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The Stunt Puppy Sub Woofer is a soft shell dog jacket…
Source: received for testing via the Trailspace Review Corps (Sample for testing and review provided by Stunt Puppy)
The Stunt Puppy Sub Woofer is a soft shell dog jacket intended for the active outdoor dog, providing wind and thermal protection in a breathable, water resistant well-fitting and non-restrictive design. Our two dogs tested the jacket and each seemed comfortable in it, and it provided protection in a very snowy and cold Vermont winter. The jacket is expensive, but if you want to provide high-quality technical gear for your adventure dog, I can recommend this jacket.
- Easily adjustable to fit different size dogs
- Fabric and design do not impede movement
- Provides good wind and thermal protection
- Available in wide range of sizes
- More expensive ($120) than other high end dog jackets
- Chest pouch can collect snow
- Placement of light loop not compatible with harness
Our two adventure dogs are out daily in all weather, year-round; in the summer we are paddling, camping, and hiking. From November to April, we are snowshoeing or winter hiking, with occasional skijor days thrown in as well. We are not fans of dressing up our dogs, or having them use gear just because it “looks cool” or “looks cute”, but we have found that in some conditions, the use of a dog jacket makes them more comfortable and protected from the elements.
We have been using musher’s dog jackets, handmade in Maine, which we have purchased from a woman who makes much of our specialized mushing gear. These jackets have shown us that using a dog jacket is not an extravagance. Rather, a dog’s jacket can protect the dog from wind, rough brush, rain, snow, and cold temperatures. Also, as our dogs are both in the “senior dog” status (Edgar is 7, and Gryphon is 9 years old), the jacket can be help in providing extra weather protection on top of their natural coats.
It is very important that a dog jacket goes on easily, fits properly, and can be used in conjunction with other dog gear (i.e. harness and packs), without affecting performance of either. The dog jacket should be durable, water resistant (with the option for applying waterproofing), and should provide thermal and wind protection without impeding the dog’s movement.
It seemed a natural fit (no pun intended) for us to test and review the Stunt Puppy Sub Woofer dog jacket. Mid-week, the dogs go out 1:1 with me, and they each get out two days on weekends, so each dog had multiple opportunities to test the jacket in some very varying conditions. Each dog also exerts different energy levels; Edgar is our energetic, roving, high-energy dog, while Gryphon is more of a plodder, strong and steady, staying right on the trail.
The Sub Woofer jacket was used in temperatures that ranged from a low of minus 7 (wind-chill minus 15) to 39 degrees F; conditions included sun, snow, sleet, rain, and wind. We used the jacket for a few hours nearly every day (41 days), primarily while snowshoeing, but also while winter hiking and cabin camping.
Use with Harnesses:
Our dogs use trekking lines attached to harnesses when we are on our outings; the Sub Woofer was tested while being used with three different types of harnesses; ManMat distance harness, Ruffwear (hiking harness), and Nooksack skijor harness.
For most effective use, when a harness is used, it should be placed over a dog jacket; otherwise, air will enter the spaces between the harness and the jacket, creating a cold pocket over the dog’s fur coat. The use of these harnesses did not affect the fit of the Sub-Woofer jacket, and we noted no interference between the jacket buckles and the harness buckles. There are a myriad of harness designs available, so compatibility with a harness is a factor each dog owner should consider and examine for issues; the position of the jacket buckles on our dogs did not present any problems, but there could be some variation with other dogs or harnesses.
This jacket does not have a line/leash attachment opening on the top, so it would not be effective over a harness and line attachment.
Use with Dog Packs:
We do not have our dogs carry backpacks, but we do own a few, so we were able to test the fit and design of the jacket in terms of backpack use. On our two backpacks, a Kurgo Wander and an older style Frostline, there were no negative interaction between the jacket buckles and the buckling system for the packs.
Design and Materials:
When I received the jacket, I immediately noticed how soft it felt; it has a similar feel to a soft shell jacket that I own, though a bit lighter weight. The material is described by the manufacturer as being wind and water resistant and breathable; the fabric is identified as Hydrotex. Stunt Puppy calls the materials they use as “human grade”. The exterior is smooth and matte finish; the interior is a soft material.
There is stretch built in to the jacket, and there are contour lines/seams that make it a nice rounded fit ("Stunt Puppy: Fit to Move” design) over the dogs shoulders and hindquarters. On our thick-ruffed dog, the stretchiness is appreciated as other jackets tend to fit too snugly in the neck area.
On our tenth use of the jacket, I noted three loose threads from the edging trim on one rear corner; these were carefully snipped off, and no unraveling of fabric was noted. The jacket material also seemed durable, as we often snowshoe through branches, trees, and pucker brush areas; no deterioration of the fabric was noted.
The jacket covers the dogs back and hips well. There is a front chest section that goes under the dog’s chest, and provides wind and thermal protection right under the chest to the stomach area.
Neither of our dogs like to have his legs restricted, so a jacket with “sleeves” would not be accepted well. Both dogs are used to jackets, and readily permit the jacket to be placed upon them. It is an easy jacket to put on a dog, given its design and fabric.
Fit and Adjustment:
The easy to use adjustment buckles on each side hold this chest piece in place, and keep the jacket centered and in place on the dog (even without use of a harness over it). We did find that when snowshoeing in deep snow, snow can gather in the “pocket” created by this chest piece. When using in deep snow, I would periodically clear out the snow, otherwise, it would melt and this part of the jacket would get and stay wet while on the dog. This problem was noted more while the jacket was on the smaller of our dogs, as there was more loose fabric over his narrow chest, despite our snugging up the straps.
The adjustable side buckles, attached to a strong elastic strap, made fitting the jacket to our dogs easy; the buckles lock into place, and the straps were easily snugged into place for the appropriate fit for each dog, even though they each have a different body shape and size. Each dog seemed to accept the jacket as fitted, and never seemed to be bothered by wearing it, and never showed showed signs of discomfort.
The Sub-Woofer jacket is designed for active dog use; it is not heavily insulated or padded. However, that makes for comfortable movement by the dogs, and the jacket never impeded movement in any way. Anecdotally, when I put my hand beneath the jacket, I would feel that the dogs’ coats were warm. When used for an hour in rain and wet snow, I saw that even before waterproofing treatment had been applied, moisture beaded up on the jacket material, and the dog’s back remained dry under the jacket. The exception to this was the chest area (as noted above); if the interior of this chest section got wet from snow, the dog would get a small area of wet chest.
The sizing chart provided by Stunt Puppy shows not only weight indicators, but also back-length measurements and breed suggestions. The sizing ranges from the smallest at 6 lbs. /back length 11 inches up to 130 lbs. /back length 30 inches. There are seven size options, from XXS to XXL, so this jacket is an option for most any breed or size dog.
Our dogs fit within the descriptors for the Large size category, but with any dog jacket, it may be necessary to try different sizes to get the proper fit. The adjustment system for this jacket makes chest size not a critical factor, and it is noted that the jacket fits each of our dogs, each with a very different girth size and shape.
The size Large (53-83 lb. range) is nearly perfect for us, since Edgar is a 55 lb. lab mutt with 23 inch back length and 27 inch chest, and Gryphon is a 72 lb. lab mutt with 27 inch back length and burly 30 inch chest, giving us dogs at either end of the sizing spectrum for a single size jacket.
It is noted that the MSRP price ($120) is the same for the tiniest jacket or the largest jacket. The price is markedly higher than that for any other dog jacket on the marker; other high-end dog jackets from other major outdoor dog gear companies top out at less than $80.
The Sub-Woofer jacket is available in red or black; we tested the black version. The black interior did show an accumulation of dog hair, which is typical of most fleecy lined jackets, and obviously our yellow dog’s hair was more visible than that of the black dog!
The jacket was washed as directed, after approximately 35 uses; we used a Nikwax Tech Wash detergent, and then hung it to dry (as directed, no tumble dry). I had noticed that when the jacket gets really wet, it does take at least six hours to air dry inside the house.
Directions from manufacturer say to freshen outside frequently; when not in use, ours was hung on a dog gear rack. We have not detected any strong doggy-odor, whether the jacket is damp or dry. After the first washing, I found that the fabric had maintained its stretch, feel, and no more loose threads were noted on the seams, though a loose thread was found on each elastic strap near the buckle. As an option provided by the manufacturer, an application of Nikwax waterproofing was applied after the first washing, to improve the coat’s water resistant capabilities.
The Sub-Woofer jacket has very effective reflective trim and details. This “3M Brilliance Reflective detailing for 400RA reflection” is very bright when illuminated, helpful for low light conditions or night hikes. It would also be a great safety feature for those who may use the jacket while walking the dog in the evening near roadways.
There is an elastic loop attachment for a light, such as a Nite-Ize LED Collar Light, located on the center of the jacket near the neck area. However, the placement of this loop puts the light directly beneath our harnesses. Therefore, for us, the light goes onto the harness, but perhaps having a light loop at the tail end of the jacket might be another option.
placement, an LED dog light, and a harness
Speaking of tails, the jacket has a thin elastic tail loop at the back end; placing this loop around the base of the dog’s tail might help hold the jacket in place, but we found it was unnecessary. We tried the loop with each of our dogs. On the larger dog, the elastic loop rode up his curly tail, bringing the back end of the jacket up and away from the dog’s body. It also was much tighter on him. The smaller dog ignored the loop, but it also tended to ride up on his curly tail.
I think the use of the tail loop is definitely optional, depending on your dog’s length, tail shape,and tolerance for elastic in his nether regions. In any case, this loop makes for a convenient hanging loop.
Whether the tail loop was in use or not, it is important to report that each of our dogs could walk, run, jump, turn around, sit, lie down, and relieve himself while wearing the jacket, all without any interference or impediment.
On the jacket, there is no place to write owner identification information (such as a white fabric tag or label on the interior). This may be more problematic on the black version, but it would be nice to have a place where we could clearly write our name and contact information.
In summary, the Stunt Puppy Sub-Woofer jacket, made in the USA, is of high quality, obviously made with care to produce a dog jacket with features and performance comparable to people’s outerwear. It may be expensive for just walks around the neighborhood, but for an outdoor adventure dog who heads onto the trails or mountains in any conditions, it is a fine option. An active dog who participates in canicross or skijoring, or who is active on hikes or snowshoe outings will appreciate the design and comfort of this jacket.
Determining a suggested temperature comfort range for this jacket is difficult, because of variations in dog's coats (thick coat, thin coat, double coat), varying activity levels, precipitation factors, and dogs' individual tolerance for cold. However, I think that this jacket is well suited for the conditions in which we used it, approximately 5 degrees below zero (f) to temperatures in the 30's.
We will continue to use it for many of our outdoor activities, including bringing it along for colder weather canoe camping. It is important to recognize that Stunt Puppy offers a one-year warranty for any defects in materials or workmanship, with an offer of repair or replacement should the jacket fail to meet warranty conditions.
I am out every day, in all weather, with my dogs. I have used dog jackets with them for many years, in all types of activities. The dogs' safety and comfort is always a prioroty, so I never shortchange them on gear, and try to provide high quality gear for their use. In a month and a half, this jacket received a pretty good workout, in many different temperatures and weather conditions.