Every bespoke dog jacket that Bradley Davis hand-makes, is 15 times tougher than that of military-grade protective kit material, Kevlar.
Brad says his business – Doggy Armour1 – started accidentally, six years ago, after his wife Rachel, saw a news report about dog-on-dog attacks:
“After we had several close encounters whilst walking our own dog, Tilly – a small Puggle – who wouldn’t stand a chance if a larger dog attacked her,” said Brad. “Rachael said I should invent something for Tilly, something protective in case she ever got attacked when out for a walk. I laughed and said I’m a builder by trade, not a specialist in dog armour!”
“Nevertheless, she sent me packing to the shed, where I do all of my inventions, and I played around with different materials like Kevlar, where I realised that it was great at protecting against many things but not dog bites. I got in touch with some contacts in China, and we spoke about different fabrics with the requirement to be lightweight and flexible, which Kevlar generally isn’t.”
Studies have shown2 that between 1998-2018, dog attacks and bites on humans have almost tripled, with a recent study, published last year, showing a threefold increase in dog-bite hospital attendances following the onset of the first Covid lockdown. The boom of people purchasing buying puppies during the lockdown, and the follow-on lack of socialisation and proper puppy training, have resulted in an increase of dog attacks – both on other dogs and also humans.
Brad, who has a love of inventions, really has an eye for creating a piece of kit that offers body, chest, belly, and neck protection designed to protect a dog should it be attacked by another dog.
Brad continues: “We came up with a fabric which is about 15 times stronger than Kevlar, but still lightweight, so I started the manufacturing process and produced a coat for my dog initially. Then I saw a story in the local paper about an elderly gentleman’s dog being attacked locally and he was petrified to walk his dog again. I got in touch with the paper and asked them to let the man know that I would be happy to make a jacket for him for free, to help him have the confidence to walk his pet without fear.
“Doggy Armour really built up from there. I started making jackets to donate to anti-poaching dogs in Africa, through Animals Saving Animals.
“The material needed to ensure the dogs would be armoured against machetes, along with abseil attachments for dogs coming out of helicopters with rangers to tackle poaching. I can’t even begin to tell you how the prototypes were developed, but it did involve me making a test jacket for my own dog and then my friend was pulling me up a tree to make sure it was strong enough!
“We’ve made jackets for police dogs at Stansted Airport to anti-poaching jackets to protect tigers in Africa!”
Brad, Rachel and Doggy Armour are now focusing on helping assistance dogs and their owners, because they recognise they recognise the crucial role these animals provide in the lives of people with additional needs, to simply live every day.
Natasha Eastwood and her son Aidan, are two such people who rely heavily on their working cocker spaniel assistance dog, Frankie,
Everyday feelings like stress or heightened emotions could kill Natasha’s son, Aidan. The 15-year-old was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening heart condition – catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT) – four years ago, after collapsing at school. If Aidan’s heart rate increases due to stress, it could lead to a fatal cardiac arrest. Aidan used to be an active little boy who enjoyed kickboxing and swimming but after he collapsed at school in February 2017, doctors discovered he had catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (CPVT).
Trainee assistance dog, Frankie, has proved to be a life-saver. Not only can the one-year-old cocker spaniel spot the signs of an attack, but he also helps to calm Aidan before his stress levels rise.
An assistance dog is a dog that is trained to help a disabled individual, by carrying out a variety of practical tasks, as well as supporting independence and confidence. Frankie is being trained to help Aidan in his daily life, providing practical and emotional support, whilst aiding him towards an independent future.
Aidan also has autism and debilitating OCD, and with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Aidan hadn’t left the house for months because he was so scared of germs. Thanks to Frankie, he goes out each day for a walk and has now returned to school. Frankie has given him the confidence to face the world again.
Natasha says: “Frankie helps Aidan with daily tasks, such as getting dressed and cleaning his teeth. He can also carry Aidan’s medication upstairs for him.
“When Aidan is feeling anxious, which could trigger an attack, Frankie is always there, calming him down and reassuring him. Aidan has made excellent progress and is now training as a Mental Health Ambassador for his school council. Frankie and Aidan are incredible together.
But Natasha – who also has a recent autism diagnosis herself – has also faced issues while out walking and training Frankie. “Unfortunately, we have noticed that as the Covid lockdowns were beginning to be lifted, there was a significant rise in the amount of out-of-control off-leash dogs that approached Aidan and Frankie.
“On a recent walk, Frankie was bitten by such a dog. The owner failed to even attempt to recall their dog. Thankfully, Frankie is okay and hasn’t developed an injury or a fear-based response, which would be devastating to our family and could potentially end his working career as an assistance dog. “However, this attack significantly impacted our confidence whilst out and about, despite Frankie being highly trained. We love Frankie so much and he trusts us implicitly to keep him safe.”
Natasha’s case was referred to Brad and Doggy Armour by a dog trainer, Laura. Brad said:
“When I came across Natasha and Aidan’s story, I understood how important and necessary it was to offer our help to them, and we created Frankie a bespoke armoured jacket that very week.
Natasha and Aidan are now feeling so much more confident and less worried when out walking and training Frankie:
“Reduced stress is also paramount for Aidan’s heart and wellbeing, so he too is much safer. “Brad, Rachel and Doggy Armour have really made such a difference to our lives. We honestly can’t thank them enough for what they’ve done.”