How a Mexican Street Dog Founded a US Company

by Mary Haight on August 27, 2010

Offered a review of the Mountain Dog leash, unique in its field, I accepted and also asked for an interview to kick it off. I’m glad I did. I learned some unexpected, interesting things about the product and the company’s Mexican street dog, spending a fast-paced hour with Charles Howard, President, Mountain Dog Products.

 1. When did you start your company, how did you get together with your partners and what made you put the idea of used climbing rope together with leashes?  Were you all climbers?

Dirk Schmidt (partner) and I have been friends for many years, and went to business school together. We both had ample experience as employees in the corporate sector, having climbed the corporate ladder in several businesses. We were looking for new business opportunities. I’m also a mountain climber and my wife and I were in Mexico enjoying a climbing vacation.  While we were finishing up one day, a Mexican street dog appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.

He was filthy, had bite marks on him, smelled like skunk and was largely unfamiliar with the ways of humans.  The dog adopted us.  And when it was time to leave the area my wife said simply that the dog was not staying behind…and I needed to get it done. [Hearing this, I was an instant fan!]

I fashioned a leash for the dog out of the climbing rope…we kept it for sentimental reasons.  When we got home, we continued to use the leash and people in dog parks commented, saying it was cool looking – one thing led to another. [Howard said Jefe is lying at his feet. I would bet he’s probably listening, feeling proud of himself…wait til he sees the headline!]

As a serious climber and outdoorsman, preserving the environment for future generations is something I take very seriously.  When the business was formed, each step had the environment in mind. The business is a reflection of our values and beliefs.

Oh, and I wanted to say that even though Jefe, which means “boss”, had bite marks, smelled, and lived in the wild probably fighting off coyotes and whatever else, when we got him home he never messed in the house, never chewed on anything, and treats the other rescue dog and cat well  – he went from wild animal to great dog overnight. Jefe is the original Mountain Dog.

 2. What is climbing rope made of? Your leashes are made to last a lifetime, and the marketing says they are smoother than nylon in the hand.

The rope is made of a core engineered to support and catch the weight of a falling person, so the stress test is amazing. It is dragged across rock for miles [and scraped across jagged outcrops, too!].  Sheathed with a type of nylon that is not in everyday use, the rope gets softer to the touch as it’s used.

3. Your site says colors come and go depending on materials purchased, and if someone wants a color that doesn’t look like its available they can contact customer service and request it. Do you make a special order to your rope suppliers? I didn’t see any information about a color process.

Specific length is the usual custom order – police work with search and rescue dogs and want 30 ft ropes, a handle and clip on one end. The other common order is for a 12 ft leash or very short 18 inch leash.

As far as colors go. we have a range at any given time of 12-30-70  colors depending on suppliers. [They don’t  do any dyeing for special orders]

Everything is about recycling—there is no rope deconstruction or manufacturing. We get our rope from many different sources. For instance,  [mountain] guide services gave us 60 meters long ropes cut into lengths.  We also get rope from gyms, where wall climbing means shorter ropes.  We have a great partner with a wonderful recycling plan and we also get factory remnants – no one is looking for 15 ft long climbing rope!

4. What about your marketing, you say it’s generally word of mouth?

We have the best quality climbing rope, all repurposed for dogs.  We made a commitment to provide high quality customer service, and make our product in an environmentally sound way. Each one is handmade.  We take our product out and teach one dealer at a time what we and our product are about and what we stand for.

We guarantee recycled product, and have a lifetime replacement for any chewed leashes, since chewing is the only thing that can destroy it.

Marketing propagates throughout the community – the product goes to a dealer, starts selling, and two weeks later we are getting calls from two or three other dealers saying, “hey, we want to sell your product too.”

We want to continue to grow at a reasonable pace to maintain quality control which is why we decided not to go to the Backer show to keep expansion orderly rather than explosive.  We don’t do business with big box stores.  Our focus is on independently-owned business –  even our hardware supplier is a small independently-owned business. Our snap clips are bought from the last manufacturer remaining in the US.  There are 30 different companies here, but they all import the clips.

And we do not do business with anyone who sells dogs or cats. The public needs to understand why pet shops are a bad thing and how they impact the lives of those dogs and the shelters that often are on the receiving end.

5. What’s new at Mountain Dog?

We had our one-year Anniversary and decided to do something other than offer a discount. Rescue groups were the beneficiaries of this diversion. We partnered with dealers and gave anyone who bought x number of leashes over a defined period of time three free leashes sent to the local charity of their choice.  It was much more fun to celebrate our first-year anniversary this way than by offering a discount. It personalizes the business relationship [and spreads the wealth – bet the recipients were happy]. Mountain Dog also supports many charities here in our own community.

There are a couple of new products coming up: a slip lead and The Amazing Versatile Dog Leash which is our take on the European six-in-one leash.  [Okay, I want to see this one!]

Many thanks to Charles Howard, President of Mountain Dog, for being generous with his time for Dancing Dog Blog.

Peter Krebs
Peter Krebs

These look a lot like an earlier versions of the Krebs Recycle Leashes - which were created in 2005. Their concept is almost identical.

Lorie Huston
Lorie Huston

I loved hearing how they took Jefe off the streets of Mexico and back home with them. What a nice story!


I really love the idea of a company making leashes from repurposed climbing rope. Obviously, they have really thought about their impact in the environment. Pretty Cool! Although, I have to say what caught my eye was Jefe. What a gorgeous dog!


Great story about Jeffe! We have leashes made of climbing rope for Ty and Buster, and they are very sturdy and comfortable to use.


Leash looks super sturdy. I'm glad they kept the little dog too!


That looks like a neat leash! Glad we hopped by to say hi! Sage


Cool! Seeing if I can get a 40 foot long leash right now.


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