Tell us all about Hugo

Hugo is constantly mistaken for a puppy (especially with his puppy cut). He’s a seven-year-old Yorkshire Terrier-Poodle cross. I’d describe him as playful, energetic and intelligent - we often notice that he’s suddenly picked up on a new word. He’s pretty content sat on my lap in the office or playing games indoors, but just loves being outside. It’s where he’s happiest. We take him out exploring wherever we can.

What’s your pet parenting style?

I’d say I try to make things interactive and inclusive. He gets lots of human contact and comes with us everywhere, we couldn’t do our family trips to Cornwall without him.

Hugo in Tatty-heaven with the blue Tatty Head Twist ‘N’ Treat

Where did the idea for Tatty Head come from?

I actually had the product idea before the name. I’d picked up a little sweet container at a trade show, which I started using to store Hugo’s treats. What I found was that he responded to the rattle of the treats in the container, it was great for getting him back when he was off the lead. Then it broke. There wasn’t any kind of purpose-built replacement out there. I looked everywhere, nothing like it in any of the pet retailers or online.

That’s when I spotted a gap in the market, the only other would-be options were silicone or fabric - which wouldn’t have helped me to build on Hugo’s sound association.

Did you have any experience in product design?

My background is actually in property! I have a degree and a masters in Built Environment, and I’m a qualified Chartered Surveyor. I know it doesn’t sound particularly creative or even entrepreneurial, but you definitely need problem solving and lateral thinking to succeed in any industry.

You shouldn’t hold yourself back whatever industry you’re in. Like most people with a business idea, it took me a few years to pluck up the courage to move forward with it. The amount of work and investment was quite daunting at first. Then in 2016 I took my first steps towards creating Tatty head.

(When he feels like it) Cuba and Lauren use Tatty head for treat-aided training

Do you plan to continue developing the product?

In the short term, I’d like to offer some new colours. I’m also exploring a re-design of the packaging, I want to make it more environmentally friendly. The plan is to cut down, and then remove the product’s use of plastic as completely as possible.

Why do you think the Twist 'N' Treat ® has become an ‘accidental accessory’ for dogs?

It’s nice isn’t it? I suppose it’s a testament to the design. I’m just really happy people are using it! Since launch we’ve started to see more and more dogs wearing the dispenser on their harness, basically carrying their own treats around.

During the design phase I’d assumed it might be attached to a lead, bag or maybe even a belt loop. I like that it’s treated as an accessory. It just goes to show that once a product leaves its designer and is in people’s hands, you don’t know what will happen.

What are your Tatty Head training hacks?

The [Twist ’N’ Treat ®] dispenser is really helpful for getting your dog’s attention when you’re teaching a new command. It’s especially good if you’re somewhere with lots of potential distractions, like a training class.

To get the best out of using it, I’d suggest using a dry food or treats, these make the loudest noise when you shake them. Just make sure that their size works with the dispenser opening, or failing that break the treats up.

If you’re worried about feeding your dog too many treats, aside from looking at healthy treat options, you can substitute in your dog’s food (only if it’s dry though). Measure out their food and then put some into the dispenser instead of their bowl.

Recommended treats for Tatty Head dispenser:

  • Barking Heads Dog Food (we sometimes mix treats and Hugo’s dog food)
  • Scrumbles
  • Pooch ‘N’ Mutt dog treats
  • Waggs (some treats need breaking up to fit)

Tatty Head’s Twist ‘N’ Treat, Barking Heads, Scrumbles and other great dog rewards are available as Waggel rewards

Where should new owners start with training?

One of the unique things about the product is the association your dog builds with the rattle of the treats. Most dogs will merrily react to the sound of their bowl, or the container you keep it in.

Familiarise your dog with the dispenser by using it at home, rattle the treats before rewarding them and persevere for a week or two.

Once you’re confident that they’re responding to the sound - and will return on command at home - have a go at assisted recall when you next let your pup off the lead in a smaller gated space.

Which other products do you Hugo and like?

Hugo is a big fan of an orange light up ball I bought from Pets at Home. It's a great, robust rubber product, which means he can chew it but it still stands the test of time. (Compared to a tennis ball, which he’ll destroy quite quickly)

We have always used a harness with Hugo, because he’s half Yorkie and they have very delicate throats. He has two harnesses from Cosy Dogs.

Our favourite shampoo is Rhubarking Mad which is organic and smells divine. We use their shampoo and a conditioner. There are no harsh chemicals, sulphates or parabens. It’s also cruelty free and vegan.

Koda loves his home-made treats in his Twist ‘N’ Treat

To find out more about Tatty Head and other Waggel rewards check out your personal rewards tab.