The following post is brought to you by Squeaker. We’re very paw-ticular about our partners and only feature those we think are top dog.
So what goes into designing one of the most innovative and effective light-up LED dog collars and leashes on the market? And how do you go from a “light bulb” moment to full-blown production? We sat down with the founder, director, and lead designer of Squeaker, Christopher Forcucci, to discuss the role technology plays in the pet industry — and how it can be used to improve the lives of pet parents and dogs alike!
What is Squeaker?
We like to think of ourselves as a PetTech company, or at least that’s how we have been described as in the media, which I think is a fair statement. I mean, whether you choose to accept it or not, technology is here to stay. It’s an integral part of our day-to-day lives. I read a book recently called ‘Hybrid Reality’ and the author proclaims that we are living in the ‘Hybrid Age’, that civilization or humans as a species are evolving with technology. Does this mean we will have square eyes and larger thumbs in 300 years time? Who knows? But what I do know is that the pet industry is lagging way behind in the field of ‘Tech’ in regards to utilizing and implementing even the most basic technologies into the daily lives of domestic pet ownership. Which is a shame because I believe we can use technology to create products that connect pets and humans harmoniously. Interacting, protecting, understanding and ultimately enjoy our pets more than ever before.
Why did you decide to develop a light-up dog collar and leash?
So it’s 2011, I’m riding home and I almost get taken out by one of those extendable dog leads. The owner was on one side of the path and her dog was on the other with the leash strewn across the bike path. So here I am rolling along, then at the last-minute you know, I see the leash. I swerve to avoid them, luckily I missed the dog and the owner but unfortunately for me I failed to miss a river and in I go. After that close call I thought, “Wouldn’t it be handy if those leads and collars lit up” and here we are!
How did the name Squeaker and its balloon dog logo come about?
When it came to creating a brand image for Squeaker it was really important for me that we were honest. Ultimately people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. I can probably go on about how much we love and care for dogs but that’s a given. Let’s be honest, if you don’t like dogs you clearly have issues and you would probably own a cat.
One Friday night I was sitting around breaking down ideas on what we would call this new ‘PetTech’ company. I’m going through the motions and looking at other company mission statements, all of which are either uninspiring or full of marketing spin. I look over at the couch and see Buddy (Our Bulldog Mascot) sitting there in this humanlike upright position, one paw on the arm of the couch and the other in his lap just watching the TV. I’m all alone, just me and this dog and I start laughing, he turns to me with this typical Bulldog face looking at me like WTF are you laughing at which of course sent me into hysterics. Once I calmed down I had this ‘light bulb moment’. “Happiness”. No spin just pure and simple. Dogs make you happy. So I thought OK, Squeaker, as a brand needs to throw out happy vibes in every aspect of everything we do.
When it came to the logo I knew I wanted the balloon dog. First up it looked fresh but beyond aesthetics the balloon dog symbolizes happy childhood memories. Who doesn’t remember going to a party having a balloon dog made and being fascinated by it? It’s also widely accepted that the balloon dog is a Poodle, one of the most intelligent and unique dog breeds in the world. The balloon dog as a concept really symbolizes what we aim to achieve. Fascination, intelligence, wonderment and fun. As for the name? It’s attention grabbing by name and by nature, it’s memorable and it just so happens that a Squeak is the sound a balloon dog makes. If you’re using our products you’re a Squeaker.
What kind of challenges did you face in creating your product?
First up every component of the Poochlight has been considered from the battery to getting the button to make a clicking noise, color matching the logos the stitching patterns etc., but the biggest challenge was getting the lighting right. I really wanted that continuous ‘TRON’ look. There are other collars that have multiple LEDs studded onto the collar but to me the design wasn’t clean. I wanted clean solid uninterrupted light. That was the absolute biggest challenge, actually finding LEDs that were bright enough to carry the light all the way through the fiber strips without having the fabric absorb the illumination and muddying up the look and all this without killing the battery life. Every single competitors collar we tested had this issue except the Poochlight and that comes from a LOT of development and testing. Every component on our products have been measured and considered it took a good year to get it to where it is now and we’re very proud of it.
Can you tell us a little more about the technology of Poochlight?
For starters we source some of the best LED technology available. So much so that we actually ship the Yellow LEDs in the Yellow Gold Poochlight models from another part of the country because the ‘Super LEDs’ we use aren’t readily available and we didn’t want to compromise on brightness. Most people think ‘oh yeah light up collar cool they are all the same’. That’s what I thought until I compared them side-by-side.
The main difference between our products is that we have more than 1 LED. Our competitors with the TRON style continuous strip collars have 1 on one side of the collar or leash and the light discolors as it travels down the strip. So we have minimum of 2 LEDs on our extra small and small models and 4 on our medium and large sizes and 4 on the leash. We also have dual strips, which to my knowledge we are the only collar and leash that has this design. We do this because 1) it looks better, 2) it’s brighter and 3) it’s more flexible and comfortable for the dog and when using the leash. Beyond that we have the splash resistant casings and of course the charging via USB which our customers really appreciate giving them over 10 hours of battery life, meaning you should only need to charge it once a week.
What are some concerns for people who walk their dog at night?
Getting knocked over or injured is the main one. Also losing track visually of your dog especially dark colored dogs. Sure you can say, “They didn’t see me” but at the end of the day accidents happen and it’s really up to us as caretakers of these pets to stay as visible as possible. Be proactive rather than reactive, this is the value of the Poochlight range. While we don’t guarantee that you’re going to be seen 100% of the time by everyone everywhere in all scenarios and conditions, Poochlight really does improve your chance of being spotted at dusk and at night. I mean these products really are bright, even Australia’s top Vet Dr. Chris Brown said on National TV that “This could save lives!”
How does Poochlight differ from other glowing collars?
Quality and attention to detail for starters and the fact that we have extensively tested for practicality, visual impact and durability, it’s all been considered. There is real development and testing behind all of our Squeaker products. We must be doing something right as there are a number of cheap imitations popping up lately which is flattering, but for our customers I say, just make sure you’re buying the genuine article. Authentic Squeaker products are currently available exclusively from our website only. We’re so committed to being the best that I actually pulled the first run of collars off the production line at the 11th hour just as they were about to ship, because I really wanted the button to have a clicking sound and tactile response. That’s the difference.
What are some other ways we can keep our dogs safe from street dangers?
Other than using a Poochlight collar and leash? Listen. I always say to people it’s great to be illuminated and visible but there is still no guarantee that you’re going to be seen. More often than not you’re going to hear a cyclist, car, pedestrian before you see them so jack down the headphone volume a little bit and be aware of your surroundings because at the end of the day, you’re the one responsible for keeping your pet safe.
What’s next for Squeaker?
Without giving too much away we have some very exciting products in development. Launching next year we have our harness range that is currently being tested. These are for XS and Small dogs only at this stage. These are very special and we’re excited to debut them in 2015. In addition, we’re in the middle for developing a range of products outside of collars and leads that’s really going to turn the industry on its head. As you can probably guess it’s all technology based and it’s pretty exciting stuff. I believe pet owners are really going to embrace our new range.
Do you have any questions for Christopher? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
BONUS: Interested in trying out a Squeaker Poochlight collar and leash? Right now, Squeaker is offering 10% off matching sets! Get ’em while they’re hot, kids.