Listen to this: Ear Care an Important Part of Dog Grooming, Health Maintenance

Ear cleaning seems simple enough, but it’s a deceptively complicated task because of the length of a dog’s ear canal. Because of that, and combined with canines having lots of hair or floppy ears, dogs are rendered susceptible to ear infections without proper care.

Most vets recommend a professional cleaning—either at the veterinarian or by a professional groomer. At Scenthound, a salon with several locations across Florida, ear care is a key part of its service offering.

“Our signature service, The B.E.N.T. (Bath, Ears, Nails, Teeth), includes a coat conditioning bath, ear cleaning, nail clipping and teeth brushing,” said Darlene O’Donnell, Scenthound’s operations manager. “We developed the package to address the core areas that require routine care. At Scenthound, it’s our mission to help keep pups clean and healthy. It just takes a little regular maintenance to stay on top of most issues.

“Ear issues, and specifically ear infections, are one of the top reasons that dogs visit the vet,” she continued. “Keeping ears free of hair and wax is a great start in maintaining healthy ears. Because of the twisty shape of a dog’s ear canal, bacteria and yeast can work its way down, and if left unattended, can cause infection. The best plan of action is always prevention, especially if you have a dog who is prone to allergies which can exacerbate the problem. Pups with dropped or pendulous ears can also be more prone to infections and may require a little more attention.”

It’s All in the Tool

When it comes to cleaning up the hair, the Pulse Ion Cordless Clipper, manufactured by Andis Company, is an adjustable blade clipper that offers the dependability of a corded clipper. Best for medium-coated and wire hair breeds, the Pulse Ion offers professionals five different  blade lengths (numbers 40, 30, 15, 10 and 9) to save time when grooming. With a lightweight, ergonomic design and lithium ion battery for up to two hours of non-stop grooming, this tool is the ideal choice for controlled-cutting in sensitive areas.

Andis’ education manager, Megan Mouser, recommends shears, like the Ball Tip Shears, when trimming around the ear. When trimming inside the ear, she recommends using an adjustable blade clipper on a 30 or 15 setting. A 5-in-1 clipper, like the Pulse Ion, is a quiet, lightweight, and versatile tool with the blade lengths needed for upkeep. All are available from Andis.

“Take caution around the ear folds when trimming,” Mouser said, reminding the pros and the at-home groomers. “Remember that the clipper will make noise and vibrate, so many dogs will try and shake their head.”

When it comes to tools and products used at the Scenthound locations, O’Donnell said members of the retail team are very cautious when making their selections.

“At Scenthound, we take a lot of care in selecting the products we use and recommend to our customers,” she said. “It’s important to us that our products are non-toxic and, of course, that they do the job well. Our shampoos are eco-friendly, chemical-free and use only natural ingredients.

“We use a non-toxic ear cleanser as well, called Zymox,” she continued. “The formula uses natural, bio-active antimicrobial properties for gentle cleansing, and breaks through tough wax and debris without harsh chemicals that can irritate sensitive ears. If needed, we also remove ear hair to allow for more air circulation. We use a numbing ear powder and hemostats to extract hair from pup’s ear as comfortably as possible.”

Keep it Clean

Ear infections are something O’Donnell’s groomers look for. “If we spot an ear infection, we recommend Zymox Ear Solution,” she said. “The non-invasive protocol is an antibiotic-free solution and, in our experience, proves highly effective in minimizing bacterial, fungal and yeast infections.”

“Pet parents know how difficult it can be to clean a dog’s ears and how much dogs dislike the process, particularly the ear flooding part,” said Elyse Horvath, owner of Natural Paws, regarding the brand’s EARoma thEARapy. “With this product, it’s much easier to clean a pet’s ears, and there is minimal moisture left behind to dry out, which greatly lessens the chance of developing an infection.”

As far as product innovation, the ear segment has seen a shift toward the more natural, as in other categories. According to O’Donnell, the organization is happy with what’s on the market.

“We’ve tried countless products over the years, and we’re pleased with what’s available in the area of ear care,” she said. “I love how many companies are taking a more natural, non-toxic path with their ingredients. Our mantra at Scenthound is to treat every pup as if it were our own, and to us, that means using only the safest, most effective products when it comes to our furry friends.”

While dog owners who book routine appointments get the benefit of regular ear care to stave off potential infections, groomers should encourage owners to perform basic, routine maintenance tasks at home. Educate your clients, and provide them with the opportunity to purchase your most-recommended products to round out your service offering and create an additional sales opportunity

Value of In-Store Washing

When it comes to self-service dog washing bays, you’re probably picturing the usual: a couple metal tubs with washing supplies tucked into the back corner of the store. And that model works—it draws customers into and through the store, and merchandised well, it can also create numerous upsell opportunities.

However, one retailer shows that it pays to think beyond the tub. Mark Vitt of Mutts & Co., a family-owned small chain in the Columbus, Ohio, area, broke the mold for in-store dog washing bays.

“The dog wash was one of the core competencies, one of the differentiators when we opened our retail stores,” he said. “It was never intended to be the big revenue driver. It’s a complement to what we do. But we weren’t just going to put it in there and have it not mesh with the brand that we’ve created for our store.”

Humanize It
Mutts & Co. had spa-like bays installed in its locations. Each is built on an elevated platform and tiled to look more like a human spa space than a grooming space.

“I think by building in the actual platforms, and in some cases even the steps up, we’ve created something that is much more professional looking and actually customer-appealing as opposed to the big metal tubs, which we do use in our grooming space,” Vitt said. “We use the metal pet baths for grooming purposes, but the customer-facing ones we wanted to have more of a clean and inviting aesthetic value.”

Earlier this year, online money magazine The Balance reported that self-service dog washes are among the easiest and most lucrative startups because of the growth already seen in the space. Coin-operated self-service dog washes are popping up in the most unlikely of places, too—even car washes are adding self-service bays.

The pet retailer has the opportunity to provide an experience above and beyond.

“We think they’re really pretty spectacular as opposed to the metal tubs,” Vitt said of the store’s spa spaces. “We started that way, and then we decided to change it all around and do built-in platforms and tiled stations, the key being that each one is its own private washroom. We call each one their own private pet spa.”

When creating a self-service area, Vitt admits that it does take up a good amount of space. However, a dedicated area is worthwhile.

“Our biggest concern is having multiple customers bring their different dogs into a communal space,” he said. “Our focus is that everything is private, secure, safe, sanitized and that you don’t share space with another dog or another customer. You can focus on your own pet and not have to worry about other customers.”

Plus, from a cleanliness perspective, that arrangement keeps the mess, noise, hair and water contained in one room.

“It’s mutually exclusive to the retail space,” he said. “From a standpoint of maintenance and cleaning, it’s pretty easy to clean, too.”

Product Sales 
Beyond the logistics of creating a self-service dog washing space within the retail space, the benefits are many—if capitalized upon.

“We try to intentionally drive people so that after they got the wash, which may or may not be the dog’s favorite thing in the world, we try to correlate that visit to the dog wash with a cookie or a bag of treats, or some clothing now that their dog’s clean or the grooming products,” Vitt said. “If they like the scent of the shampoo they use, we say, ‘Maybe you’d also like to use the spritzer.’ We absolutely see the correlation [between the bays and increased sales] and try to create upsell opportunities for people who
use the bathing facility.”

Repeat Customers
Vitt also uses the bays as a welcoming experience for new customers. He said when new customers come into the store, they’re offered a tour that includes the self-service dog washing area. They also give away coupons at local events to draw customers into the store by enticing them to use the dog washes.

“We feel like the facility is so nice and convenient that if they use it once they’ll come back,” he said.
“It’s a great way to create a long-term customer and also a reason to entice them to come into the store.”

While the initial investment might seem steep, and Vitt admits the downside to the self-service dog wash is that they take up a fair amount of space in his stores, it provides longterm benefit to the retailer. And, he added, “Truthfully, once it’s built, the overhead is soap and water.”

Whether you choose the metal tub route or follow the custom installation path, train staff to create upsell opportunities with each selfservice customer. Consider a loyalty program; Mutts & Co. offers the 10th wash free, for instance.

A self-service bay can drive foot traffic and increase daily totals, if done right.

Elite Salon Grooming Products Should be Easy to Use

Clippers and blowers are foundational tools of the grooming trade. They’re also often an investment piece for the salon. When it comes to selecting the right one, ease-of-use and quality are key purchase drivers.

Clippers

“I love Wahl clippers,” said Jorge Bendersky, the celebrity dog groomer who’s been trusted to style the dogs of Ralph Lauren and P. Diddy. “They’re a company that has a big team of professional groomers that review every product, and I know first-hand that they do listen and provide the pet market, both professional and private users, with really thought out product recommendations that have low vibrations and noise levels to make it easy on the pets.”

Popular brand Andis Company manufactures two well-known clipper options. First, the ProClip Pulse Ion Clipper is powered by lithium-ion technology for up to two hours of continuous trimming. It has a lightweight, contoured design with cord or cordless functionality while providing comfort and sure handling for the groomer. A powerful rotary motor generates 5,500 strokes per minute to cut through any hair type, and an adjustable stainless-steel blade (lengths 40-30-15-10-9) cuts down on grooming time.

The Pulse ZR Clipper is designed for heavy-duty clipping. This lithium-ion clipper provides the power of a corded tool but in a cord-free design and delivers up to two hours of continuous cutting without losing clipping power. The clipper has a precision-engineered rotary motor that can be set to five speeds, from 2,500 to 4,500 strokes per minute, for improved cutting control.

“Groomers rely on their tools, and I prefer products that are easy to maintain and even easier to use, so the adjustable blade Pulse Ion and 5-speed Pulse ZR are ideal,” said Megan Mouser, Andis’ animal education manager. “First of all, I love that they are cordless! This gives me the ability to freely move around the grooming table or to take a timid pet to a quieter space without the hassle of cords. An increase in versatility can improve grooming sessions for both the pet and the groomer. I also value the overall quality and ROI of these clippers.”

When it comes to investing in tools for the salon, Mouser shared her perspective on cost-per-use.

“As a rule of thumb, I typically choose a clipper based on how many grooms I will need to complete to pay for that tool, then I consider the tool’s remaining longevity after that point. In the grooming industry, time is money; a skilled, quality groom is everything else,” Mouser said. “I learned early in my career that upgrading my clippers also meant that I could upgrade my performance, which has paid off in a huge way. The Andis ProClip Pulse Ion is a smaller, lightweight clipper that I can use for all of my prep work. The adjustable stainless-steel blade means you won’t have to stop to put this tool down or switch out the blades while grooming, which really saves time. The Andis Pulse ZR will complete any job. This clipper can be effortlessly set to five different speeds, so you have the versatility of turning it up to cut through a thicker coat or slowing it down when you’re dealing with a scared, older pet.”

Blowers
Blowers round out the groom. According to Bendersky, who’s authored his own how-to manual, “DIY Dog Grooming,” when it comes to blowers, there’s one product he seeks out.

“The Kenchii GC-2000B digital ionic hair dryer is in a category of its own—quiet, efficient and expensive, but worth every penny,” he said.

The handheld dryer by Kenchii uses ion technology to create show-worthy results by breaking down water molecules quickly to reduce drying time—and, thus, reducing damage to the coat.

A stand-alone dryer option is the XPOWER B-16S Finishing Dryer, which is manufactured with state-of-the-art technology, making it versatile, powerful, durable and reliable. Th e standing dryer is specifically designed with “Anion” technology to produce negative ions that reduce static electricity. “Finishing dryers are widely used by a select group of groomers to dry difficult coats and achieve what is referred to as a show-quality finish,” said Jerry Cheng, sales manager for XPOWER Manufacture, Inc.

“With that in mind, it is no surprise that the finishing dryer is a precious tool for professional groomers to bring joy into many pet parents’ lives; moreover, difficult-coated breeds typically generate higher revenue per pet, which aids hardworking groomers in expenses such as tool maintenance/replacement, inventory purchasing, and upkeep of a grooming salon,” Cheng said. “The XPOWER B-16S Finishing Dryer is able to provide the kind of air volume and adjustable heat option to achieve this quality in difficult coats that forced air dryers simply can’t and is definitely a preferred tool amongst professional groomers who either service difficult coats on a daily basis, or are active in the show/competition aspect of their grooming career.”

Wish List

Finally, while a range of options are available for the pros, these market segments ultimately have room to grow to meet the needs of the at-home groomer. On Bendersky’s wish list?

“In the clipper world, I would love to see low price clippers for pet owners that are quiet,” Bendersky said. “Most clippers you find in pet stores are very loud. When it comes to dryers, self-standing affordable dryers directed to pet owners would be a great addition to the market.”

The Right Stuff

The foundation of any good grooming regimen, whether done at home or in a salon, starts with the right tools. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution in this category. The key is matching the comb, brush, shear or clipper to the dog’s coat and to the owner’s desired outcome, and the needs of the pro in the grooming shop differ widely from the needs of the casual, at-home or between-appointments groomer.

Gary Angell, owner of and groomer at My Two Dogs, Inc., in Brooklyn, New York, listed his salon’s must-haves: a stainless-steel Greyhound Comb, brushes from Miracle Coat and shears in eight-inch, six-inch ball tip curves, 32-tooth thinning shears and ball tip baby shears. He also keeps de-matters and flea combs on hand. In the shears, Angell said he utilizes a range of different brands that offer reliable performance.

While some customers choose to groom their pets entirely themselves, there are many more who do basic upkeep at home between visits to the pros. For those who groom at-home between appointments, stock your shelves with products that your customers can use safely and effectively. Be prepared to demonstrate, or at least, educate your customers on how to properly use the tools at home.

“We recommend all our clients to have a steel comb—we sell these in our shop—and at least one size-appropriate Miracle Coat brush,” Angell said. “This way they can brush and comb out their dog daily and before and after bathing at home to keep the dog from matting up.

We do not recommend our customers to use any type of shear or scissor at home on their dogs,” Angell continued. “We have had customers admit to using their kitchen scissors to cut their dogs’ faces—that’s never a good idea. We don’t recommend our clients to buy their own sheers because home grooming doesn’t usually go well, so we offer face and butt clean ups in between grooming to keep the dogs safe. And grooming is always harder than it looks.”

Brand recognition helps in this category. For instance, Andis is a perennial favorite with beauty brand recognition. Available in two styles, the regular line and the premium line, Andis is a cost-effective option for most customers, as well. The premium line has a larger, more substantial handle than the regular, but both lines offer an ergonomic design.

At-Home Comfort
Innovations like the newly-launched Bump It Off make it easy for dog owners to maintain their pet’s coat at home. The Bump It Off is a silicone grooming tool designed to fit in the palm of the hand so that it’s simple for the pet owner to gently brush out the coat. It’s a two-sided tool, one with bristles for de-shedding and one with bumps for massaging. What makes this an innovative product, though, is that it’s designed to also de-shed a pet owner’s sofa. With the same brushing action, it works to remove fur build-up from furniture. The product is dishwasher safe, too, so it can be cleaned and reused, and it’s available in several bright colors.

While brushes like the Bump It Off are not designed for the rigors of professional use, these fun and functional brushes serve as a transitional sale for dog owners who are interested in keeping up with their pet’s coat without the investment of professional-grade tools. A silicone tool can help the reticent or nervous at-home groomer feel more comfortable learning the skills of coat maintenance.

Despite the range of professional and trendy products on the market, according to Angell, there’s still room for product development in this category. The item he feels is missing?

“A magical, miracle mat remover,” he said.

Selling It
Don’t forget the importance of cross-selling. A comb or a brush can’t take care of all your customers’ at-home grooming needs, so be prepared to make product recommendations across categories. However, grooming products aren’t the only items that retailers need to keep in mind when interacting with pet owners.

“We recommend they use a nice, gentle natural shampoo at home, too,” Angell said. “We use, recommend and carry some Espree shampoos and TropiClean Spa products. We do carry the TropiClean Spa shampoos and conditioner and just started using Espree.”

Understanding the needs of your customer is the key to selling this category. Many dog owners know they want to groom their pet at home, but they probably don’t understand that their dog’s specific coat—is it single- or double-coated, for example—requires specific tools. There are specific brushes and combs for every task, so help your customers understand the type of tool they need to purchase to achieve their at-home grooming goals.

Finally, because there are safety risks inherent with at-home grooming, in-store demonstrations of the tools you stock can go a long way in helping to ensure pet owners are grooming their pets safely and without risk of injury.

Grain-Free Options Abound

The grain-free movement has shifted from a health food fad to an expectation among many dog owners. While the origin of the grain-free trend among human health started with a combination of celebrity fad diets and an awareness of gluten sensitivity, the grain-free trend in pet food trickled down from there and gained momentum with the pet food scares of 2007.

According to Brian Alt, manager of Concord Pet Food & Supplies in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, the grainfree category is more popular than ever. That demand has led his store to carry more grain-free products than anything else.

“It’s not like people come in and ask for grain-free food,” he explained. “Now it’s kind of odd when somebody doesn’t buy it. We get a lot more people switching over to raw foods, freeze-dried, frozen, dehydrated—and they’re all grainfree.”

Alt doesn’t see the popularity of grain-free foods declining any time soon. In fact, he only sees the category expanding.

“Grain-free is definitely here to stay,” he said. “It’s not going anywhere. There are just different versions of it. A lot of companies that are traditionally not grain-free are now making grain-free foods. At this point, if you haven’t been making your food grain-free, you’re way behind the eight ball.”

Brad Gruber, president and chief operating officer at Health Extension Pet Care, explained the increased demand for grain-free dog food in relation to the human food market.

“The rise in popularity that we’re seeing is a result of the change in pet parents’ perception and preference towards their own changing eating habits,” he said. “With gluten-free diets becoming somewhat the norm, pet parents believe that grains are bad for not only themselves but their pets as well. The popularity of these grain-free diets is also a result of the increase in dog allergies and the belief they are food-derived. Grains like wheat and corn are most commonly to blame for the increase in food allergies that we see in dogs, so the switch to a grain-free diet makes the most sense for an immediate, natural and healthy cure.”

The brand’s recipes include organic and naturally-raised livestock that are free from antibiotics, steroids and artificial hormones.

“Today’s pet parent is more focused than ever on ingredients in their own diet, and they are looking to the ingredients they’re seeing in today’s dog food to mirror what they are looking for in products in their own diet,” Gruber said. “They want to know how these grain-free products are made, not wanting formulated products any longer but products that are made in a more natural and human way.”

Higher Expectations
However, grain free isn’t the on demand when it comes to the savvy shopper. In fact, grain free has gone beyond a trend to an expectation for many pet owners.

“Pet owners seek grain-free foods and treats for a number of reasons. Some feel that a grain-free diet is better for pets with digestive issues. Others believe these formulas contain more nutrients and less nonessential fillers,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food Company. “Once these shoppers decide to go grain free, they look for evidence of quality and reliability on packaging such as shorter ingredient statements, small batch processing and ‘made in the USA’ claims.”

Caru’s grain-free stews and bone broth treats are made from humangrade ingredients in a human food facility.

“And, thanks to their Tetra Pak packages, the stews and bone broth treats are preservative and BPAfree,” Pettyan said. “Moreover, all Caru foods and treats are crafted in small batches in the USA, with limited ingredients and we never use genetically-modified ingredients of any kind.”

Fulfilling a Mission
At Bravo, Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president, says grain-free products fit the brand’s core mission.

“The move toward grainfree foods and treats aligns perfectly with our core philosophy, which always has been to provide nutritionally-sound, limited ingredient, grain-free formulas made from a single protein source, in most cases, as we do mix proteins in our canned food line,” Schubert said. “Every ingredient we use serves a specific nutritional purpose. Every product we offer, from fresh frozen to freeze dried raw, as well as canned diets and a host of treats, are
all grain-free.”

Schubert said that the movement toward grain-free “is simply the desire of pet parents to make better food choices for their fur kids. Through education they’re finding that grains are not necessarily required for good nutrition, as dogs and cats are natural carnivores and do better with meat/poultry-based diets.”

She also noted similar trends in consumer demand observed by Pettyan.

“In terms of purchasing grain-free products, pet parents are looking for products that are USA-made using clean, wholesome ingredients, that have meat and poultry as a first ingredient and are nutritionally sound,” Schubert said.

Education is a key component of selling grain-free pet food, however, because not all dogs thrive on this type of diet. Schubert says that education is a critical sales piece, especially when it comes to a dog owner facing a medical condition.

“Choosing a new food or treat, especially for a dog or cat with a medical condition, can be
overwhelming for someone who is just learning about raw diets,” she said. “Consumers will naturally need someone knowledgeable to help inform their decision-making. That typically falls to the retailer who has the day to- day contact with the consumer.”

Safety First

Whether your retail customers are avid or novice at-home groomers, or your salon runs a bustling business, safety is paramount when it comes to dog grooming. A suite of products is available to keep grooming safe for both the groomer and for the dog.

Repetitive motions—like brushing a dog—can strain joints and muscles, causing long-lasting damage, including painful conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Numerous manufacturers recognize this and are creating products with ergonomic designs that mitigate potential injury.

Plus, pet safety is of the utmost importance to groomers. Tools that provide the groomer with both an ergonomic design and safety for the pets being groomed are in high demand.

“People want grooming tools that perform as promised and that you don’t necessarily have to be a professional to use,” said Eddy Cathaud, CEO of Swees America. “At the same time, they want to be assured that this product won’t accidentally harm or irritate the pet during grooming.”

The brand developed the Eazee grooming tool, a multi-functional tool designed to be safe for both the groomer and for the dog.

“The patented design and ergonomic handle of the Eazee grooming tool provides people with a safer, gentler, easier to use and more effective grooming option,” Cathaud said. “It’s made of a plastic composite material and has smooth, rounded teeth so there’s no risk of scratching people or pets. The accessories that do feature metal, like our recently launched stainless steel comb and flea and tick comb, have rounded edges and are great for gentle detangling.” In Case of Accident Despite all these precautions, accidents do happen. That’s where products like Green Goo by Sierra Sage come in to help ensure the health and safety of people and pets.

According to Jodi Scott, co-founder of Green Goo by Sierra Sage, the brand built its reputation keeping chicken flocks healthy with preventative and natural care.

“As a natural progression, offering natural body care products to our domesticated little guys has become important now that we know the damaging effects of chemicals on our own health,” Scott said. “Preventative medicine not only ensures a better quality of life, but also helps reduce the costs of expensive medical care over time.”

In the salon, Green Goo serves as a healthy first-aid option that is nontoxic to both the groomer and the pet.

“Groomers and grooming salons are dealing with all kinds of grooming care and skin conditions where Green Goo Animal First Aid comes in to the rescue,” Scott said.

Outside of a professional setting, Green Goo provides the at-home groomer with a safe first-aid product as well as a natural preventative.

“Our product is great for skin irritations, hot spots, wounds and areas where pets tend to itch and irritate more,” she said. “And the best [part] is you don’t need a cone around their head to prevent them from ingesting the product because you can eat it.”

Protection from Pests

Another safety concern with grooming dogs comes from the parasites the pets might be carrying. By all accounts, 2017 is going to be a record-setting year in terms of mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and the associated illnesses. In a salon setting, this is particularly dangerous because so many pets come through the space.

BioShield, manufacturer of all-natural insect repellent products, uses a pharmacist-created formula to achieve prescription strength results without DEET and the other harmful chemicals contained by many other insect repellents. BioShield released a limited line of all-natural insect repellent products including sprays, detergents and hair and body washes in 2015. Th at limited release has turned into a complete line of natural repellants that can be used on humans, pet, livestock, skin, clothes, beds and anywhere else potential insect bites or infestations can be found. Th at includes towels and linens used at home or in the salon for bathing dogs. BioShield repels and kills mosquitoes, ticks, bed bugs and fleas with all-natural ingredients.

“BioShield works great on pets,” said Steve Burklow, company president and CEO. “With trace amounts of silver and copper in the formulation, it also kills both pet and human odor. The 16-ounce trigger spray is perfect to prevent ticks and fleas and also helps keep gnats and flies off pets. We also use BioShield Laundry Detergent to wash our dogs. Mixed with water, and because the laundry detergent is more concentrated, it works better on pets (especially with thick fur), and doesn’t take as much product. And, being all-natural, it’s perfectly safe.”

Ultimately, safety means many different things in the context of grooming. In addition to ergonomic tools that are safe for the groomer, products to treat any wounds on the pet, and those products that keep the salon and animal clean and free from disease, safety products can encompass a range of other items like muzzles and gentle-on-the-back tables and lifts. Choose a product mix that appeals to the specific needs of your customer base.

Effective Joint Care

Two factors are driving growth for joint products: First, dogs are living longer lives; therefore, dogs are experiencing more age-related health issues like arthritis. Second, dogs are integrated into the family fold, which includes being a part of the family’s lifestyle. Dogs go on more vacations, participate in more activities like hiking and running, and even compete in more
organized activities than ever before. And all that means more pressure on joints than ever before.

“The biggest barrier people face with supplements is actually getting their dogs to eat it,” said David Rizzo, director of operations at Zuke’s. “Because of this, consumers are looking for joint care products that not only offer functionality, but high-quality nutrition and a taste their dogs enjoy. They are savvy about ingredient and sourcing choices, often seek out allergy-friendly options, and value supplying their pets with wholesome nutrition.

“To meet these demands, Zuke’s Enhance Mobility Functional Chews are grain-free, available in tasty peanut butter and chicken recipes, and are crafted in the USA with some of the best herbs and high-quality ingredients that nature has to offer,” Rizzo said. “The product includes functional ingredients like glucosamine hydrochloride to help support cartilage health in joints, turmeric to help ease stiffness and chondroitin sulfate to help with cartilage maintenance and joint health.”

Ark Naturals also recognizes the need to address a dog’s joint care health. Suitable for both cats and dogs, Joint Rescue Super Strength Chewable supports cartilage and joint function and can provide comfort to pets with exercise- and agerelated mobility issues, as well as morning stiffness, according to the company’s website. Ark Naturals offers the made-in-the- USA chewables in a 60- and 90-count bottle. The company also has “senior friendly” bite size soft chews, Old Dogs! Happy Joints!, available under its Gray Muzzle product line that specifically target age-related joint issues.

The Human Connection
“As health has become a focal point and the baby boomer population ages, consumers are looking for pet treats that contain the same functional ingredients that they seek in supplements,” said Steve Ball, CMO and cofounder of “I and love and you.” “It’s a natural evolution to the humanization of pets. Ingredients such as glucosamine and manganese sulfate are important to both companion animals’ and humans’ health. Seeing ingredients like this on the label allows consumers to quickly identify that products may aid joint care. This is one of many areas where humanization comes to play because both animals and humans need the same things with regards to joint care as they age.”

“I and love and you” is launching a new functional treat in July of this year. At the time this issue went to press, the product name was undetermined.

“We are adding glucosamine and manganese sulfate to a grain-free, soft, heart shaped treat to meet animals’ joint care needs,” Blass said. “In addition, we’ve added turmeric and green tea extract for added benefits. And at only five calories each, it is a treat you can feel good about giving to your pet.”

Because the demand in this category is expected to increase, so will product development. Ball said he expects “more focus on things like joint care and the humanization of companion animal products.”

“As baby boomers, Gen-Xers, millennials and, subsequently, their pets, age; having functional products that allow your pet family members to help stay stronger longer, is important,” Ball said. “We also expect to see other key human trends translate into the pet functional treat category—everything from beauty ingredients to dental health.”

Rizzo made similar observations.

“An aging population of people and pets is supporting the demand for health-centered or supplemental chews, and the category is expected to deliver strong growth over the coming years,” he said. “Just as people are becoming increasingly interested in natural ways to maintain good health and prevent ailments, they’re seeking the same for their dogs. In addition, pet parents are experiencing pill fatigue and looking for natural, food-based ways to prevent ailments and maintain the joint health of their four-legged friends. Products like our Enhance Mobility Functional Chews provide an appealing solution.”

Stocking Supplements
Despite products like his fitting among the treats in store, Ball said that retailers should emphasize the functionality when making a sale.

“Consumers are looking for a clinically proven product that their dog will enjoy eating,” said Sarah Batterson, brand manager at H&C Animal Health, producers of the joint product ActivPhy. “Sixty percent of consumers prefer soft chews.”

ActivPhy is available in a soft chew that is guaranteed by the brand to improve a dog’s mobility within 30 days of directed use.

“Currently, ActivPhy uses bluegreen algae extract, turmeric and glucosamine, all ingredients proven to improve mobility [and] which are all ingredients consumers recognize and might even take themselves,” Batterson said. “We are currently working on providing innovative joint care products that include other healthy ingredients for all-around health such as multi vitamins with added joint health ingredients.”

“We recommend that retailers display joint care products near supplements and functional chews versus within their traditional treat set,” Rizzo said. “We provide marketing materials and FAQ sheets so that they are informed and well-versed about our products. This helps them to both proactively share information about Zuke’s Enhance Functional Chews, understand our brand and answer any questions consumers may have while in the store.”

ActivPhy’s packaging is conducive to stocking the shelves.

“We advise retailers to merchandise ActivPhy Joint Health in the joint supplement or health and wellness section,” Batterson said. “Since ActivPhy comes in a convenient air tight tub, it can be stacked on shelf, or arranged in center store displays.”

Tasty, functional treats and chews are an expanding segment. Retailers should make room on their shelves for effective, palatable joint treats as this segment continues to be a big seller.

Beyond the Brush

When it comes to grooming their pets at home, many owners struggle with a few key questions: Am I using the right tool? Am I using it properly? Can I accidentally hurt my pet?

“Dog and cat owners want grooming tools that perform as promised and that you don’t have to be a professional to use,” said Eddy Cathaud, CEO of Swees America. “At the same time, they need to be assured that this product won’t accidentally harm or irritate their pets during grooming.”

“So, when I set out to design the Eazee deshedding tool, I made it my mission to create a product that met all of their needs,” Cathaud added. “Compared to metal deshedders, the Eazee is safer, gentler, easier to use and more effective. The Eazee deshedding tool is perfect for at-home groomers because, with its unique comb and balanced handle, they’ll have the confidence to groom around sensitive areas like the genitals, ears and nose. It’s also safe for children to use. The Eazee also makes it easy to dispose of collected hair. Because it’s constructed from anti-static materials, just pull the button back and the hair will slide off. Plus, the Eazee is more stylish than conventional deshedding tools—it’s available in six popular colors.”

Jay Michaelson, CEO of HandsOn, said the at-home groomer is looking for two things: “products that actually work and are a convenience to use.”

The brand’s HandsOn grooming gloves allow dog owners to groom while massaging their pet.

“Animals love the HandsOn massage while they provide a more thorough deep clean. We have made grooming as natural as petting,” he said. “Professional groomers have realized that dog owners will actually use the gloves at home in between grooming appointments as the gloves are a joy to use for both dogs and their owners. Even dogs that disliked grooming will beg for more HandsOn petting and massage time.”

In Case of Accident 

Brushing aside, nail trims might cause the most angst among at-home groomers, followed by clipping with shears. No pet owner is perfect, and accidents do happen, so retailers would be wise to off er products that aid a customer when a nip occurs.

“We all know all too well that when you put a pet, a pair of shears, a set of nail clippers, a Dremel or more than one dog in any given area, sClotItomething that you really don’t want to happen can very possibly happen,” said Ed Berger of Groomers Helper. “A nail quick, a shear slip or a lightning-fast nip are all realities of our trade, and we need to be prepared to deal with it when it does.”

ClotIt is a clinically-proven application that stops bleeding by accelerating the pet’s own blood clotting defense system.

“This clean, white powder, when applied with proper pressure and a little tender loving care not only halts bleeding, but helps create a better skin block as well. It also does not clump and has an unlimited shelf life,” Berger said. “ClotIt is currently available in a one-ounce applicator, a five-ounce applicator and in one of the best-thought-out complete pet First Aid Kits that has ever been brought to the industry. The kit includes a one-ounce ClotIt applicator along with tools, swabs and bandages that every pet owner or home groomer should have. Starting later in June, a new Salon Professional Kit will be available.”

A Cleaner Product

Beyond brushes, trimmers, clippers and first aid, create a cross-selling opportunity with at-home groomers by educating on the parallel between the pet’s health and grooming. Probiotic products provide a comprehensive solution to many skin and coat issues and work well as a supplement to grooming aids.

“Consumers are more aware that chemical-filled grooming products have consequences. People love their pets and want the healthiest products they can find to maintain wellness of their loved furry friend, but most natural grooming products make your pet smell well but do not work well,” P2 founder Heather Holmes said. “Our years of experience in livestock have proven that the soil- based probiotic blends incorporated in our pet products is far superior to that found in traditional pet products because our P2 soil-based probiotic combinations can battle superbug bacteria, like MRSA, E.coli and Salmonella, as well as odors, mold, mildew and fungus. They outcompete bad bacteria for food and stop the bad bacteria from forming a microscopic protective coating called biofilm.

“This biofilm attaches to pets’ teeth, nasal cavities, ears and skin,” Holmes continued. “It’s also in your home, on floors and carpets. You can’t clean away biofilm with bleach, disinfectants or any of the current pet products on the market today. Only P2’s pet products can clean biofilm away and keep it from returning, leaving pets truly clean and protected.”

By providing comprehensive solutions—from probiotics to first aid to brushes and clippers—you can help your customers feel confident starting a grooming routine at home. Pet owners who want to groom at home want to know they’re making the right product choice and know how to use it. Retailers should be prepared to offer guidance and assistance for customers who are nervous about beginning an at-home grooming routine and should stock shelves with a range of products that go beyond the brush.

Options for the Anxious Dog

According to a 2011 veterinarian survey published by ThunderWorks, nearly 23 million dogs in the United States suffer from anxiety or fear issues. Luckily, product development has kept up with the demand this has created.

“During periods of anxiety, stress or fear, a dog’s brain releases an increased amount of adrenaline and cortisol, which decreases the amount of blood flow to the frontal cortex of the brain,” said Emilye Schmale, senior marketing manager at Petmate. “This means less oxygen is flowing to the frontal cortex. With prolonged anxiety or fear, the increase in cortisol levels can weaken the dog’s immune system, leading to increased incidence of sickness or stress.”

There are multiple ways to treat anxious behavior.

“One of the most effective treatments doesn’t involve drugs at all, but rather, focuses on behavior modification to soothe dogs and calm their senses,” Schmale said. “The new Petmate CALMZ Anxiety Relief System for dogs combines high-tech innovation with acupressure in a revolutionary non-invasive, drug-free treatment that soothes anxiety.” The system includes an adjustable Comfort Fit Vest that places the therapeutic device over the dog’s spine, targeting acupressure points. The device plays a blend of classical music, tones and vibration to reduce adrenaline and increase blood flow to specific areas of the dog’s brain.

New ‘Leash’ on Life

Other non-drug approaches to treating anxiety include training, and numerous tools are available. For instance, Ruffwear’s Susan Strible said the brand’s short leash provides walking assistance with training.

“A short training leash means correction is more immediate. Dogs remain in control, closer to your side, and gentle correction is possible when the leash is relatively short,” she said. “Ruffwear makes two leashes that are ideal for this purpose: the Knot-a-Leash, featuring rope and a strong, locking carabiner, and the Ridgeline Leash, with a lightweight leash clip and stretch webbing.”

Another leash option comes from ThunderWorks. The Dial-A-Distance (“D-A-D”) serves as a good walking aid.

“In a word? Safety!” explained Phil Blizzard, ThunderWorks CEO and founder. “D-A-D offers all of the features of a regular retractable leash: more freedom and exercise; less leash tangling; a manual thumb brake; and a tape-style lead. But unlike other retractables, with D-A-D you can set the maximum range to whatever length is safe for where you are walking, anywhere from zero to 15 feet. D-A-D will always keep your dog within a safe range, even during those inevitable distractions on a walk.”

Providing Focus

Combining exercise with training helps customers work with their dog’s anxiety, too. According to Jamie Popper, a professional dog trainer and the business development manager for Blue-9 Pet Products, “the KLIMB is essentially a dog training table. It is most commonly used as a ‘place’ for your dog to go to and rest out of the way.”

The KLIMB off ers dogs an elevated place to stay and to provide focus.

“Anxiety in dogs can stem from various causes. Additionally, separation anxiety, noise phobias, over arousal and reactivity take on many forms behaviorally,” Popper said. “A component of addressing these fears and anxieties is confidence building. Giving a dog a space they can call their very own can help with building confidence as well as provide them a safe space to go when they are afraid.

“The dog learns to associate positive experiences with being on the KLIMB,” she continued. “Giving a dog a job, such as staying on the KLIMB, can help them turn their focus to work rather than what may be causing them to feel anxious.”

Treatment Through Treats

Beyond exercise and training, anxiety and behavior solutions stretch into the treat aisle. With the popularity of cannabidiol (CBD) treats, along with the increase in anxieties among dogs, Austin and Kat founder Kat Donatello said that “anxiety is probably [her] No. 1 driver for the product.”

Th e hemp-based treats can be used preventatively as well as daily for maintenance.

“It’s safe and it’s well-tolerated. With medications, there can be a lot of stomach-related issues,” Donatello said. “If you can provide something that is a little bit healthier and that doesn’t have the negative side effects that some of the prescriptions have, and if you can curb what’s going to happen to this pet, you’re being proactive in your approach.”

Another option is the snuggle puppy from smartpetlove.

“Whether they’re new to the family, or perhaps just going through a tough time, the snuggle puppy has been designed to provide comfort and is an all-natural and medication-free way to help relieve anxiety,” said Anjilla Young, the company’s director of marketing. “Dogs are pack animals who are instinctively drawn to their mother and others in their pack. Th e snuggle puppy relieves anxiety by recreating the same sense of security a puppy had when lying on their mother with their littermates through physical warmth and a ‘real-feel’ heartbeat. The result is a calmer, more peaceful pet—one that feels less loneliness, fear and anxiety.”

Tables and Lifts

Safety is paramount when choosing tables and lifts for the grooming salon. While these pieces of equipment might seem like a static product—certainly less exciting than the ever-changing array of available shampoos and conditioners—these are arguably the most important aspect of the salon.

Not only do these large-scale purchases keep the groomer safe and comfortable, they also ensure the safety and comfort of the animal on the table. The goal? Remove both stress and physical discomfort for the groomer and the handler. Luckily, product development has kept pace with the needs of this physically-demanding job.

Easy Adjusting
For instance, The Flying Pig Super Low Electric Lift Grooming Table gives groomers closer access to the animal being groomed while encouraging the animal to stay centered. The design reduces the need to stop and bend and reduces stress for the animal with the walk-on and -off feature—which provides back-saving relief to the handler. It lifts from 11¼ inches to more than 40½ inches in seconds, can accommodate pets up to 220 pounds and includes a removable non-slip surface.

For groomers on the go, the Flying Pig Medium Bone Shape Stainless Steel Foldable Grooming Table does the job at a lower price in an easy-to-carry size and shape. Made from rust-resistant stainless steel and a steel frame, it can support pets up to 330 pounds. A nonslip rubber top comes with a decorative bone-shaped pattern. The table is equipped with an adjustable grooming arm that can either attach to the right or left side of the table, enabling the groomer to work from whichever position is most comfortable.

According to many groomers, one of the most important elements when making a table purchase is the warranty, and The Flying Pig pieces come with a one-year warranty.

Go-to brand PetLift manufactures a range of tables in sizes and shapes to meet every need. From the simple folding grooming tables—available with and without adjustable legs—to hydraulic lifts, the brand builds tables to fit in any salon. For example, The Classic Mini Grooming Table serves a niche and small spaces with its classic size. It reduces the roaming area for small breeds, including cats, and fills smaller gaps in grooming areas as an extra table while utilizing the same heavy-duty base pump as the brand’s large models. The top measures 24-inches round.

Another uniquely-shaped table from PetLift is the MasterLift. It’s an extralong, surf-board shaped table top. The top is 24 inches by 54 inches with an oval at one end. It includes an added feature: the 3000 Ultra Post that rotates 180 degrees.

While PetLift has created tables and lifts for 46 years, the brand recently underwent a change in structure. PetLift partnered with S & B Metal Products, an industry leader in custom sheet metal fabrication, to form a new company, PetLift S & B Manufacturing.

Eye-Catching Colors
Beyond the basics of functional tables that help dog and groomer stay comfortable, business owners shouldn’t neglect their brand when selecting new equipment. Manufacturers now offer an array of design options that can complement the interior design of a salon. Shor-Line allows work areas to be color coordinated with options beyond the basic black. Available in Plum Perfect, Screamin’ Green, Burnt Orange, Electric Pink and Silver Vein, the tables can even coordinate down to the brand’s Kennel Gear Professional Grooming Caddy.

Tables in those color options include the Elite Grooming Tables, which are the only CSA/UL Certified Grooming Table. It can be adjusted in four different ways, keeping the groomer comfortable and efficient. Another option is the Big Top, which also includes four different adjustments, but now features a new, larger 48-inch table top, great for larger breeds.

While color selection may not be the most important factor when choosing a table or lift, the reality for most salons is that these are bigticket items that hopefully don’t need to be replaced often.

The Perfect Fit
Further, measure the space carefully before purchasing new equipment. While a larger table size might sound appealing, it must fit the floor plan. Space planners recommend taping the floor with the table measurements and walk around the salon to ensure that the equipment fits without an awkward—or dangerous—flow.

Once it’s clear what will fit within the space, business owners should get their hands on tables and lifts that they’re interested in. When shopping for new equipment, it’s best to attend grooming shows to try out the products in person and network with other groomers at shows to find out what works.

Groomers should take their time on this purchase. It’s worth the research and maybe even the added expense to find the piece that fits well within the layout of the space and allows staff to groom clients safety, comfortably and efficiently.

Trustworthy Treats

The singular trend driving sales and product development across the industry holds strong in the food sector: dog owners want products for their pets that are equivalent to what they purchase for themselves. Pets are integrated members of the family, and owners feed their pets accordingly.

“It’ll probably come as no surprise [that] people want to feed their pets the same way they feed themselves,” said Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute CEO and president.

“I think we can attribute the current trends for U.S. ingredients or U.S.-sourced foods to that trend,” Enright said. “The majority of ingredients in pet food manufactured in the U.S. are sourced in the United States. The U.S. is the largest pet food market in the world, and U.S. pet food is perceived very well in foreign markets as far as safety, nutrition and ingredients.”

Consumers are well-educated on ingredients and ingredient sourcing for human food, but the same demand exists for pet food. In fact, consumers are wary about ingredients sourced outside of the U.S.

Since 2007, in nearly every product segment in the pet industry, the “Made-in-the-USA” seal has resulted in increased product sales. After the sweeping pet food recalls a decade ago, consumers purchase U.S.-sourced and U.S.-made food purposefully. And, with the increased accessibility for consumers to speak directly to manufacturers via outlets like Facebook and Twitter, along with sweeping stories of pet food recalls and public outrage on social media, the demand for ingredient accountability has grown.

What does that mean for individual manufacturers? An emphasis on quality and accountability is top-of-mind for consumers. For many, that means a “Made in the USA” stamp.

“All of our pet specialty treats—Crazy Dog and Pet Botanics—are made and sourced in the USA,” said Barbara Denzer, vice president of marketing and product development at Cardinal Pet Care. “Like most pet parents, and almost all pet stores, we are also concerned about the quality of ingredients and providing our pets with a healthy, wholesome, safe and nutritious product. Quality control is number one—no short cuts.”

Matthew Golladay, president of BrightPet Nutrition Group, the parent company of Blackwood Pet Foods, shifted production from a foreign facility to the U.S.

“Blackwood Pet Foods is an American company and wanted to make sure our ‘Made in the USA’ message rang true for all of our products,” he said. “While we thoroughly vetted our previous canned wet pet food supplier from New Zealand before doing business with them, the partnership didn’t totally resonate with the story we are telling our customers. The actual cost of getting our products back to the United States figured into our decision to find a similar American partner that could be held to the same standards provided by our New Zealand supplier.”

The move provided fruitful.

“We are able to provide better lead times to our distributors with our production being here in the United States,” Golladay said. “They’re already commenting on the difference.

“While we thoroughly inspected the facilities in New Zealand, it’s easier for us to visit and ensure production is up to Blackwood’s standards,” he added. “We’re also able to track the sourcing of every ingredient that’s used in our canned wet pet food.”

Woodinville, Washington-based Grizzly Pet Products has dog food available in both a dehydrated and oven-baked formula and uses wild Alaskan salmon as its first main ingredient. According to the company’s website, all bottling, baking and dehydration take place in the Washington facilities.

Earth Animal, which sources its products from Pennsylvania and Vermont and makes all of its treats and food in the U.S., considers its ability to stamp its products with “Made in the USA” a “core pillar” of the company. According to Earth Animal Vice President of Brand and Communications Stephanie Volo, the Southport, Connecticut-based company “believes it can make more of a difference when using USA-made products.”

“Being made in the USA and being a socially and environmentally sustainable company goes hand in hand,” Volo said. “For us, and for who we are and who we want to be and where we want to affect the world and make the most impact, that is the best way for us. We’re making products that actually increase longevity for animals, and in order for us to do that, we feel it’s important to know exactly where they’re coming from and really get the best ingredients that we possibly can.”

One of the company’s products, Pork No-Hide Dog Chews, won top honors among new products at this year’s Global Pet Expo, placing first in the Natural Pet Category. The easy-to-digest, durable, long-lasting chews are made with human grade ingredients and is just one of the many products Earth Animal makes that are “respectfully sourced” and “produced with a purpose,” Volo said.

Redbarn Pet Products, maker of pet food and treats, has a bold “Made in USA” stamp on all its food and treats it sources and processes in the USA, including its Sweet Potato Slices, Turkey Stew and its Chicken Pate-Immune Support Formula. In fact, according to the company’s website, “approximately 80 percent of Redbarn’s products are made in [its] plant located in Great Bend, Kansas.”

“The products that list ‘Made in Paraguay’ on the label are made in our company-owned and operated plant located in Paraguay,” the Redbarn website notes. “Because we own the plant, it allows us to maintain and guarantee our quality control standards are met at all times.”

Plus, sometimes, as Denzer points out, there can be challenges with sourcing ingredients in the U.S.

“A few ingredients are not available in the U.S.,” Denzer said. “Tapioca comes from France and some vitamins come from South America. Therefore, we are also expanding our Limited Ingredient Pet Products.”

When it comes to marketing, Denzer says there are inconsistencies.

“Unfortunately, there are different rules in different states about the use of the term ‘Made in USA,’” she said. “We use the flag, or a heart with USA, to indicate our treats are made in the USA and we mention it in the copy on the bags.”

Enright says she hopes retailers choose food products for their shelves based on safety and nutrition rather than those marketing phrases, though. She says she was unsure if the conversation about food safety was happening between the supplier and the retailer, and the retailer and the consumer.

“It would be a great two-way conversation,” she said. “It’s kind of like a maturing of the relationship that began to emerge 10 years ago between manufacturers and their suppliers. Suppliers should talk more broadly about the characteristics of the product. Retailers should open up that conversation of safety with consumers.”

Consumers are savvy about ingredient sourcing and U.S.-based manufacturing and have demanded it more forcefully over the last decade, since the melamine pet food recall of 2007. Dog owners demand accountability from pet food manufacturers as well. Stocking food choices that boast both U.S.-sourced and U.S.-manufactured appeals to that consumer base. Retailers, consider merchandizing a “Made in the USA” section to group together U.S.-made products to increase sales.

The Eyes Have It

Eye care is a cross-over category. Products within eye care, whether at the salon or on the retail shelves, must meet the needs of both the health care sector and the casual pet owner. Tear stains, along with an increase in allergies among the pet dog population, mean big sales in the eye care category.

A large percentage of customers seek products for easy at-home maintenance and preventative healthcare.

“Consumers are looking for something all natural with no antibiotics; they don’t want their pets to get sick,” said Catherine Burns, CEO of Naturally Tearfree Canine, LLC. “We give them not only all natural by having no antibiotics, fillers, additives or food coloring, but also 100 percent organic herbs. [Retailers] want to know it works. We show them before and after pictures [of the results] that our customers took themselves and sent to us. I also use it on my own dog. We have been on the market for eight years and do a lot of the grooming shows across the United States.”

Match Product to Pet
Retailers need to understand their customers’ needs and the individual products to make the sale. At Naturally Tearfree Canine, the brand uses herbs deemed “safe for pets” by the FDA.

“We took the extra step to ensure that our pets were safe,” Burns said.

The company’s products are patented, made in the USA and are free from antibiotics like Tylosin, fillers or additives.

“You only get what you need,” she said. “One herb is an anti-inflammatory for allergies, the other herb is an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial for tear, muzzle and body staining.”

Burns says her product isn’t intended to be given every day like other brands, which makes it easier to use and cost less than competitors’ products.
In the store or salon, Burns recommends that retailers display the flyer the company provides that shows the “before and after” pictures collected from customers.

“We supply each [individual] jar with a tri-fold brochure that has a lot of information the customer wants,” she said.

Another bestselling brand is Angels’ Eyes. Its product line can offer a retailer an expansive range of options for eye care needs—from anti-tear products with natural ingredients to wipes and professional grooming products.

Customers who are looking for a natural solution to meet both health and aesthetic needs have two options from Burt’s Bees. The brand’s Eye Wash with Saline Solution can be used to gently flush debris inside the eye, while the Tear Stain Remover with Chamomile cleans up the gunky particles that build up to cause tear stains.

For many dog owners—especially those whose dogs dislike grooming tasks like having their eyes cleaned—a convenient wipe provides an appealing solution.
All-purpose grooming wipes provide a simple solution for the customer looking to save money. A single product with several uses, PL360’s Grooming Wipes are safe enough to use around the eye but can also be used to clean muddy paws.

Earthbath Eye Wipes for Dogs & Cats are hypoallergenic, fragrance-free wipes that work for dogs who suffer from allergies or sensitive skin. The wipes are gentle enough to clean dirt and debris without causing irritation. Likewise, TrueBlue Pet Products states that TrueBlue Safe and Sure Eye Wipes contain no detergents, parabens, phosphates or alcohol.

Grooming Needs
Many at-home groomers need a range of professional tools, like fine-toothed combs and blunt-edged scissors, to keep pets’ eyes free from hair that can scratch the cornea. Some of the most popular options include the Miracle Coat Four-Inch Ball Tip Grooming Shear and the ConairPRO Dog Rounded-Tip Shear. For most at-home groomers, especially those who are new to the task, guidance from sales staff will help them select the correct implement—and learn how to use it safely for their dog’s breed.

Whether it’s a convenience product like a wipe or a blunt-tipped scissor, eye care is a specialized category. Counseling customers to choose the correct product can prevent frustration in the owner and injury to the dog.

Retailers should be prepared to refer a customer to a veterinarian if the dog presents with eye discharge or injury, or a groomer if the customer isn’t comfortable handling trimming or cleaning on his or her own.

Regardless of need, the demand for safe, effective and, increasingly, natural solutions drives sales. Pet stores should offer an array of solutions—from safe, effective eye wash products to tear stain removers, trimmers and wipes—to find something to fit every need and should consider these educational opportunities as a chance to build a rapport with the customer to gain loyalty. Since eye care is a consumable, finding the right fit for the right customer enables repeat sales.

Picking up in Style

“Waste bags are a necessity—every dog poops!”

So said Earth Rated’s Project Manager Tara Garland.

While waste bags are a perennial must-have, sustainable waste products are newer to the market but growing rapidly in popularity. Gemma Rose, a new brand to the market, launched with premium oxo-biodegradable, rose-scented, handle-tie bags. Nick Fuchs of Gemma Rose explained the construction of the sustainable bag.

“Currently, the best available option, which balances degradability and still has the durability consumers are requesting is to incorporate an oxo-degradable additive made by EPI,” Fuchs said. “EPI has created a food-grade additive that is mixed in with the plastics during the manufacturing process, which allows the plastic to break down via oxo-biodegradation when disposed in the proper environment. This means that these now oxidized plastics will fragment into very small pieces that can then be consumed by microorganisms and turned into CO2, H2O and bio-mass, and eventually they will be used up in photosynthesis and return back into the environment over the course of about three years or so.”

However, Fuchs pointed out that it’s a tricky balance. Though the brand will launch a new product soon—the current bag’s on a roll—they’re watching for new trends in plastics.

“It’s tough to predict the future, but we’re hopeful that plastics technology will continue to move forward and we can find new formulations and additives for our bags that help them break down even quicker in the environment while still retaining durability and integrity during storage,” he said. “That is one area where it’s hard to find a balance. The waste bags need to break down under the proper disposal conditions while not degrading in the box while they are sitting on the shelves or tearing into pieces when you are trying to use them. It’s a pretty unique set of product requirements and we’ll be constantly pushing to make the best product which meets those requirements.”

Gemma Rose also supports animal rescue by donating a portion of each box’s sales to established and reputable 501c3 rescue organizations.

“It’s a win for the environment and a win for the animals,” Fuchs said.

“Our bags on small rolls are a very popular format since they are dispenser-compatible, and we have a white-colored format that is vegetable starch-based,” Earth Rated’s Garland added. “These white bags can be disposed of in municipal compost facilities where pet waste is accepted. As with our complete line of dog waste bags, these bags also have packaging and inner roll cores made from recycled materials, and can be recycled after use.”

Customers’ Preference
When choosing which sustainable waste products to carry in store, Garland said, “identifying your customers’ needs is a great start.”

“We offer a variety of formats and styles and have realized that preferences differ greatly between customers,” she said. “We recommend stocking multiple formats to ensure you have what your customers are looking for, as well as offering both scented and unscented options as many customers have strong scent preferences. Placing your bags’ display close to the counter is also a great way to remind customers to restock. We’ve even just launched a new counter display with single rolls, which are great impulse-buy items.”

“There seems to be a trend towards more sustainable and eco-friendly products,” A Pet with Paws founder and President Ann Greenberg said about customers who want to show their unique style while being sustainable about pet waste.

A Pet with Paws has reimagined the poop bag holder, integrating a fashion-forward, eco-friendly bag pouch and wristlet into the mix. The newly-designed Jackson Poop Pick-Up Bag Pouch and Zuzu Wristlet also promote a sustainable lifestyle because they’re made of recycled plastic bottles.

“The grey and red Jackson Style Poop Pick-Up Bag Pouch and Zuzu wristlet are the perfect size to take on a walk with Fido,” Greenberg said. “The Jackson pouch easily attaches to a leash, pet carrier or belt loop. While the Zuzu wristlet has enough room for the pet owner to carry their house keys, cell phone and credit cards, there is a separate zipper compartment for the roll of poop bags. Both Jackson and Zuzu have a discrete small opening on the backside, making it easy to access poop bags. Simply pull, tear off bag, and you’re ready for scooping.”

Selling It
Greenberg suggested how retailers can increase sales, including specialty point-of-purchase displays, offering waste management products near the checkout area as a “grab-and-go” purchase and, of course, a well-trained staff that can educate customers. She also recommended a creative event to increase sales.

“Organize ‘There is No Poop Fairy’ events in various communities and have dog waste products available for sale,” she said. “A lighthearted approach keeps the conversation going. At Earth Rated, we pride ourselves on having fun with a product where its intended purpose can sometimes be less than glamourous. We recognize that along with all of the joys pets bring into our lives, they also bring plenty of mess. We genuinely want to offer products that help consumers with their needs and are always receptive to feedback from our retailers to ensure we’re meeting that goal.”

“Have fun with your displays,” Garland added. “All pet owners need to pick up, so why not do it in style and have a little fun with it?”

Look at Me

Shampoos and conditioners form the foundation of the at-home grooming market. Despite the flood of products, a few key trends drive sales for this category: effectiveness, a unique selling point and an increased demand for natural and safe. Product efficacy is crucial. A customer won’t make a repeat purchase if a product doesn’t work.

“Consumers are looking for an effective and easy-to-use product line to groom their pet,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of the U.S. Division of The Company of Animals. “Not only does Pet Head clean well with our time-tested formulas, but the great scents we have will keep pets smelling great for longer. My dog, Sebo, and I like the fresh orange scent of our Dirty Talk Shampoo the best. He smells like a clean orange from a Florida grower, which is where our Pet Head offices are based.”

Livening up Shelves
The effectiveness of a specific product doesn’t necessarily spark the initial purchase, though. Instead, customers are attracted to eye-catching packaging.

“I feel that to ‘billboard’ the brand offers the best presentation,” Cobb explained. “To offer a full selection of Pet Head on the dealer’s shelf adds color and fun to the otherwise boring grooming category.”

At Glo-Marr, the brand has gone back to its roots: 1965 was when the original Pink Pup was born. The award-winning KENIC Retro line of pet shampoos added four “hip” formulas, including Pink Pup, the degreaser on which the company was built; Mellow Mutt and Meow, a calming aromatherapy option; Purple Pooch and Purr, the ultra-moisturizing product; and Blue Bow Wow, the whitening formula.

Staying true to the company’s history, the shampoos are detergent- and soap-free.

Humanization
Among market segments with larger amounts of expendable income—millennials and baby boomers, typically—the demand for luxury drives product sales. Many of these consumers expect the same quality and sometimes even the same brands that they demand for themselves.

M. Boutique, the luxe natural home and personal care company, offers pet products that provide the same luxury that their human customers expect for themselves. The Pet Shampoo includes global ingredients like neroli, a high-end citrus oil that might help alleviate anxiety and hyperactivity, along with aloe, rosemary and avocado to sooth sensitive skin.

When it comes to M. Boutique’s Oatmeal and Honey Conditioner, the rich properties of colloidal oatmeal soothe and relieve dry, irritated and itchy skin while wild honey merges with Moroccan argan oil, aloe vera, and vitamin E to deliver deep conditioning and hydration.

The natural trend is fueling product sales in nearly every segment of the pet industry. Elizabeth Sanders of Horse ’O Peace founded her company to create goat milk soap and skin care products for people with sensitive skin. Many of her customers asked if they could use the products on their pets, so Sanders recently expanded into pet-specific products.

“When we started our pet line, Healthy Pets, we wanted products with the same kind of quality that we use in our skin care line for people but a different formulation,” Sanders said.

The products contain 100 percent raw goat’s milk along with plant-based, raw, whole ingredients, and no chemical fragrances or dyes. The initial launch featured two unscented products, including Purely Basic, which is base ingredients with nothing added for pets that are extremely sensitive. The Gentle Coat product utilizes calendula oil for an unscented but moisturizing soap.

“When we scent, we use 100 percent pure essential oils,” Sanders said.

Her best-selling scented product is Be Calm with lavender essential oil, for skin issues like eczema and dandruff, or for dogs who are excitable.

Ultimately, because there are so many brands and options for shampoos and conditioners, a strong product mix with variety is key to consumer appeal. While eye-catching packaging and clever names might spark the initial purchase, the product’s effectiveness is what ultimately will inspire return buyers.

All About Style

Not long ago, customers looking for a leash or collar had limited options: Leather or nylon? Red or black? Buckle or… buckle?

“Once upon a time, collars and leashes were a ‘commodity’ item: choice was limited and most shoppers did not have strong feeling about what they bought,” said Tracy McCarthy, part of marketing and product development for LupinePet. “Now the category carries about the same prestige in pet supplies as clothing does for people. Function, durability, style and material quality are important. Price is a component of the buying decision, but value is considered in relation to the other factors.”

The array of options available today is seemingly endless. Product is still available in the traditional leather and nylon, as well as modern iterations, like odor-resistant neoprene, upcycled seatbelts, hemp and organic cotton. The designs also encompass nearly anything your customer could imagine: licensed sports teams and cartoon characters, rhinestones and studs, holidays and even night-safety reflective strips.

Ultimately, this category is about style. Dog owners use collars, leashes and harnesses to reflect their own personalities. While not every dog owner wants to dress their pet in costumes, every dog owner needs their pet to wear these items, so it provides an opportunity to reflect their own sense of style.

Kurgo Chief Business Officer Gordie Spater said that his company noted a shift away from flashy designs to products that are purposeful, durable and secure.

“That doesn’t mean that people aren’t still interested in fashion or matching colors between collars and leashes,” he said.

He cited two trends affecting consumer demand. The first is that pet owners are taking their dogs more places and need to maintain security and control.

The second: The rise of the “athleisure” trend in human fashion.

“We see with the rise of the athleisure trend in human sportswear, a similar trend with pet accessories. People are looking for the sporty, rugged styling and reliability they like for themselves in their Lululemon yoga pants, North Face jackets and Patagonia wicking shirts that they wear every day,” he said. “While they may not need a tech shirt to go get a coffee, they like the style and the knowledge that the apparel has purpose and can be used on their adventure days, too. It’s natural that this fashion trend translates to their dog who reflects their personality. We see more popularity with products with outdoor styling and features like durable ripstop or reflective materials.”

Kurgo offers the Quantum Leash; it’s an award-winning dog lead that comes in seven colors—in reflective and non-reflective nylon—and converts into six different styles. With a carabiner adjustment, this leash switches from a 6-foot lead to a 3-foot lead to a hands-free dog leash that goes around the waist or over the shoulder, courier-style. It also has the ability to become a two-dog walker.

The brand also offers a practical but stylish Muck Collar, which comes in a suite of bright, colorful designs and resists odor. It’s a solid solution for dog owners who want the combination of practical and cute. Kurgo is launching a Patriotic Flag Muck Collar to expand the line.

Coastal Pet Products manufactures every type of collar for every type of dog owner. For the littlest pups in the pack, the L’il Pals line includes adjustable collars and harnesses in bright colors and prints, along with a fashion-forward glitter overlay. The line also includes specialty pieces like suede, jeweled leash and collar sets.

The Coastal Soy Adjustable Dog Collars are natural, soft and eco-friendly with anti-bacterial properties. The line is made from natural fibers that feel like soft cashmere. While there are few color choices in this line, the leash, collar and harness coordinate and appeal to an eco-conscious consumer.

Coastal Pet Products also offers licensed products from popular, best-selling brands, like Harley-Davidson.

Another fashion-forward manufacturer to consider is Hip Doggie. The brand carries an NFL license, which is a great pet product for a football fanatic family.

In addition, Hip Doggie’s collars and leashes appeal to the young, fashionable set. With designs like its bowtie collars and matching leashes, and glittery options with coordinating charms, the brand’s offerings allow dog owners to showcase their—and their dog’s—style with flair. Jeweled and studded pieces that include decidedly feminine and masculine options round out the offerings.

“There’s always going to be that person who doesn’t have a closet full of clothes or a closet full of shoes, but they still buy clothes and they still buy shoes—that carries into their pets,” said Alisha Navarro of 2 Hounds Design. “They’re just going to use their collars until they wear out. Others use collars to express their personality and express their pet’s personality.”

Navarro says that some of her customers stock up on the brand’s unique designs, some boasting collections of up to 50 collars.

This year, Navarro plans to launch a collection close to her heart.

“I’m a geek by preference. I have an MA in applied physics, and my background is in electronics, programming,” she said. “The collection that we’ve got coming out in time for Global, we’re calling our geek collection: monsters, aliens, robots, ninjas, full force, that whole geek line.”
Even for owners who love the practical, there are options for leashes and collars that are both functional and fashionable.

Eran Konorty, CEO of Angel Pet Supplies Inc., noted that more dog owners training their dogs has caused a shift.

“I believe one of the largest, if not the largest growing trend is training,” he said. “Training has gained immensely in popularity, and so many products which aid in training a puppy, security dog, guide dog, et cetera, are very popular. The Angel Rio Martingale collar collection is very popular amongst many consumers seeking a humane approach to training collars. They are constructed of top grain leather with a soft-padded bottom and stainless steel hardware. Our Multi-Function leash is great for training as well. It can be used in several different lengths, hands-free and more.”

For eco-conscious customers, Planet Dog offers leashes, collars and harnesses made of hemp. In a range of five colors, from a neutral green to a bright pink, these are persistent bestsellers.
The eco-friendly products are naturally dyed pure hemp. The natural strength of the hemp fiber makes a strong fabric and a safe product. Their Hemp Leashes are made with chrome hardware for extra durability and safety. The products are also fleece-lined for the comfort of both person and pet, and all three product lines can match one another.

Style emphasis tends to fall on collars and leashes, yet Charlie and Spike is a brand that manufactures lightweight harnesses in its fashionable WagSwag line. The line includes harnesses with superhero emblems, leopard prints and sassy sayings, such as “Single & Looking.”

An important aside: There is a large and growing sub-category within the harness segment. Consumers are looking for crash-tested, safety-rated car harnesses as distracted driving laws around the country come into effect. Those pieces are best merchandised separately from the fashionable set, simply because the consumers are two different shoppers. Safety products, though, group well together or in a dedicated travel section.

Ultimately, pet owners are defining themselves through their pets’ style. Plus, many pet owners like to showcase their pets’ personality in these purchases. Though safety will always be a concern when it comes to picking these products, style is the deciding factor for most purchases.

One key to success in merchandising these pieces is to group similar items together in a thematic display or endcap.

“We have always suggested a traditional collars-above-leashes, although that doesn’t work for every store. One SKU per hook and color-blocking are two points that will have good results every time,” McCarthy said. “Waterfall displays are difficult to keep tidy and don’t do a very good job of encouraging people to browse. Handling the merchandise does increase sales, but requires more frequent straightening. Any display will sell better if it gets a daily touch-up. Harnesses seem to get handled the most, and readjusted the least, which greatly reduces unit sales.”

The jumbled leash, collar and harness aisle can sometimes obscure standout designs. Instead, create a theme—like an NBA endcap during the height of basketball season, or a display that showcases all things studded for a cowboy display. This type of grouping allows for cross-merchandising with other categories that hit on the same theme. Rotate the displays throughout the year to showcase your most fun, fashionable and forward-looking lines.

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