Rob Johnson wanted a lifestyle where he could go to the mountains, camp, and hike with his dog - so he built a company that revolves around that. Rocky Mountain Dog is a lifestyle brand that sells adventure gear for dogs. It was founded in 2018 by Rob Johnson and is located in Calgary, Alberta. On rockymountaindog.ca, you can find dog harnesses, leashes, sleeping bags, goggles and more.
What inspired Rob to start the company? The idea for the business all started when Rob got his dog Butch, a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, five years ago. He noticed that the dog accessory industry was lacking personality and was missing out on a niche market of active dog owners.
“When I went to go buy stuff for Butch, I found that the leashes, collars and accessories didn’t have any personality. It didn’t fit the lifestyle of what we do here in Calgary with people going into the mountains. So, I thought I should create a company, called Rocky Mountain Dog and the differentiator would be putting places like Banff, Canmore or the Kootenays in the designs of the products. I thought that would resonate with people and fit their lifestyle, so I thought that there was a missing opportunity and wanted to try it”, said Rob.
Rob and his dog Butch, the inspiration and face of Rocky Mountain Dog.
What makes Rocky Mountain Dog unique?
From the products to their branding, Rocky Mountain Dog is always pushing their mission statement, “our mission is to inspire others to explore the outdoors with their dogs and making a lifetime of memories along the way”. The designs of their products like the collars and leashes are focused on real places in the Rocky Mountains and this reflects the lifestyle their customers live.
“I believe that people going outdoors with their dogs, getting exercise, and building that connection is really important. Everything we do at Rocky Mountain Dog, from our products to social media, is focused around our mission statement and I think that’s what makes us unique.”
Creating a digital presence
Behind the brand name
Originally, Rob wanted a name for his business that was personal to him. After some reflecting, he landed on the perfect name that represented exactly what his business is all about.
“Some names I considered were a little bit more personal or something that I personally was invested in. Then I really started thinking about how I should remove myself from the equation, really think about the customer and the mass appeal. I wanted the name to be very niche and Rocky Mountain Dog just made sense.”
Getting a domain name and a website
Rob knew the importance of securing a domain name as one of the first steps to starting a business. Purchasing your domain name quickly before anything is publicly announced ensures that you can claim it, before someone beats you to it.
“I always knew that one of the first things to do is to secure the domain name or find out if the domain is available. So, when I knew I landed on the name of the business, Rocky Mountain Dog and what it was going to be about, I was on GoDaddy searching for rockymountaindog.ca and to my surprise it was available - holy cow I am buying that domain!”
Before you build your website, it is important to secure your domain name early so you can begin building your brand. Brand identity is an important aspect of a business and your business name, domain, logo, and website should reflect it. Rob began building his brand well before his website launched to ensure he had an established brand identity he could use to set himself apart from his competitors and build a reputation.
“In the spring of 2018, I started to secure everything; secure my domain name, get the business logo, get the handles for social media. In July of 2018, I started posting stuff to social media every day, but I didn’t have any products as that was still in the making. Once the products were made, the website was launched in October 2018, and we began to sell our products.”
Want to learn more about starting a business and building a brand identity? Read our guide, Starting your own business: How to choose a business name and more.
Rocky Mountain Dog chose a .CA to help with their marketing efforts in securing the Canadian market. With their product designs centered around the Canadian Rockies, a .CA just made sense to represent them being a Canadian brand.
“I chose .CA because it was available and right now, we are one hundred percent focusing our marketing in Canada. We are really trying to secure the Canadian market and we know everyone recognizes .CA. Also, we definitely focus on Canada as some of our logos include the Canadian maple leaf and some of our slogans are “Tested in the Rocky Mountains” and “Proudly Canadian”, so we focus on being a Canadian brand.”
The Banff Alpine Dog Collar and Leash are many of the products that feature unique designs inspired by the Canadian Rockies.
How has the business grown?
Rocky Mountain Dog initially started selling their products online in 2018. They remained committed, kept up their social media and displayed relentless perseverance to get the business off the ground. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, their business found unexpected success.
“Going into the second year, that’s when COVID-19 hit. People couldn’t go shopping at their local pet stores and that’s when we really started to see our online sales take off. By the end of the summer, I was able to quit my full-time job and just focus on Rocky Mountain Dog.”
Due to their success, Rocky Mountain Dog has recently taken the next step to building their business by opening their first brick and mortar store in Calgary, Alberta.
“The growth online really solidified the brand for Rocky Mountain Dog so we could open a store. Our main channel will still be online, but we have our store and they will complement each other. All our business, whether its retail or fulfilling online orders will be done through the store.”
What are some of your most popular products?
If you visit rockymountaindog.ca, you will find a variety of unique dog accessories made for adventures in the Canadian Rockies. Their most popular product is the All-Terrain harness. Customers love this harness as “it can handle a lot of punishment from some bigger dogs and the stuff that they do when they go outside,” said Rob. The harness also offers a front and back clip for leashes and a handle on the back that a lot of customers love.
Butch is sporting the Kootenay All-Terrain Harness that is easy to put on and comfortable to wear. It comes in different sizes and colours so you can find the right fit for your dog. (Source: Rocky Mountain Dog)
Their leashes are another popular item they can buckle around your waist to keep your hands free while adventuring outdoors. Our personal favourite are the RexSpecs goggles for dogs. Rocky Mountain Dog is a partner with RexSpecs in Canada and exclusively sells their goggles. They are quite popular and “you can’t resist those dog goggle pictures”, said Rob about the product photos on rockymountaindog.ca.
The RexSpecs dog goggles are perfect for protecting your dog’s eyes from harsh sunlight, blinding snow and whatever may come your way while adventuring. (Source: Rocky Mountain Dog)
A word of advice to entrepreneurs
“You can't underestimate the amount of passion and hard work that goes into creating something like this. You must bust your butt to build something like this and I think a lot of people underestimate the sacrifices that you must make and the passion you need to do this”, said Rob.
Although it may take a lot of hard work to start and manage a business, Rob can’t imagine doing anything else. Being able to live the lifestyle he envisioned for himself, makes all the hard work and sacrifices worthwhile.
“I am extremely passionate about Rocky Mountain Dog. Creating a company where I can go to the mountains, camp, and hike with my dog - I love it and I am extremely passionate about it so that really helps with building a company”, said Rob.
You can follow Rocky Mountain Dog onFacebookandInstagram