The world of companies who specialize in gundog training products is – when compared to other segments of the outdoors market – a relatively tiny one. Let’s face it: we’ll never rival bass fishing or deer hunting in terms of market share and future growth. But at least one company is betting there’s enough profit potential in the gundog world to make expansion worthwhile, and on Friday afternoon it surprised everyone by announcing that it had acquired one of the most venerated names in gundogdom.

From a press release on the Garmin website:
Garmin Ltd., (NASDAQ: GRMN), the global leader in satellite navigation, today announced that one of its subsidiaries has signed an agreement to acquire Tri-Tronics Inc., the leading designer and manufacturer of electronic dog training equipment. The acquisition will allow the combined company to expand its leadership position in both the tracking and training of sporting dogs and household pets alike. “We are delighted to have Tri-Tronics join the Garmin family. Like Garmin, Tri-Tronics is a leading and respected brand that is committed to designing, manufacturing, and marketing the highest quality, most rugged, and easiest-to-use devices in the business,” said Cliff Pemble, president and COO of Garmin. “By integrating the two companies, we believe we can leverage our areas of expertise into products that can greatly enhance the way that dog owners interact with their canine companions. This acquisition should demonstrate without a doubt that Garmin is fully committed to developing innovative products for the canine market.”
“For more than 40 years, Tri-Tronics has been the leading brand of electronic dog training equipment. Combined with Garmin, we can extend our leadership well into the future,” said Mike Romano, vice president and general manager of Tri-Tronics. “Our combined team will work together to develop cutting-edge products that will help dog owners more effectively train their dogs and keep them safer. Together, we can bring these products to market quicker, with more features, and at a competitive price.”…Tri-Tronics will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Garmin Ltd. Its existing management team will be retained and will continue operations at its headquarters in Tucson, Arizona. Financial terms of the agreement will not be released. The deal is expected to close by June 30, 2011.

This is interesting news indeed. Tri-Tronics is, arguably, the leading e-collar manufacturer in the country. Garmin was – up until last year – the undisputed leader in GPS-based dog tracking technology. That’s when SportDOG, one of Tri-Tronics’ main rivals in the e-collar field introduced its TEK 1.0 the world’s first combination GPS-tracking/e-collar. At the same time SportDOG also introduced its own GPS tracking collar without the e-collar option, in direct competition with Garmin’s venerable and wildly popular Astro.

I haven’t gotten my hands on one of SportDOG’s Tek 1.0 collars yet, but I am a dedicated Astro user. Garmin is, of course, being mum about any future product plans, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where they’re going with this one. I think it’s a safe bet that at some point in the future you’re going to see Garmin’s and Tri-Tronics’ answer to SportDOG’s Tek 1.0. And wherever your brand loyalties reside, this is good news for dog owners. Competition breeds both innovation and value. And while as a demographic we’ll never be huge, it’s nice to know there are companies out there who think we’re worth catering to.