shell.
They’re both nice, but not as nice as the bed, which is made of 100% virgin poly memory foam with a soft, double-layered cover that’s easy to clean. Inside, a water-resistant liner keeps the foam safe from any accidents or wet hair situations. I got the medium $175 version (which was too big for Elvis), but there’s a $125 small and $225 large model, too. Another favorite is the startup’s $25 4-cup-capacity bowl, which is made of food-grade stainless steel and coated outside with the same rubber material as the rest of Wild One’s products. It also has an integrated silicon ring on the bottom, to keep it in place if your dog is as permanently ravenous as Elvis is.
Meanwhile, Wild One’s poop bags are a bit on the too-expensive side. They may be extra thick, but $10 for 60 bags is hard to justify in my city, which offers free poop bags for everyone. The company’s $10 tennis balls are also too expensive–any old are also a pass for me, as any old tennis ball will work for Elvis. But in general, while the company’s design might fetch higher prices, it tends to be worth it. Sure, you can buy a harness on Amazon for $20. But I’ve tried many, and they all disappointed me. Is paying three times that worth it for durable materials and smart design? To me–and Elvis–the answer is yes.