After a coyote attacked and killed his pet poodle Buffy in 2014, entrepreneur Paul Mott decided to design a solution to prevent the same thing from happening to other small dogs. The result is a crazy-looking spiked vest—with optional quills—that's meant to keep tiny pets safe.
The CoyoteVest is made from stab-resistant Kevlar, layered on the sides so an attacking coyote (or a larger dog, or a hawk) can't bite through. Spikes around the neck make it impossible to pick the dog up by the neck. Rows of spikes down the dog's back add more protection.
"The next thing we thought was, okay, is there anything we can do to make it so the coyote just won't even attack at all?" says Mott. "So we started experimenting with these whiskers, basically trying to put something on the dog that wouldn't affect its ability to run or play, but would make it look more dangerous…the idea is to just make the coyote scratch its head and think twice before it attacks."
The broom bristle-like whiskers—inspired by porcupine quills—get strange looks when Mott and his wife take their other poodles to the dog park. "Everybody thinks it's a costume," he says. "I hear comments like, 'Well, that will keep the pigeons off your dog.' Or, 'I didn't know this was the circus.' So everybody starts off—they're smiling, they're friendly, they're thinking that we're just being fun-loving people, decorating our dogs."
As people get closer, and see the spikes and a logo that says CoyoteVest, they quickly figure it out. "Invariably they say the exact same thing, 'Gosh, that's a really good idea," Mott says. "Every time."
The design has a catch—it's only meant to work if someone is with their dog, and just slow the coyote down enough that the human can step in and scare the coyote away. "It's very important that if your dog is being attacked, you have a chance to stop it, intervene, get in there and stop the fight," he says. "In my case, with my little dog, the doggone coyote picked her up and ran away at 40 miles an hour, and I couldn't catch him."
Another optional feature for the vest delivers an electric shock to the coyote if the pet's owner pushes a remote control button.
None of this has actually been proven to work, but Mott is convinced that it will help. He studied every research paper on coyotes that he could find, along with every grisly story of attacked pets. He even bought a coyote skull on Ebay, and tested exactly where it would be possible for the animal to bite.
Now, still obsessed with the problem, he's interested in ways to make the system work without a human around (in theory, the new version could also protect cats, which are likely to wander around on their own). "I have some ideas that hopefully we'll get a chance to develop in the future," he says. "Where we'll have something like a FitBit for your dog, that will know if your dog's been picked up or carried away."