How Lambwolf Collective Made Pet “Play Objects” a Thing
The pet lifestyle brand’s creations are simply too pretty to be called toys. (The rest of their accessories are pretty gorgeous, too.)
Your pet wants you to read our newsletter. (Then give them a treat.)
A few years ago, Ang Wong fulfilled the dream of many burnt-out millennials and prematurely followed Beyoncé’s Break My Soul advice: She quit her corporate job. It was a high-paying role with a great Upper East Side location, but the work was draining. Unfortunately, this admirable effort to prioritize personal happiness over salary was eclipsed by one unforeseen factor — a looming global pandemic. Wong had left her job right before the world shut down, so she didn’t have many career options. “I was in this dark hole. I quit my job and then the pandemic happened so I had nothing to do. I was trying to search for things, but it was a terrible time to start anything,” Wong remembers.
Luckily, opportunity soon came knocking at her door in the cutest possible fashion. A barely seven-week-old Jindo puppy looking for food was sitting outside her steps. After exhausting the proper channels to ensure this stray pup wasn’t previously adopted, Wong took her in. “I was like, ‘I’m just going to devote myself to learning how to become a full-time dog owner,’” she says. This adorable creature she named Mia — the Italian word for mine — would inspire Wong to launch Lambwolf Collective, an elegant and inventive pet brand.
Up until this point, Wong wasn’t much of a dog person, so she didn’t have extensive knowledge of what to buy for Mia, or where to buy it. Armed with a background in art and design, as well as a creative spirit, she began DIY-ing engagement toys. At first, this involved simply tying treats inside a towel to create a sort of puzzle for Mia.
“I was making these objects for her, but also for me because I was trapped inside, and I had no friends to hang out with. I also wanted to have fun, so I was creating all these toys that we could enjoy together and have this interaction together,” she says. When Wong realized she didn’t want to sacrifice all of their bath cloths for this endeavor, she invested in some fabric and began crafting homemade toys with a sewing machine. These became the precursor to some of Lambwolf Collective’s most popular products.
The brand offers an assortment of dog toys stemming from this original concept, and each item is hand designed by Wong. An early pandemic creation was Lambwolf’s Nou, a twisty rope toy that looks somewhere between a heavy-duty camping knot and a Jeff Koons sculpture. It features four hidden squeakers to keep pets on their toes while they search for treats inside, for which there is ample room. It’s made of soft corduroy fabric, so it’s gentle on mouths and gums. Plus, all seams are double-stitched to help battle power chewers.
Lambwolf Collective also offers food-inspired options, like its Cabbage Pop — a crinkly snuffle mat-type toy. The look and shape are equal to its vegetable namesake but with much more room for treats. Not to mention, the gadget is reusable with a concealed soft squeaker ball buried within. Lambwolf also offers artichoke, corn, and fish version of the snuffle gear. And for larger dogs who are fans of French bread, there’s a baguette edition with four treat-fillable creases on top (oui, oui).
If these sound like enough to tickle even the least foodie pet parents among us, they’re created with that intention. Each Lambwolf Collective product is meant to offer just as much to dogs as they are to people. In fact, it’s part of why you’ll rarely see the term “toy” used anywhere on the brand’s website.
“If you notice, I don’t call them toys. I call them play objects because I really believe that this is not just a play or learning tool but a piece of the home,” Wong explains. It helps that each “play object” is composed of pretty and — dare we say — Instagrammable materials. Throughout the product listings, you’ll see a lot of pastel and muted colors that should complement most modern decors. “I want to make sure it looks good. I don’t want it to look like something that when people come over you feel you need to hide away,” she adds.
In the spirit of this desire and Wong’s early DIY attitude when Mia first came into her life, Lambwolf Collective offers the option to create your own play object on their site. You can choose from a selection of Lambwolf products, such as “Nou,” to combine and twist into each other to create a unique and personal play object for your pup. In essence, it’s essentially Build-A-Bear for pets.
“I wanted to put front and center to whoever is shopping with us that this experience is not just about your dog; it’s about you,” Wong says. “Your dog does notice, in a magical way, how much you like an object yourself. Then when they see you interact with the object, they like it much more because they see it as quality time with you.”
This personal touch extends to the check-out process. With every purchase on Lambwolf’s website, the brand donates a portion of the proceeds to a charity of the buyer’s choice. Lambwolf lists a variety of organizations to select from that go well beyond animal welfare, including environmental, minority, and women’s rights groups to support.
Plus, the brand is actively working to offer basically every product a pet parent could need with leashes, collars, jackets, sweaters, beds, and treats all available. As for where else Lambwolf Collective will go, Wong doesn’t have any one goal in mind outside of staying true to her original mission: “The important thing for me is that this is never just about dogs. This is about a lifestyle, life with dogs.”
The Brooklyn-based, vegan pet accessory brand is advocating for senior dogs and looking damn good doing it.
Oh, and his dad, founder Will Chen, is a bit of an innovator, too.
The online boutique’s founder on the importance of supporting BIPOC-led pet brands.
Founder Jisu Kim on designing sweaters you’ll wanna steal from your dog.
Shelby Eastman’s pup accessory line is anything but dull.
Founder Sara Berks on the origins of her textile-forward brand’s ethical mission and artisan craftsmanship.
Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.