Ruffwear Reflects on 10 Years With Avalanche Rescue Dog Organizations

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Building performance products for dogs, products that reflect the design attributes, high-quality materials and durability we’ve come to expect in our own gear, is something Ruffwear has strived to provide since its start in 1994. 

“Spending time exploring the outdoors with our canine partners is a large part of how we build better gear. But about 10 years ago, I realized we needed testers and ambassadors that were tougher on their gear—rigorously putting it through the paces, outside more often than in, and willing to provide feedback to help us make better gear. With Mt. Bachelor in our backyard, it dawned on me that avalanche search and rescue dogs were the perfect fit,” said Patrick Kruse, President and founder of Ruffwear. 

Avi dogs work in extreme conditions that require a range of gear, and that gear must be durable and functional. Avi dogs also have a great connection to the outdoor industry, as they are typically involved in work around ski areas and backcountry recreational sites. There are very few dog handlers that have to be as in tune with their dogs because of the extreme conditions and life-saving nature of the job. Most avi dogs will put a year of wear and tear on their gear in just a few months of daily work. 

In 2010, with a growing interest and participation from resorts and SAR organizations, Ruffwear decided to put a more formal program together. Today, Ruffwear’s Avalanche Rescue Dog Uniform Program provides certified working avalanche dogs with a Web Master™ Harness, Headwater™ waterproof/reflective Collar and a Quick Draw™ Leash, at no cost. For the receiving organization, this enables all the dogs in the program to have high performance gear designed for the elements they are working in, as well as provide a consistent, professional look. For Ruffwear, the program provides an invaluable process of testing and feedback and helps to generate new product ideas. 

"Ruffwear is proud to support dozens of avalanche rescue teams around the United States and Canada. Joined by their handlers, many of these avalanche dogs train in their environment everyday during the winter season ensuring the safety of visiting skiers and snowboarders. Our products enable them to perform safely and comfortably even in the most adverse conditions. In return, we get valuable feedback on how our gear performs in the field. This weighs heavily in future designs and improvements to our product line,” said Greg Freyberg, Brand Manager for Ruffwear. 

“Through the Avalanche Rescue Dog Uniform Program, we have made countless modifications to the Web Master™ Harness, for example. We removed the fleece belly pads, added tri bar adjusters, and introduced the Doubleback™ Harness, all from handler feedback. This elite group not only puts our products through the ringer, they absolutely need it to be reliable, so they let us know when something is not working the way they need it to,” said Freyberg. 

Today, some of the country’s top avalanche dog programs participate in Ruffwear’s program, including Alta, Aspen/Snowmass and Bridger Bowl ski patrols, and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue. Ruffwear also attends yearly avalanche dog schools to continue to volunteer, gather feedback and keep current on the changing demands on the dogs. All of this has resulted in gear that not only works effectively in extreme environments but can stand the test of time.

“Ever since I became a dog handler, Ruffwear has been a presence in my training,” said Betsy Nelson, Mt. Bachelor Ski Patrol and Avalanche Dog Rescue Handler. “The Web Master™ Harness is integral to our day-to-day life on the slopes as it not only helps to identify the dogs as mountain employees, but is essential to our training and lift rides. Most of the younger dogs require a "hands on" technique when riding the chairlifts and the harness handle is essential for us to maintain control of the dogs.”

“Ruffwear is by far the best (dog gear) on the market. The equipment is carefully thought out and is the best fitting and most durable available. The Doubleback™ Harness is the standard for lowering and protection for the dogs in lift evacuation scenarios. The staff at Ruffwear have assisted in the training and educational schools here with Wasatch Backcountry Rescue. They are not only dog people but the skills they have in proper timing and training techniques has made them an asset at our schools,” said Paul Santana, Dog Program Director at the Canyons Resort and Wasatch Backcountry Rescue member.

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For more information on Ruffwear’s Avalanche Rescue Dog Uniform Program, please contact Greg Freyberg at greg@ruffwear.com. The program is open to current working certified avalanche rescue dogs associated with a resort or search and rescue organization. 

Ruffwear's mission is to build performance product to enhance and inspire outdoor adventures for dogs and their human companions. By combining technology, quality, fit, function, and safety, Ruffwear guarantees the craftsmanship and performance of all of its products. Based in Bend, Oregon, Ruffwear gear can be found at national and international specialty pet and outdoor retailers as well as at www.ruffwear.com. For sales inquiries, please contact Dove Gibson, dove@ruffwear.com.

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