Dog owners are going crazy for these Norfolk-designed drying coats
- Credit: Ruff and Tumble Dog Company
One of the many joys of owning a dog is that you’ll spend a lot of time going out for walkies.
Exploring coast and countryside with a four-legged friend in all weathers, it’s likely they’ll end up going for a dip in the sea or a river – or at the very least with muddy paws and in need of a bath when they get home.
As the owner of four dogs who loved their Norfolk beach walks, Alison Priestley would often wish that she had a canine version of a towelling dressing gown that she could put on them to dry them off.
Unable to find what she was looking for, around 10 years ago she designed her own and got it made up. Now Ruff and Tumble’s dapper dog drying coats are sold all over the country – and much further afield in the US and Canada.
“When you get back from the beach and you’ve got four dogs to try and dry off and hose down and they’re just so soaked, you can dry them off with a towel, but they’re damp for hour. I kept thinking it would be great if I had something that I could just put on and leave on them until they’re dried,” says Alison who lives at Syderstone, near Fakenham.
“Then I met somebody who had a sewing business and I asked if I bought some towelling would she make me some drying coats for my dogs,” she says.
Alison could only find a 30-metre roll of towelling, so the leftovers were turned into extra drying coats which she took to Burnham Market Horse Trials where she put them on display on her friend’s stall.
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They were an instant hit with dog owners.
“By about 11am we’d sold everything I’d taken, which was about 25 that we’d made in various sizes, and we were taking orders. I thought maybe I’ve found a niche in the market here, because I was looking for them for ages and I couldn’t find them.”
Alison was a teacher at the time. She decided to make the leap and take early retirement to focus on Ruff and Tumble.
“I’m 66 now and I started when I was 56,” she says. “It’s not what my life plan had been, so it was a massive change and quite a big risk.
“But I am really passionate about it and I so believe in the product. They’re slight gamechangers if you’ve got dogs that are always wet and muddy and get out there in all weathers.”
As Alison explains, it’s their design which sets them apart.
“They’re a double layer of cotton towelling, and it’s the double layer that makes them work so well, because the under layer of the coat wicks away the moisture, just like a towel does when you put it on moisture.
“Then the body heat from the dog will push that moisture to the outer layer, the outer layer draws the moisture out and the body heat of the dog pushes it out, so the underlayer of the towelling coat is then dry and the dog is dry,” she explains.
They started out with four size options and now do 16 – the smallest to fit a tiny teacup chihuahua up to the giant mountain dog breeds. They come in block colours and stripes and can be personalised.
They also have a range to fit shorter legged breeds, such as dachshund, corgi and basset hounds and have branched out to include drying mitts, bed covers and throws.
Alison has always loved dogs. While she herself didn’t have a dog when she was growing up, she had lots of relatives who did – and she has had her own since she was around 20.
She currently has three dogs: Springer Spaniel Lulu, 10, who, partial to a swim, was the inspiration for Ruff and Tumble, black Labrador Daisy who is 13 and newest addition Mac, a “very naughty” two-year-old Parson Russell Terrier.
“He looks angelic, but he’s not,” laughs Alison.
She has three children – two of whom work for Ruff and Tumble – and all of them have dogs too.
“I’ve often wondered why I love dogs so much,” says Alison. "They’re always happy to see you, aren’t they? And they’re just great companions, I think."
And full of energy, they encourage you to keep active - and in Norfolk you're spoiled for choice when it comes to walks.
“There are certain times when I would just not go out for a walk when the weather’s vile, but you have to, if you’re serious about owning a dog it does make you go out and walk," says Alison.
"I love that fact, because I would definitely tend to be lazy if I didn’t have them, for sure.
“I love walking out to Brancaster beach from Titchwell, I love that walk over the marshes and out from Burnham Overy Staithe is one of my favourites out to the beach there. My local walk that I do most days is down on Syderstone common. I love Holkham woods as well.”
Ruff and Tumble is stocked by retailers across Norfolk and beyond – and can also be found at county fairs such as Sandringham Game and Country Fair on September 10-11. For more information visit ruffandtumbledogcoats.com