We research, scrutinize, and review a ton of dog products to help our readers care for their pets in the best possible way.
In most cases, several different manufacturers produce products for each category. They each tend to have different strengths and weaknesses, and they usually vary in terms of price, features, and options.
But there are a handful of situations in which a single company, brand, or manufacturer simply crushes the competition.
That doesn’t mean that these products are always the best choice for every situation (especially if you’re on a budget), but you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with these incredible dog products before making a selection.
We’ll talk about a few of the category-leading products and the companies that make them below.
Characteristics of the Ultimate Doggie Brands
There are a few characteristics most niche-dominating dog products have in common. A few of the most notable include:
They Often Feature a Technological Advancement
One of the easiest ways for a manufacturer to stand head-and-shoulders above the competition is through innovation.
By making products that can do things that similar products can’t (or do them in a better way), canine product manufacturers are often able to stand out from the crowd.
This is a really common phenomenon in the consumer electronics space, and it also occurs in the pet category (especially pet-related products that feature electronic components).
They’re Usually Pricey
When you’re the best in the business, you can often charge more than your competitors, so dominant products often cost a good bit more than the alternatives.
Additionally, many of the leading products in any given category feature high-quality materials and superior craftsmanship, which can both result in higher prices too.
That doesn’t mean the most expensive product in a category is always the best, but you’ll usually need to pay more for high-end products.
It’s also worth noting that – depending on you and your dog – you may not always need the best, highest-quality item available.
For example, Ruffwear makes an incredible harness that is specifically designed to ultra-breathable and comfortable for all-day hiking.
So, it’s awesome for outdoor adventurers and dogs who love hitting the trail.
However, if you have a tiny fluff ball whose most challenging hike is going up the stairs to crash on your bed, the quality Ruffwear provides might be overkill.
Instead of getting the best of everything, you’d do well to simply opt for higher quality when it comes to activities you and your pooch frequently engage in.
They Typically Have Incredibly Positive User Reviews
Lots of dog-related products have good reviews, but very few have reviews that are overwhelmingly positive.
By contrast, category leaders often have ridiculously good reviews (we’re talking nearly 100% 5-star ratings). Go ahead and check out the reviews for some of the products we discuss below to see examples.
They’re Often Made by Companies with a Narrow Focus
A lot of dog product manufacturers produce a range of products. But most above-and-beyond dog brands rarely try to satisfy the entire range of pet-care needs. Instead, they tend to specialize in certain products with a more narrow focus (ex. outdoor adventuring dogs, service dogs, water dogs, etc)
There are, however, exceptions to this rule, and a few companies that produce a category-leading product also produce other, unrelated items. However, this usually occurs later, once they’ve seen some success.
Many of the most well-regarded dog product manufacturers started out with just a single or handful of products to meet a particular need.
7 Leading Dog Products All Dog Owners Should Know
The following seven products all dominate their respective category. That doesn’t mean they’re all right for every situation, but it does mean that you should familiarize yourself with them before picking out a specific item for your pooch.
1. Beds: The Big Barker
There are a ton of dog beds available, but frankly, most of them are pretty bad. Lots of pet owners want to get their dog a bed, but they don’t want to spend much money on what they assume is essentially a pillow. So, economy-priced beds litter the market.
But there’s a huge difference between a good dog bed that will support your dog properly and the $10 models that will be worthless and flat in a week.
Additionally, while good dog beds feature high-end foams (which can be leagues better than more common polyfill and egg crate foams), durable materials, and extras like waterproof layers, cheap beds don’t feature any of these things.
The contents of your canine’s cushion matters even more for larger dogs, as their joints need more support and protection than smaller pooches.
While there are a handful of dog beds that boast these desirable qualities, none come close to matching the quality and features the Big Barker provides. The entire category truly consists of the Big Barker, and then everything else (at least when it comes to XL canines).
What makes the Big Barker so awesome?
- It is 7-inches-thick and made from a combination of American-made therapeutic support and comfort foam.
- It is backed by a 10-year warranty that guarantees it’ll retain 90% of its original loft.
- It is available in much larger sizes than other beds (it’s one of the few beds large enough for Great Danes and other giant breeds).
- It is made in the USA.
- It comes with a machine-washable, 100% microfiber cover.
The only catch is that this bed is exclusively for large and giant breeds. In fact, if your dog is under 50 lbs, you should definitely avoid this bed, as it will simply be too rigid for your dog – but there is a Big Barker Mini for smaller canines.
Make sure to check out our full review of the Big Barker here to see just how powerful this thing is.
2. Toys: The Classic KONG
KONG is a pet-product manufacturer that produces a number of different items to help care for your pet, ranging from collars to treats. However, the company is best known for its line of interactive chew toys.
The Classic KONG Chew Toy traces its roots back to the 1970s when company founder Joe Markham started trying to develop a toy that would replace the rocks his German shepherd seemed to enjoy chewing.
Markham noticed that his dog loved chewing on the hard rubber components of an old Volkswagen suspension kit, so he started trying to mimic the material and design with dog-safe materials. Eventually, he hit upon the right formula, and the Classic Red KONG was born.
But the Classic KONG isn’t just a durable chew toy – it also features a hollow compartment, into which owners can place treats (or even their dog’s entire dinner)!
This means that it also serves as an interactive dog toy, which can help keep your pet busy for long periods of time.
Since the launch of the initial Classic KONG, the company has developed several different variations of the KONG design, including balls, bone-shaped toys, and flying discs.
They also now produce toys made from different materials to suit different chewing styles, as well as tug toys, fetch toys and a variety of other canine accessories.
What makes the Classic KONG toy so awesome?
- Although it isn’t indestructible, the Classic KONG is very resilient and will withstand the teeth and jaws of most average chewers (they also make Extreme KONGs for power chewers).
- It is made in the USA.
- It can be used as a fetch toy, chew toy, or interactive play toy.
- The Classic KONG will work with a variety of treats, including those made specifically for the toys, as well as things like peanut butter or spreadable cheese.
- The KONG bounces around in unpredictable ways when thrown, which many dogs find fun and interesting.
3. Heavy-Duty Dog Toys: Goughnuts
Gougnuts is a dog toy manufacturer that focuses on making toys for real power-chewing pupperinos.
But unlike some other toys designed for super-chewers, which feature potentially tooth-damaging materials, Goughnuts toys are safe and unlikely to cause dental damage (they all pass the fingernail test).
Honestly, it’s pretty easy to see why we love these toys so much. Aside from their unmatched durability, every item in the Goughnuts lineup is designed in the USA, made from 100% natural rubber, and poured in Los Angeles, California.
Even more impressively, these toys are all backed by a lifetime, free-replacement warranty (you simply need to pay shipping costs).
We also love that Goughnuts offers a few different kinds of toys. Their Rings and Sticks are designed to be proper chew toys, while their Balls, Tugs, Discs, and Floating Sticks are great for fetchin’, tuggin’, and toy-chasin’ fun.
What makes Gougnuts toys so awesome?
- They offer some of the most durable toys around. Medium or Large HD Rings are more than durable enough for the “average” power chewer, while the Buster HD Ring is likely THE roughest and toughest chew toy on the market. According to Goughnuts, it’ll hold up to power chewers in the 0.1 percentile.
- Their toys are all made in the USA and backed by a lifetime warranty.
- Many of their chew toys have an internal safety indicator. Once you can see a different color show through, it is time to replace the toy.
- They offer a variety of different toy shapes. Their Rings and Sticks are great for regular ‘ol chewing, while their Tugs and Balls are great for interactive pupper play.
4. Protective Eyewear: Rex Specs
There are a variety of reasons to fit your dogs with protective eyewear. They can help protect your dog’s eyes from harmful UV rays, they can shield your dog’s peepers from sticks, sand, rocks and other debris, and they can also keep water from splashing in his eyes.
Plus, they just look awesome.
But while there are a number of affordable and functional options on the market, Rex Specs is the only manufacturer that markets high-quality, premium eyewear for dogs. In fact, Rex Specs are often included in tactical K9 accessory kits designed for working pups.
The company founder actually designed Rex Specs for his own dog, who began suffering from eye problems, which necessitated the use of high-quality eye protection.
Rex Specs are much more expensive than most other dog goggles or protective glasses for dogs, but the price difference is easy to understand once you give them a close look.
What makes Rex Specs so awesome?
- Rex Specs feature polycarbonate lenses, which are UV 400 rated to protect your dog’s eyes from the sun, and they’re ANSI Z87.1-rated to protect your dog’s eyes from impacts.
- Buyers receive two interchangeable lenses to suit different environmental conditions with every purchase.
- They’re available in five different sizes and include 10-millimeter-thick soft rubber padding for maximum comfort.
- Breathable mesh straps are included to keep your dog comfortable and help prevent the lenses from fogging during use.
- According to most owners who’ve tried them, Rex Specs fit much better than any other goggles on the market. They even fit short-faced breeds well, a fact which few other goggles or glasses can claim.
5. Harnesses: Ruffwear
Some dog owners just like to fit their dog with a classic collar, but others prefer using a harness when walking their pooch.
Harnesses often give you better control over your dog and they help spread the force of the leash out across your dog’s entire body, rather than forcing his neck to bear the brunt of it.
And while there are an array of harnesses on the market, few can go toe-to-toe with those made by Ruffwear. Ruffwear makes a handful of different products, such as dog blankets and cold-weather jackets, but their harnesses are clearly the company’s flagship items.
All Ruffwear harnesses are designed with outdoor recreation in mind, but they’re just as helpful for adventures that take place closer to home, like walking around the local dog park.
The Front Range Harness tends to be more popular with owners of pulling dogs, as it features a two leash attachment points (one on the back and one on the chest).
Ruffwear harnesses are a bit more expensive than many of the other harnesses on the market, but most owners who try them become instant brand devotees. Additionally, Ruffwear harnesses consistently earn some of the best customer reviews and ratings of any product in the category.
What makes Ruffwear harnesses so awesome?
- Ruffwear harnesses are made from premium materials. This not only includes high-quality, reinforced nylon webbing, but many Ruffwear harnesses also include aluminum D-rings.
- Most Ruffwear harnesses feature four or five adjustment points (depending on the specific model selected) to help provide an excellent fit. This means you can adjust the fit at each side of the front and back body straps, and you can also adjust the length of the central strap on several models.
- Ruffwear harnesses are padded in areas that frequently chaffe to keep your dog comfortable even during extended use.
- All Ruffwear harnesses feature reflective trim to help keep your dog visible in dim light.
- You can get Ruffwear harnesses in several sizes and colors (bright colors are especially desirable for wilderness activities to improve visibility).
6. Interactive Toys: CleverPet
One of the most common challenges pet owners face is keeping their dog occupied and mentally stimulated – especially during work hours when Spot has to entertain himself. Understimulated dogs can unleash an unthinkable amount of damage on your home, so this is no small matter.
Along with providing more exercise (a tired dog is a good dog), interactive toys are one of the best ways to address these types of issues. There are a variety of interactive dog toys on the market (the Classic KONG discussed above even qualifies), but few are in the same league with CleverPet.
CleverPet is kind of like a game console for your pet. It consists of three touchpads that light up in various ways and a treat dispenser. When your dog activates the touch pads in the correct manner, he gets a tasty morsel.
When you first give your dog CleverPet, things start slowly. Your dog will earn a treat by simply pressing one of the touchpads. But as he learns to interact with the device, he’ll start having to touch the pads in increasingly difficult ways.
Think of it like a canine version of Simon Says. You can control CleverPet with your smartphone, and there are several different games you can let your dog play (and you can adjust the difficulty rating for each).
CleverPet isn’t cheap, but it is easily the most effective, interesting, and challenging (when need be) interactive toy on the market. Simply put, there’s no better way to keep your dog occupied when you don’t have time to play.
What makes CleverPet so awesome?
- CleverPet is designed to automatically progress as your dog learns how to earn treats, which will help keep his interest long after he’s learned to beat other, simpler interactive toys.
- CleverPet is made with premium components — such as a stainless steel food bowl, instead of the plastic ones some similar products use — so it’s sure to last. The touchpads included with the device are also sensitive to ensure that your dog doesn’t have to pound on them repeatedly to trigger them.
- New games are introduced from time to time, which you can download via the associated smartphone app.
- CleverPet was designed by a team of cognitive scientists, who have a combined 20 years of experience in automated dog training.
- Dogs often find it easier to simply break into the food vaults of some other interactive toys, but the manufacturer claims that – to date – no dog has been able to do so with the CleverPet.
7. Canine Cameras: Furbo
Automated and interactive dog toys are one way to keep your dog busy while you’re away, but modern owners have another option: There are a variety of interactive dog cameras, which give you the chance to see your pet, dispense treats, or talk to your pup from afar.
One interactive camera – the Furbo – provides all of these capabilities and more. Unlike the lesser-quality versions on the market, which are notoriously buggy, the Furbo appears to work just as well as owners hoped.
The Furbo is also filled with cool extras, like the barking alarm, which notifies you if your dog starts vocalizing. It also comes with a person alarm, which recognizes when a human is walking within view of the camera and triggers an alert. At least one owner reported that this function helped them take action when a burglar entered their home.
The Furbo works with Apple or Android systems. It does require you to connect it to your home’s WiFi, and the manufacturer recommends taking care to set it up in a place with a strong signal.
What makes the Furbo so awesome?
- The Furbo not only gives you a way to interact with your pet, but it also provides some safety value. For example, several owners have been alerted to house fires, thanks to the bark alarm.
- Unlike some other interactive dog toys, the Furbo will work with any dry treat of the proper size.
- The included “dog selfie alert” feature recognizes when your dog is looking at the camera and snaps a photo.
- It is great for couples and families, as two people can view their dog at the same time.
- The included camera features a 160-degree wide-angle lens with night-vision capabilities.
8. Dog Muzzles: Bumas
Muzzles are a bit of a controversial dog management tool among some, but we tend to think they’re very useful products that provide incredible value (be sure to check out our resident trainer’s take on why Bumas are one of the best dog muzzles around). Not all dogs need a muzzle, but they can be very helpful for preventing bites from dogs with behavioral challenges.
But the problem is, many (if not most) of the muzzles on the market have a few shortcomings. Some are simply poorly built, while others are uncomfortable for dogs to wear. Some are unnecessarily restrictive, and others are hard to fit properly.
But at least one manufacturer – Bumas — appears to have figured out the dog-muzzle puzzle and produced a version that leads the pack.
For example, muzzles come in a variety of materials, such as neoprene or leather, and some include heavy metal grates too. But Bumas Muzzles are made from a proprietary product called BioThane.
BioThane features no sharp edges to hurt your dog’s face, and it is very soft and pliable – even in extreme temperatures. For that matter, BioThane resists tearing better than leather does.
Bumas does make a few other products, such as collars and leashes, but muzzles are clearly their primary focus. You will pay more for a Bumas Muzzle than you will most others, but given the difference in quality and the stakes at play, most owners will likely be comfortable making a larger investment when buying muzzle.
What makes Bumas Muzzles so awesome?
- Bumas Muzzles offer a better fit than any other muzzles. They offer 13 standard sizes, as well as several breed-specific sizes. And, you can even get a custom-fitted muzzle, specifically designed for your dog’s measurements.
- Bumas Muzzles still allow your dog to drink normally during use. They also allow your dog to pant when he needs to cool himself.
- You can get Bumas Muzzles in a ridiculous number of colors to suit your tastes.
- Bumas Muzzles can be customized in numerous ways to suit your dog perfectly. For example, you can have additional straps added or special neoprene padding included in the design.
- Bumas Muzzles do not absorb moisture and they’re mold-resistant.
Note that while these products all rise to the top of their respective categories, that doesn’t mean they’re ideal for all dogs and owners. Maybe your pooch is too small for the Big Barker, or you’d rather try a harness besides one made by Ruffwear.
That’s all perfectly fine! You should always compare products carefully and try to pick the best one for your specific situation and needs. But you should definitely familiarize yourself with the leading products in any category so that you don’t miss out on anything.
For example, my pup and I both love KONG toys.
On the other hand, while I would love to fit her with a Ruffwear Harness, she needs a harness that features a handle and a front-positioned leash clip. Unfortunately, Ruffwear doesn’t offer such a combination at the moment (take a hint, Ruffwear).
Are you familiar with any of the leading products we’ve discussed above? Did they work out for you as well as you expected? Have we missed any other niche-dominating products for dogs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!