The world’s top dogs will tonight step out in By Jim Lawson Crufts’ glittering finale.
But as they parade before an audience of millions, one unsung hero will watch from afar.
Aileen Toynton, creator of the ‘dog onesie’, is missing the event for the first time in 31 years.
The 53-year-old is too busy keeping up with demand for her bizarre invention.
The outfits are in high demand to keep models spotless before they compete.
While designed to protect the dogs’ coats from the damp weather, the tartan, spots, and even tiger print options mean there is no need to be drab.
Mrs Toynton said: ‘It’s really exciting. There will be literally hundreds worn to walk in. ‘They are very distinctive in their bright colours. This is the first time since 1987 that I have not gone to Crufts but having got all the Crufts orders ready and with all the other orders from pet owners over the last fortnight of dreadful weather, I just cannot afford to go.’ Some 160,000 visitors have attended the fourday event, with breeders and dogs travelling from around the world in the hope of taking home a prize. It culminates tonight with Best in Show. Mrs Toynton, of Elgin, Moray, whose husband Chris thought her idea was ‘barking’, said: ‘The coats are handmade to fit each individual dog. And yes, there is a space for them to do their business.’
The world’s top dogs have been on show at the NEC this weekend.
But 450 miles away Aileen Toynton is not at Crufts for the first time in 31 years. Aileen, 53, from Elgin, is the inventor of the doggy onesie – a big hit on the Birmingham dogwalks – and is working “eight days a week” to keep up with demand. Yesterday, she said: “There will be literally hundreds worn to walk-in tomorrow.
“They are very distinctive in their bright colours. “Having got all the Crufts orders ready and with all the other orders from pet owners over the last fortnight of dreadful weather I just cannot afford to go.”
THE MORAY CREATOR of the ‘onesie for dogs’ that generated worldwide acclaim has developed another new project that she believes dog owners will love – a canine drying suit.
Aileen Toynton hit the headlines around the world after setting up an Elgin-based business that designs and produces unique coats for dogs – but she admits it was all almost accidental.
Her ‘K9 CleanCoat’ became a massive hit with dog lovers, attracting orders from as far afield as New Zealand and Canada – as well as massive praise for filling a void in the ever-growing pet market.
Her journey started when she was unable to find a garment for her American Cocker Spaniel, Toto, that kept her pet warm, dry and clean. The former Court Shorthand Writer had never previously touched a sewing machine – but out of despair at having to bath and dry a cold wet Toto every day, she learned how to sew.
She said: “The response to the original K9 CleanCoat onesies has been unbelievable – and yet it all happened by accident, the result of creating something for Toto. I was fed up of the daily bath routine after his walks so I bought various canine creations from all over the world, regardless of the cost.
“But it was never the correct length on his back, or was half way up his legs and it didn’t cover his full tummy, so he still needed washing. I hated leaving him damp and shivering in his bed.
“Driven by sheer desperation, I finally bought a second-hand sewing machine and enrolled in an evening class to learn how to use it. After a few attempts with Toto acting as my mannequin, I came up with the K9 CleanCoat. Before I knew it, I was getting orders from all over the world.”
Now Aileen has produced a new product that answers one of the age-old problem recognised by every dog owner – a towelling full-drying suit that has been designed to speed up the process of drying your wet dog and prevent it from catching a chill!
“I’m thrilled to now be launching the K9 CleanCoat Bath, which is intended for use on wet dogs after walks, visits to the Hydrotherapy Pool or even after dogs have been pampered at home in the bath,” Aileen explained.
She continued: “I started designing these suits after I failed to find anything that fitted my own dog well. Much of the pet wear currently on the market comes in from Asia, and is not made by dog-people.”
While the original K9 CleanCoat ensured dogs remained clean, warm and dry, saving hours of work for their owners, five years on the K9 CleanCoat Bath takes things to a new level. The made-to-measure microfibre towelling drying suit can be worn after walks or baths – ensuring the utmost comfort and speedier drying for your dog.
Aileen said: “It’s ideal for those who are happy for their dogs to run free and get wet and dirty, but then want to make sure they are comfortable afterwards.
“They are perfect for hairy dogs as all their leg, tummy, chest and ear feathering is inside the towelling drying suit – and it’s also ideal for ensuring the car stays nice and clean and prevents dirty water from spraying everywhere after those inevitable shakes.
“The best thing about both of the K9 CleanCoat products is that they are made-to-measure. No two dogs are the same shape or size, so by investing in one of these bodysuits you are guaranteeing a great fit, which will give your dog the freedom to move about, but also stay warm at the same time.”
By Robert McAulay
THE inventor of the canine onesie has been asked to kit out one of the iconic Dulux dogs.
Seamstress Aileen Perry, of Elgin, Moray, gets up to 30 orders a day from around the world for her dog outfits just a year after setting up.
Her bisiness is going so well she has had to hire a kiltmaker to help her keep pace.
But the 50-year-old’s biggest breakthrough came recently when she was asked to make a onesie for a Dulux dog.
The Old English Sheepdogs have, for decades, fronted one of the most successful advertising campaigns in history.
Aileen’s tartan onesie now keeps Aslan the Old English Sheepdog clean and dry between photoshoots.
The onesies, which are sold for up to £50, stop pooches getting too wet or muddy on walks. Fans from as far afield as the US and Australia have been bombarding Elaine with orders.
She has now applied to patent the design, which is a full body suit with a hood and elasticated cuffs. She first came up with the idea after becoming frustrated with her own dog coming back from walks covered in mud.
Aileen made the first of two coats for Aslan last month after a special request from his owner, who was taking him to a photo shoot in Dublin.
She said: “It was very exciting. I had to drop everything and rush this coat to Dublin. He had to look all fluffy and fabulous for the shoot — he needed the coat to keep him beautiful when he went out for a pee. He’s a very coiffeured dog.
She added: “It’s like with an actress — you can’t go getting all wet in the rain when you go out for a pee. You can’t afford to get a dog’s fur wet and wait hours to get it dry.
“It is so exciting. I’m running on adrenalin. When I was growing up wanting to be a vet I never thought I’d be sewing up coats for the Dulux dog.”
Aslan’s owner, Fiona Mullen, from Dublin, said: “He’s the Dulux dog for Ireland. He’s been working for Dulux for 6 years — he does photos,interviews and he’s been on TV here.
“He wears the coats for going to shows and promotions. They’re ideal — You can imagine it’s a nightmare having a big hairy dog and trying to keep him clean.”
One of the joys of the colder weather is walking your dog or dogs on a bright, frosty morning. I love watching them run and play and then comes that moment when they find a thin layer of ice over a muddy puddle and in seconds you know that not only will the inside of your car smell like a wet dog for a week but you have to spend at least 15 minutes washing and drying time, per dog, on your return home before you can get on with the rest of your day! Dog coats are all very well for downpours but they rarely stay in place if your dog is off lead running and could actually be dangerous if they slipped and became snagged while your dog was out of sight.
Back in the 1920s a new phrase entered our vocabulary when a particular form of sleeping attire had a resurgence in popularity and the ‘cat’s pyjamas’ became an expression of great approval. This week my test crew have the dog’s pyjamas to consider, will the K9 Cleacoat be the onesie they want?
I chose Cyril my Irish Setter and Binky, my Italian Spinone to be my testers.
Cyril is a submariner when it comes to puddles and Binky has started her HPR training, so there will be plenty of opportunity to see just how rugged the K9 Cleancoat is. The first stage was getting to grips with the measurements that Aileen Perry would need to construct the bespoke suit. She told me, “It makes sense to me that a one piece garment like this simply won’t fit unless it is made to measure, it’s been fascinating to see the differences within a breed for sizing.” I followed the instructions for measuring and sent the figures off by email. Aileen phoned me straight back, “Are you quite sure about this measurement? ” she said. I re-measured. Aileen was absolutely right, I had made an error. She told me, “When I get the measurements I then have a picture in my head of that dog, it jumps right out at me if something doesn’t sound quite right. I want the coat to be comfortable and allow the dog freedom of movement so I put a video on YouTube to explain how to measure twice so I only need to cut once!”
I loved making a choice from the fabrics Aileen has on her website, for Binky who would be wearing hers after a day in the field I felt that Dartmouth Green would be less likely to give cause for mirth than perhaps the multi coloured frogs among my trialling friends and for Cyril a beautiful cobalt blue with a jaunty tartan hood would suit him well. The gallery of pictures on Aileen’s website is glorious; I suspect that Cyril was relieved that I passed on the pink leopard skin pattern that looked so eye-catching on the vivacious Chinese Crested. I love the stars and stripes that Aileen’s own American Cocker sports, Toto is a successful show dog but he loves to run with the working Springers and all of that luxuriant coat was the inspiration for the suit.
When the K9CCs arrived I was delighted that Aileen had added Binky’s name onto the shoulder of the suit, I can see this being very popular as I have a feeling that affix holders will choose ‘team colours’ and then identify the individual dog. The fabric of the dog bodysuit is a soft fleece, each leg is covered and finished with a snug cuff, underneath a broad Velcro strip means you can tuck long coat away safely. A hood comes up over the ears and fits across the brow, this can be pushed back leaving head and ears exposed so your dog doesn’t have any excuse for not hearing you! Binky and Cyril reacted with great excitement on the first fitting, I’ve never really been one to dress my dogs but this garment is practical as well as having a certain sartorial elegance. The rest of my crew were most intrigued and my garden path rivalled the Milan haute couture runway as they swanked and strutted their stuff!
I was surprised at how quickly Cyril and Binky became used to the suits, perhaps because there is no restriction on their movement.
Most of my favourite walks this time of year involve mud, some of my crew daintily pick their delicate way around the puddles while others delight in a full on mud bath, on this first walk I had another Setter and Spinone with me as well as the two fashion icons so I could compare the results on returning home. Cyril and Binky showed no concern for the dog coats at all, and the mud was generously applied. It was the work of a few moments to get the coats off before the dogs were loaded back into my car and while Cyril and Binky were smug without mud, the other two dripped.
It’s not just mud that these dog coats will protect against; don’t you find the icy snowball effect on long coated dogs is a real pain to deal with? My oldies will certainly keep toastie on their slower walks when the blood can’t race as well as in their youth. Dog show car parks are so often churned up so the suit will be a god send in keeping the efforts of the night before bathing and grooming in fine fettle so only paws will need drying before being ring ready. For a working dog, a full day’s shooting often means a quick wash down with a hose at the venue and a cold journey home, even with a rug type dog coat but the bodysuit will maintain the body warmth while still allowing the skin to breathe and the coat to dry. What better way to thank your dog for a good day’s work? For dogs who suffer from seasonal allergies the suit will provide relief and with pesticides so widely used the coat provides a healthy barrier to irritant particles.
Aileen suggests just hanging the coat to dry or if it’s truly caked a quick machine wash does the trick without the need to tumble as it takes a very short time to dry, I found the suit kept good shape and was ready for use quickly. Are there any negative features? Well, the obvious one of not allowing your dog to swim in one has to be considered, there’s a good reason why knitted swimming costumes never really took off. The price for a bespoke garment is, I think, very reasonable. Between £35 and £50 for a quality item like this with tremendous back up from Aileen is, in my opinion, a bargain. Now, where did I put that tape measure and this time it’s going to be the psychedelic frogs.