My day job is being a farmer. I own and operate Blue Heron Farm — a small, humane goat farm/dairy outside of Houston — with my husband, Christian. We have 36 goats, 24 assorted poultry, two pigs, four barn cats, one house cat, two working dogs, and two house dogs, all on 10 acres. While we technically have time and room for more dogs, we don’t ever own more than four. Instead, we foster.
Our foster dogs come from a variety of backgrounds, mostly unknown. We get shelter dogs, dumped dogs, and all other manner of dogs with varying needs that we have to figure out as we go. Our latest foster (No. 43 in the four years since we started) is a year old American English Coonhound mix named Coop. He was pulled from a small county pound the day before he was scheduled to be euthanized, but the rescue volunteer who pulled him soon found out she did not have enough “hound experience” to handle him.
(If you have a hound, especially a young hound, you know why. If you have never been blessed by hound ownership, imagine the smartest two-year-old human you know — stubborn, hard to potty train, always into something vaguely dangerous, forever putting non-foods in his mouth, prone to complaining about life’s injustices.)
We took over with Coop and began working with him to make him a “normal,” house-friendly pet.
One thing we found, consistent with his breed, is that he gets a pretty big burst of energy every night at about 9. (Apparently the coon hunting hour?) Even though we have the acreage and other dogs to help run out his energy, we decided Coop would benefit from nightly walks. But we live out in the country, where leash walking is rare and potentially dangerous on narrow, unlit roads. We did our best to increase our visibility, but safety was always a bit of a worry. Enter Shine for Dogs LED leashes and collars.
First, a bit about the company: Shine for Dogs was created to help raise awareness and funds for shelter dogs. A portion, $10, of the purchase price from every leash or collar goes directly to shelters and other organizations that rescue and support homeless pups. The company’s stated purpose? To “shine the light for those left in the dark.” It was a product made for us and for Coop.
We have tried other light-up accessories, but what really interested us in the Shine for Dogs line (aside from the amazing charitable aspect) is that its items are rechargeable by USB cable and do not require frequent replacement of expensive batteries. Charging the leashes and collars is exactly like charging your phone or tablet, and the collars come with the cables needed. (This can be both a plus and minus as you’ll see later on.)
The collars and leashes come in five colors. We chose lime, as it was billed as the very brightest. (And also because I just love lime-green things.) When they arrived, we plugged them in with the enclosed cables and allowed the set to fully charge before its first use.
At walk time, we put the collar on Coop next to his regular day-collar. Since the collar does require periodic recharging, it would not really make sense to be used as your dog’s only collar. This is doubly true if your dog plays with other dogs who might accidentally turn the collar on and drain the charge, or if your dog swims — electronics + water = no. (While the collar is easy enough to turn on — a button under the webbing, next to the clasp — it is not so easy that my dogs have figured out how to flip the switch. Yet, as I mentioned, Coop is a hound. So it’s just a matter of time.)
Both accessories have an off mode and three lighted settings to choose from: a solid light, a very fast blink, and a slower, steady blink. We started with the solid light on both pieces, but tested all three for both visibility and to find a personal preference as we walked.
I can’t vouch for the other colors, but the lime was, in fact, SUPER bright. Coop and I walked in almost complete darkness, and my husband stayed behind to track our progress. He could still see us very clearly at over a quarter mile away. At that distance, he said that the fast blinking setting was the most eye-catching. It gave a definite “alert” vibe that drivers would be hard-pressed not to notice.
One unanticipated downside to this level of brightness, however, was that it was disorienting for me as I walked and jogged with the leash in my hand. Usually I carry a flashlight, which aims down so that my eyes can adjust to the dark. The intense color and brightness of the leash kept my eyes from adjusting and made it harder for me to see the road — especially on the blinking settings. I will admit, though, that this may be a problem only for me. I don’t have the world’s best night vision to start with. For sure, this would only be an issue in a super-dark, rural setting like ours. I still need a flashlight to shine ahead of me. In the city or suburbs where there are periodic street lamps, this won’t be a problem. We confirmed this near the one light on our mile-long stretch of road.
Coop seemed completely unaffected by the lights. (As a hound, his primary navigational force is his nose.) Also, the leash light remains beside or behind the dog, rather than in their field of vision. The product website does say that some dogs may react to the blinking settings. Coop was completely nonplussed. The entire walk/jog was business as usual for him.
I have to say, I really do love these products. Depending on the setting where you walk, you may not need both items, but I do recommend buying the set. You can always turn off the leash when you don’t need the extra visibility, and it is still a great, highly visible, and strong four-foot leash.
Quality: Both the collar and leash are made of two layers of pretty rugged webbing, and the leash has a comfy padded handle.The electronics are well encased, and there is no way your dog will accidentally remove the power portion. Both items have two high-powered LEDs for maximum brightness. Once charged, the company says they will last up to 10 hours, though we made it a point to charge every two walks without actually testing that.
Style: Save the fun prints for your dogs’ everyday collars; these are stylish enough, considering their purpose, but their real job is safety. We’ll call the style “classic.” It may not turn heads when in the “off” setting, but certainly will when lit up.
Function: A+. You WILL be seen when using these products at night.
Creativity: I think the rechargeable aspect of these was a much-needed innovation in lighted accessories. That being said, innovation is not without risk. The USB cable is product specific; if you lose it, you will need to buy another. The good news is that they can be replaced for only $3 plus shipping and handling. That’s roughly the cost of one pair of batteries for similar products.
Value: Collars are $29.95 to $35, depending on size, and leashes are $35. Combination packages range from $60.75 to $63. For what they provide in visibility, and considering that you will never have to buy batteries, I think it’s a great value. There are plenty more expensive collars and leashes on the market that don’t actually “do” anything. Also, considering that $10 of each item sold goes directly to dogs in need? That has value on a whole other level.
If your dogs are night owls, Shine for Dogs collars and leashes are a great way to increase safety and visibility for you both. And also for shelter pets like Coop, who, by the way, has become a totally normal hound dog and who is still looking for his forever home. If you know someone who needs a goofy, lovable hound in their life, adoption applications and information can be found at the 4 Paws Farm website.
Shine for Dogs has generously offered to give Dogster readers free shipping on their order. Just enter DOGSTERSHINES when promted. Thanks, Shine for Dogs!
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About the author: Lisa Seger (who goes by Blue Heron Farm on most social media platforms) is a former office drone turned dairy farmer and cheesemaker. She found that cubicle jobs just didn’t allow for enough quality animal time and so made animals her work instead. Like all dairy farmers, she has virtually NO free time, but what little she gets is generally spent in pursuit of rescuing, fostering, and placing homeless dogs. Or being a smart-alec on the interwebs. Follow her on Facebook.