10 May 2024

Doggie do-dos while on walkies stink. No longer, thanks to this Canberra woman's invention

| James Coleman
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Rachel Hawes regularly walks her dogs around her home in Isaacs. Photo: Rachel Hawes.

Whether you have a dog or not, you’ll know the problem.

Your otherwise blissful walk through the suburbs is tainted by the ever-present whiff of poo from the plastic bag in your hand, after your beloved ‘fur-baby’ decided to do a dump the moment you were out of reach of a rubbish bin.

Or … you’re an innocent pedestrian, going about your business when you accidentally step in a dog’s business and curse the day the fur-baby (and all who call their dogs fur-babies) was born.

Canberra woman Rachel Hawes understands the pain on both sides, which is why she’s come up with a solution called the ‘Pupoon’.

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“I’ve been walking dogs for well over 20 years and the lack of suitable equipment has always intrigued me,” she says.

“You see these people everywhere, carrying around bags of dog poo tied to the lead, and I’ve tried that, and it really stinks, and it’s dangerous if the bag explodes on you.”

She says this has created another problem, where owners would rather ignore their dog’s business than go in and try to extract it.

The Pupoon covers a multitude of sins. Photo: Daniel Anderson.

In fact, her market research revealed some scary figures.

There are about six million dogs across Australia, which poop an average of 340 grams per day. Add it all together, and that’s 744,600 tonnes annually. Surveys show only about 40 per cent of owners pick up after their dog, which leaves 298,000 tonnes lying around in the environment.

That’s disgusting.

Rachel has two miniature schnauzers, Baxter and Milo, and a west highland terrier, Angus. She walks them regularly through the pine forest near her suburb of Isaacs. She says Canberra is “great for dog walking”.

The Pupooons can also be attached to the lead. Photo: Rachel Hawes.

“There are plenty of parks, and that’s where it’s really important from a hygiene perspective [to pick up your dog’s poo] because people love taking their young kids to parks, and it’s an awful experience to step in it.”

Dog faeces may contain microorganisms that cause illness in humans such as salmonella, e coli, giardia and internal parasites, and some of these can survive in the soil and infect for months or years to come.

“I just sort of wanted to be a dog owner who did the right thing, but you need the right equipment to do the right thing.”

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Her thinking with the Pupoon was to combine the bag dispenser with a plastic airtight storage capsule, or cocoon. The whole thing attaches to the lead via a silicon strap and, at 750 ml, can accommodate “large or multiple dumps”.

It’s taken four years from being a working mum researching the idea as a hobby to where Rachel is today, expecting her first shipment.

“Even though it’s a relatively simple idea, making it work meant a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the designers and the factory and testing it out to get it to the point it was retail-ready.”

In 2023, she won a grant from the Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN), which helped cover the expensive moulding process.

“I had a lot of fun with that pitch, talking about how food is the biggest market for dog products, and obviously, what goes in has to come out.”

Pupoon boxes

‘Blue Heeler’ is the only colour currently on sale, but others are coming soon. Photo: Pupoon.

Her daughter came up with the logo idea, and her other two kids have helped with photography, social media, marketing and business strategy. Rachel also credits the industrial design team at Formswell in Dickson with helping bring the concept to life.

Some of her friends were initially sceptical, but as they’ve watched the progress, they have turned to firm converts.

“Previously, I used to think, ‘I won’t go on this particular route because there’s no bin and I’ll have to carry it’, so it was starting to determine where I was walking. Now, I don’t have to think twice about it.”

Rachel is officially launching the Pupoon at the RSPCA Million Paws Walk for the annual event’s 30th birthday on Sunday, 26 May, with some of the proceeds going to the RSPCA.

For now, only the ‘Blue Heeler’ blue option is available to order online for $50, but Greyhound Grey, Great Dane Green and Poodle Pink colours are coming soon.

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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