In 2015, we introduced the SideKick, a new hands-free leash from Iron Doggy™. Just like the Runner's Choice, our original hands-free leash, the SideKick is also designed by runners for runners. It features the same hands–free design that lets you enjoy your run in a style that’s natural and relaxed, and it’s just as effective at keeping your four-legged running partner under control. The big difference is that the SideKick is shorter, and streamlined for runners who like to train side by side with their dogs. Less leash is less likely to get in your way, and it weighs less too.
Not Just For Little Dogs
In 2012, when Fitness Magazine recommended the Runner's Choice as the best hands-free leash for big dogs, we thought that they were on to something. The Runner's Choice is built from very strong materials, and is designed to combat the lunges and pulls from the strongest dogs out there. Arguably, the Runner's Choice could be too much for the Shih Tzus of the world, perhaps they need a smaller leash? Initially, that's what we thought. As it turns out, there is a whole other group of dogs that are better served by a different style of leash - e.g. the ever-elusive well-behaved dog that runs right by your side.
Who Are These People?
By the Spring of 2013, we had sold over 1000 Runner's Choice leashes. Of those 1000, a few were returned with concerns that the leash was too long and weighed a little too much. These returns were our key to discovering the need for a different style of running leash. Was this a group of light-weights running with their Chihuahuas? Not in the least. Sarah runs 5 to 10 miles per week with her 60 pound Golden Retriever. Melissa runs up to 7 miles at a time with her 98 pound Cane Carso. Jenn trains and races with her 50 pound Pointer mix. The list goes on. Without fail, we found that the people who returned their leash were serious runners running with big dogs.
Our Design Process
To create the SideKick we enlisted the help of 10 customers who had either returned their leash or had contacted us requesting the need for something shorter and lighter. Our first round of testing was with a be-headed Runner's Choice. We cut off the top part of the leash leaving 32" between the runner and the dog. This length proved to be a little short for our testers and we weren't satisfied with the weight. We followed up with many more rounds of design, prototyping, and testing variations. Each time we adjusted the length of the leash, the components, and the size of the bungee. We even hired a metallurgist to help us find the best quality snap hook for our products.
In the end, we had a much different leash than we had initially envisioned. Because the SideKick leash is designed for dogs that run by your side, we could shorten it down to 37". This length appears to be the optimal length for dogs that aren't running in front of you. There was no need to provide D-rings for adjusting the leash's length.
Running by your side means a shorter leash, and it means something relatively important - these dogs don't pull! It's hard for us to imagine such "goodness," but apparently, it exists in this world. Dogs that don't pull don't need a super heavy-duty bungee. An occasional tug can be handled by a lighter weight bungee and not wear out prematurely.
We also took into account that a well-mannered dog could, on occasion, be persuaded to take a short cut, so we made sure to include easy to grab hold-knots and handles. At the same time, we stress-tested several potential alternatives to the snap hook used on the Runner's Choice. What we found was that all the possible replacements broke too easily. We can't have dogs running amuck because the snap hooks on our leashes are breaking. We ended up sticking with our original snap hook (which is excellent based on the feedback we receive). When we finished creating the SideKick, it weighed 40% less than the Runner's Choice.
Neely Spence Gracey with "Strider"
Why We're So Excited
We think we've got it covered. Do you have a well-behaved running partner that sticks by your side? The SideKick is probably the leash for you. It's all the leash you need and nothing more.
Does your dog appear to be excited about going for a run but is secretly planning on catching a rabbit or squirrel? We have hundreds of people who say that the Runner's Choice is strong and versatile enough to keep a dog like this on track.
We've put a lot of thought into our leashes, so you don't have to, and with the introduction of the SideKick, you and your four-legged friend have one more reason to hit the trail.