In 2021, PULLER, a dog fitness tool, celebrates its tenth anniversary. From a bold idea, It has become a world-renowned dog sports tool that has been used in the Dog Puller World Championship. But the real story of PULLER began much earlier. Yuriy Sinitsa, founder and CEO of COLLAR, and The inventor of PULLER, Serhii Shkot, talks about when and how it happened.
Please, сould you tell us more about PULLER and accessories?
Y.S. It isn’t just a toy; it is a fitness and learning tool for the animal. We say that it creates a new connection level between dogs and parents. PULLER consists of two violet rings made of composite materials developed by COLLAR. In 2010, we were searching for suitable materials and researching light industry and automobile manufacturing. We started to experiment and then found the solution. Our materials make PULLER both durable and soft. It is also interesting for the animal: the rubber toys aren’t very comfortable for dogs. We even got some jocular reviews asking what drugs we add to our rings to make pets love them so much. We’re glad to say nothing! PULLER is totally safe, non-toxic, and has no odor. The dog can play with it as a reward. The only thing pet parents have to keep in mind is that pets can still chew the rings into pieces if left with them unsupervised. PULLER is made for training, not for constant playing.
Now, the team adds comic strips to each PULLER set. A couple of minutes of comic reading explains how to use the tool explicitly.
S.S. We also create lots of additional accessories: gloves which are already on the market, bags, and tools for beginners with big dogs will be available soon.
How did the idea of the fitness tool appear?
S.S. The PULLER’s conceptual ancestors were focus mitts used for boxing training. The boxing experience of the two items, one in each hand, was very suitable for the dog training routine. The main idea was to make the dog move from one hand to another. The sticks weren’t safe and comfortable enough for this kind of training.
I tried children’s bicycle tires. The rubber may seem the most suitable material that provides both elasticity and durability. But the tires couldn’t endure long training and, importantly, they could harm the dog’s teeth after the activity. The team needed another material. And again, they turned back to the focus mitts concept, safe for training.
How was this idea made real?
S.S. I offered the concept to many companies, even to the leaders of the foreign markets that now sell PULLER as COLLAR Company’s partners. The other dog trainers were also skeptical about it. When I showed the prototype to Yuriy Sinitsa, he took it for one evening to try with his dog. Then, he decided to manufacture it with some improvements, especially with the material.
Y.S. Serhii and I talked about naughty dogs a lot. Why do some of them stop listening to their parents at the very moment of unfastening the leash? What the “magnet” connecting people and pets can be? Serhii described the concepts of the two items and showed Yuriy the prototype ring (it was just a tire for a children’s bicycle at that time). Serhii demonstrated that the dogs became much more obedient during the routine with the rings. They decided that this concept may result in a revolutionary product if combined with the right philosophy. The product had the potential to become much more than an ordinary toy.
The naming was also quite interesting. Serhii nicknamed his rings “bullets” (puli) because they were flying, metaphorically, with a bullet speed. I liked the pulling more because the dogs became the most excited they had ever been. I suggested the name PULLER which combined the two, and it was a cool and unique name. This uniqueness allowed us to register the PULLER trademark worldwide.
How did you get pet parents to try PULLER?
S.S. At the start of our first expo with PULLER, we hoped to sell a hundred rings, but we just had to keep bringing new boxes from the car. When we got the test items back in 2011, we took the bag with PULLER rings and just went to the dog walkers in the neighborhood. We showed them how to use the new products, and in mere hours our bags were empty! The whole expo was violet; everyone had PULLER.
Later, the experience was different. There were excited letters; there were rejection and doubts.
Tell us more about the Dog Puller international sport?
Y.S. We managed to show people the Dog Puller philosophy to thousands of people all over the globe, and it turned into a global movement. Now, Dog Puller is one of the fastest-growing dog sports in the world. The International Federation of Dog Puller, led by President Varvara Petrenko, was created. The National Federations already exist in many countries . Ten to twenty official competitions are held each year, and hundreds of sportspeople participate.
We are waiting for the 15 teams on the next World Championship: from Canada, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Portugal, Germany, Ukraine, Japan, Israel, South Korea, the USA, Belarus, and Russia.
S.S. Dog Puller is based on the exercises developed by me. But my best decision was to trust Varvara Petrenko, the President of the International Federation of Dog Puller and not insist on something that would have been an obstacle. For example, I wanted the Puller Running field to be 50 meters and more to throw PULLER far; I also wanted the Puller Jumping performance to be three minutes. But if I’d insisted, Dog Puller could not have survived. The current Dog Puller rules define the Puller Running field as 30 meters long; the Puller Jumping performance is 90 seconds.
What did Puller’s experience teach you?
Y.S. If you have an excellent product with great potential, you have to grow and take the market as fast as possible. The fast you do it, the stronger your defense will be because the customer is the final judge. If your product is popular, you don’t have to be afraid of competitors or plagiarism. If it’s not, no patents will save you.
The second essential thing: if you create something new, you must have a solid immunity to criticism. In the beginning, the employees of COLLAR did not believe this idea: just two simple violet rings, why the CEO is so excited, it will just be another ordinary toy. But PULLER became one of the company’s headliners. Now, it is sold in 70 countries worldwide, two Dog Puller World Championships were held already, and without the quarantine, it would have been an annual event. We do hope to hold the next World Championship this year, though.
Our main experience in this story is: if you feel that this product is yours — go forward despite all odds. To the inevitable success.