Honestly, Tuggo is the result of a happy accident. A series of happy accidents really. I’ll tell you how it happened.
I was relaxing on the porch at my parents’ place one sunny Sunday afternoon. We looked out in the yard and noticed our two 90-pound boxers going crazy over something. It turned out a bowling ball of all things. To this day, I have no idea how the bowling ball got there, but the dogs kept pushing it around and trying to get their mouths around it. They just couldn’t leave it alone.
That’s when the idea hit me.
I found a drill bit strong enough to drill a hole all the way through the ball. Then I threaded a piece of rope through the hole, tying a big knot at both ends. Both dogs now got even more excited than ever. We couldn’t stop laughing at the epic tug-of-war. And Lulu and Roscoe couldn’t stop playing. We’d never seen anything like it.
The next day, my mom came home from work. Normally the boxers are always at the gate to greet her, but they were nowhere to be found. Eventually she discovered them both sleeping soundly inside the house. This seemed odd, until she found the bowling ball 100 yards away. The dogs had dragged their new toy around and played with it until they were completely exhausted. We’d never seen anything like it.
I’m an entrepreneur at heart. So my mind raced as I tried to figure out a way to give dogs everywhere the chance to have this much exercise and fun. But drilling out bowling balls didn’t seem like any way to start a business. Can you imagine the shipping cost?
It seemed to me that filling a hollow plastic ball with water would be the next best thing. Actually, it turned out to be even better. I started making prototypes by hand, and realized that being able to vary the water level meant I could customize the weight and resistance to suit any dog’s strength, weight and activity level. Plus you could take the empty ball anywhere – throw it in a backpack or whatever.
The early handmade versions were a huge hit everywhere I took them. It was time to get serious.
So I came up with the product name, set up manufacturing and started selling Tuggo wherever I could. We even opened a kiosk in a big mall near Nashville. The world’s only water-weighted dog toy pretty much sold itself anywhere we took it.
A big break came in July 2014 when Tuggo managed to get a booth at the SuperZoo pet industry trade show in Las Vegas. Even though we were tucked back in a corner, all of our product sold out quickly. But more importantly, we got a ticket to participate in PetSmart’s Innovation Station awards. Only a handful of companies get to participate, so I was super grateful.
I still shake my head when I think about it, but PetSmart actually chose Tuggo for the award. Everything went into fast-forward at that point. And suddenly, less than six months after forming my company, our invention was selling briskly in over 1,100 PetSmart stores across the U.S. and Canada. Since then, Tuggo has been featured on NBC’s Today show and in the New York Times.
I can’t count the number of times people have offered to buy my company. But I’ve never had more fun in my life, and it rarely feels like work when you love what you do. So Tuggo remains an independent family-run business.
I hope your dogs get the chance to play with Tuggo. We’ve also got a bunch of new pet toys in development and testing. If you want me to let you know when a new product comes out, sign up for our mailing list and I’ll make sure you get the news.
Thanks for visiting. All of us here at team Tuggo really appreciate your support.