Making a Splash
Barton O’Brien, founder and CEO of BAYDOG, explains how this young company is helping independent pet retailers stand out with a growing lineup of high-quality dog accessories.
When/how was BAYDOG founded? What are your core product categories?
A couple years ago, I decided to quit my job on Wall Street to start my own business. At the time, I had no idea what that would be… I just knew I was done working for someone else and tired of the Wall Street culture. But before starting a business, the very first thing I did after I left my job was get a puppy—a fat, little, white Labrador retriever named Walter.
One day while playing fetch with Walter in the park, I ended up with a slobbery tennis ball that I didn’t want to touch, let alone carry home. That same day, the cheap plastic poop bag dispenser on my leash broke and the roll of poop bags unraveled all down the sidewalk. Later that evening, I left a bunch of training treats in my pocket, which turned into a disaster when I put my pants through the laundry. I thought to myself, “I can create a product to solve all three of these problems.” The result was our first product—what is now called the Frisco Bay Treat Pouch. It’s a magnetic treat pouch that mounts to the base of your leash handle and has a poop bag dispenser on one side and a mesh tennis ball holder on the other.
I created The Chesapeake Bay Dog Company and the brand BAYDOG last year, after moving to Maryland and attending the Maryland Waterfowl Festival. The Chesapeake Bay region is the best in the world for duck hunting, cultivating a culture of sporting dogs and retrievers. Also, our home of Annapolis, Md., is the sailing capital of the U.S., and there isn’t a sailboat in the bay without a dog on board. So, we set out to create a brand that embodied that Chesapeake Bay lifestyle. We make gear that is stylish and looks sharp, whether your dog is on the town or on the water, but is also functional and durable enough to use hunting, swimming or hiking.
To date, we have launched 150 SKUs in six categories—harnesses, leashes, collars, outerwear, treat pouches and toys—with more coming soon.
What makes BAYDOG stand out in the marketplace?
At BAYDOG, we recognize that we’re in a crowded space. Retailers have hundreds—if not thousands—of brands to choose from in the dog accessory category, so if we’re going to survive, we need to differentiate ourselves.
First, we provide the highest quality products in the market at exceptional price points. BAYDOG products compete with the top brands in the industry, as far as quality, but are priced affordably. We just don’t think people want to pay $40 for a dog harness. Our Chesapeake Harness is as nice as anything on the market, and it starts at $28.95.
Second, we are dedicated to independent brick-and-mortar retail. We are not on Amazon or Chewy, and we’re never going to be. Additionally, we have the strictest MAP policy in the industry. Our retail partners never have to worry about being undersold online. We are working every day to protect the brand for our retail partners. That means only working with a select group of regional distributors and independent sale reps, and staying out of big-box and discount stores.
Third, we guarantee our products 100 percent. If a customer returns a harness, leash or any of our products for any reason, we’ll either replace it or give a refund, no questions asked.
What are some of BAYDOG’s newest and most popular products?
Our most popular product is the Chesapeake Harness. It’s made for medium to large dogs and incorporates a thick, padded chest plate that won’t chafe like other strap-constructed harnesses. It has three leash attachment points (including one on the chest to counter pulling), reflective stitching throughout and a padded handle on the top. The handle is really the feature that sets this product apart; it’s great for controlling your dog in any situation.
Our newest products are the Saginaw Bay Fleece and the Glacier Bay Coat. I believe they are the best products we’ve launched to date, and they are priced very competitively. The Saginaw Fleece has a water-resistant outer shell that secures to your dog with Velcro under the neck and belly. All sizes retail for less than $30. The Glacier Bay coat has a quilted liner, a waterproof outer shell, a fleece-lined neck with a drawstring and flaps that cover the dog’s rear end. Both coats are reflective for nighttime safety, and both have a dual-tabbed zipper on the back for leash access to a collar or harness.
Next month, we are launching our Saranac Pack, a harness with removable saddlebags that is loaded with extra features. It will sell for about half the price of competing dog backpacks. PB