From Dog Trainer to Dog Harness Creator: A Journey of Invention With a Cultural Shift

Joan Hunter Mayer TransPaw Gear

Since becoming a trainer and launching The Inquisitive Canine, I had always considered developing a dog harness thatwould not only help dogs and their owners enjoy adventures together, but that would also eliminate the need and use of more aversive equipment, such as choke and prong collars. (How fun can those really be?) I, along with my training clients, struggled to find a dog harness that would minimize their dogspulling without causing discomfort. Some dogs were hard to fit. Some clients struggled to understand how to put the dog harness on, or their fingers couldnt operate the clips. Worse still, some dogs had a finely honed talent for wiggling out of their harnesses. 

Joan Hunter Mayer Dog Trainer Santa BarbaraIn addition to these challenges, it seemed I needed two or three harnesses for my own dog when he and I headed out for adventures. I often joked that Poncho had more costume changes than Cher, with a harness for walking and running, one for sports, and another for those days when his exuberance was so great that I just wanted something that would prevent him from pulling me off my feet. I thought it would be wonderful if there was just one harness that met this diverse array of needs, something that was comfortable for him, easy to use, and functional for our needs — basically an all-in-one product.

When the time came to make that kernel of an idea a reality, I started looking at what it would take to develop a harness that actually had everything: functionality, ease of use, sturdiness and safety, and a no-frills design that still looked good. I had been telling clients for years about how much walking and adventuring can benefit the dog-human bond. I saw creation of this perfect harness as the first step in a broader cultural shift that I was committed to being part of.

TransPaw Gear Original Harness PrototypeAfter searching throughout the country, I found a group of experts who shared my vision. With the support of my friends and family, I traveled to Ohio to work with a team of soft goods engineers to craft my new product, bringing ideas, concepts, and dreams to fruition. Dog owners themselves, the engineers I met at Priority Designs were excited to help. Spending a week together, we developed 20 early designs that were slowly honed into one final concept. Upon returning to Santa Barbara, I collaborated with a few other soft goods manufacturers, producing prototypes based on the original. Each was tested with dogs and their owners. After years of R&D, I was proud to be able to say the TransPaw Gear Happy Harness was ready! The first manufacturer, based in Rancho Cucamonga, was kind enough to offer a small run (which is virtually unheard of in the soft goods industry, especially with something as detailed as the Happy Harness). TransPaw Gear officially launched in November 2017.

Although the product was beautifully crafted, the original manufacturer did not have the resources to produce higher quantities or meet a price point that most consumers could afford. I hit the pavement (and Google) again, searching for a company that would meet the same high standards, understand the TransPaw vision, and fulfill the needs of customers. Fortunately, I crossed paths with Mike Hexter, owner of HEXCORP, a California-based product development company that also offered soft goods manufacturing options for clients. The Happy Harness underwent another round of prototype testing before a new batch was produced. The Happy Harness is now being made overseas through HEXCORP, but it is still the same outstanding quality as when it was produced here in the United States.

TransPaw Gear Dog HarnessLike The Inquisitive Canine, TransPaw Gear is a small but mighty operation focused on the core values of integrity, transparency, and compassion, to name a few. With help from some great people, I run TransPaw Gear while always keeping one eye on the mission of bringing dogs and humans together. My goal is for people to love their Happy Harnesses almost as much as they love their dogs! I’ve thrown my heart and soul into the creation of the harness, and strive to continue to operate with the same values, integrity, and inspiration every day. The only difference now is that our current dog, Ringo Starr, has only one costume change for unleashing adventures and harnessing fun! 

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