Dental spans nearly every category in store, from food, treats and toys to chews, specialty items and grooming. The good news: There’s a product for every customer.
Dental disease is prevalent in upwards of 80 percent of dogs over age two. Since February is the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Pet Dental Health Month, it’s a natural opportunity to create a display and educate your customers on product choice.
A fun, easy way to fight bad breath is with a food additive. For the natural customer, Woofmints are an effective way to help fight bad mouth odor. These vegan and gluten-free gel capsules freshen a dog’s breath naturally with a blend of organic sunflower oil, organic peppermint oil and parsley oil. Small enough to hide in food or a treat, Woofmints gel caps dissolve in the stomach, providing long-lasting fresh breath from within. They’re available in 60- or 120-count bottles.
Chews and Treats
“Consumers are looking for any product that will keep their dog’s teeth clean,” said Laura (Jones) Lang, president of Jones Naturals, LLC., which produces several products that benefit a dog’s oral health. “Our types of natural chews, including bones, pig ears, ligaments, etc., all help promote healthy teeth and gums because they naturally create an abrasive chewing action on the dog’s teeth.”
Greenies are also a perennial bestseller. Because they’re available in a variety of sizes, there isn’t a lifestage or breed that can’t find appropriately sized Greenies. They also carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval, which lends weight to a consumer’s purchase decision.
Zuke’s Z-Bones are edible dental treats that are formulated without wheat gluten, cornstarch or synthetic chlorophyll. Instead, the chews are potato-based and maintain dental hygiene by scraping and polishing the dog’s teeth. Z-Bones may be sold individually or in multiple-count pouches in three recipes: Clean Carrot Crisp, Clean Berry Crisp and Clean Apple Crisp.
Nylabone offers a range of chews, some edible and some designed to be long-lasting. The Advanced Oral Care FreshBars and the Tartar Fighting Treats both include the brand’s Denta-C, a scientifically-formulated blend of ingredients clinically proven to reduce plaque that harbors bacteria.
Nylabone remains one of the top sellers for consumers who seek a long-lasting, toy-style chew. The chews are infused with flavors like beef to entice dogs to chew, and the raised nubs and various textures scrub teeth and promote gum health.
Mammoth produces Flossy Chews, a line of dog toys designed to floss dogs’ teeth as they play with the toys. Some products include knotted ends or rubber to scrub the teeth. The brand’s line for tough chewers, Flossy Chews Extra with Z-Core, is made from premium material that is two times stronger than rope.
Dental treats are favored items because dog owners can feel like they’re spoiling their pup while helping to prevent dental disease. Functional treats have emerged in nearly every category—from joint care to skin and coat to, of course, dental care.
Isle of Dogs has three different versions of functional dental treats. Smile is made from crunchy baked grains and apples to help scrub tartar and Norwegian kelp to help maintain healthy teeth and gums, along with parsley to fight bad breath. For dogs who need a bad-breath formula, the Breath line includes a blend of parsley and toffee flavor extract.
Daily Essentials are a power food option that target dental health through whole food-based treats. Crunchy apples help scrub tartar, while parsley and peppermint help to fight bad breath. All are sourced and made in the USA and are a popular choice among customers who want function balanced with flavor.
Treats aren’t always the best option, especially if the dog is battling obesity along with dental disease. While tooth brushing is an option, many dog owners don’t brush their dog’s teeth because they’re intimidated by the process or their dog reacts poorly to it.
For those who do brush, Petsmile by Supersmile toothpaste received the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of approval. When paired with a soft-bristled, flat toothbrush, brushing really is the best option for long-term oral health. Since many customers are so reluctant to attempt brushing, consider hosting events like in-store demos for brushing best-practices featuring product recommendations.
For February’s Dental Health Month promotion, educational signage or employee demos might attract customers to try new products. The American Veterinary Medical Association houses educational materials on their website for free that can be downloaded and passed out to customers or hung in the dental aisle.
Consider using in-store signs to call out dental items in aisles outside the dental-specific one. Endcaps are also effective, along with smaller items—like the individually-wrapped Z-Bones—at the cash register.
The Fight to Limit Shedding
Shed happens. It’s inevitable, normal and it’s also one of the biggest complaints among pet owners.
Deshedding products will always be in demand, and numerous innovations in recent years have expanded this category beyond the basic grooming tools. Pet owners are also starting to take a holistic approach to shedding control, focusing on skin and coat health from the inside out.
Shampoos to Mitts
The grooming aisle contains the foundation of the deshedding routine. Shampoos and conditioners labeled for deshedding, like those from FURminator, are popular for the at-home groomer.
In addition, grooming mitts, like Tall Tails’ one-size mitt, pull double duty. After a bath or a play outside, the mitt cleans or dries the dog while pulling out loose hair. The Tall Tails Grooming Mitt is made of machine-washable and dryable absorbent chenille microfiber, making it a durable solution for cleaning, drying and pulling up and out those loose hairs.
A Variety of Brushes
The workhorse of shedding control is a brush. Andis and Wahl are popular in part because there’s strong brand recognition among consumers. Other standard tools, like the FURminator and KONG’s ZoomGroom, round out a reliable brush selection.
New innovations are expanding upon those traditional designs to provide bespoke grooming solutions. The BendiBrush, for instance, took the general design of a hand-held brush and tweaked it to provide a customized grooming solution for any shedder—dog or cat. From Anipure Pets, a woman-run business out of New York, the BendiBrush was created by designer Mary Fitzgerald to solve a number of grooming problems at once.
“We developed the BendiBrush to help with the issues that Maxi and Charlie were having: deshedding, along with a fear and phobia of brushing,” said Fitzgerald, noting that the brush was inspired by her pets Maxi, a cat, and Charlie, a dog. “We wanted to develop a brush that was friendly and easy for the home groomer and very effective on the pets.”
“Lots of people don’t groom their pets in between going to the professional groomer because it’s such a hassle,” said Ruth Canaan, director of sales and marketing at Anipure. “The dog is so upset. It becomes a fight. I don’t think that people realize that you should be grooming your pet in between appointments for their health, not only for the detangling and the de-shedding.”
The brush was designed to be comfortable and ergonomic for the groomer, while bending in a number of ways—even at the corners—to feel more like a massage to the pet.
“When we developed the BendiBrush, we focused on the engineering of the bristles, the individual tines,” Fitzgerald said. “The tips of the tines are rounded to protect the skin. We created a multiple-height system and focused on the placement of the tines. It can really get in the coat to separate and pull out the tangles, and it can sandwich in half so that you have tines from the top to the bottom. The knot can go right in between the tines and they gently pull through the knot. The BendiBrush allows you to gently work through tangles and the double-coated dogs to get through the loose fur to prevent knotting.”
Canaan pointed out that consumer education is one of the most important factors in helping customers understand the product.
“It’s not just a matter of selling, but educating,” she said. “We’ve been able to do some demos, but we’ve also got some great store managers who partnered with us because when we come in and talk to them, they’ve fallen in love with the brush and recommend it to clients. And a lot of even regional pet stores have that kind of holistic approach to what they sell and the products that they offer.”
That holistic approach brings together other product categories. Outside the grooming aisle, a host of treats and supplements designed to keep skin and coat healthy have increased in popularity. As dog owners take a holistic approach to their own health and beauty, the same is trickling into grooming.
Pet Naturals of Vermont offers a Skin + Coat treat that contains Vitamin E and salmon oil. Likewise, Old Mother Hubbard makes a crunchy Skin & Coat option. Numerous dog treats now have additions like Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids (also sometimes labeled as Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs) to be marketed as good for the skin and coat.
Supplements have also risen in popularity in this category. Nutramax, NaturVet and Vet’s Best are among the brands that have healthy skin and coat recipes. Oils that can be drizzled onto the dog’s food are also popular simply because of the ease of use. Versions of fish oil are among the bestsellers.
However, skin and coat additives aren’t limited to treats and supplements. They’re also cropping up in dog food. Nature’s Recipe even offers a healthy skin formula of dry dog food.
Finally, as you round out your deshedding offerings, don’t forget to display near the cash register a stash of the dog owner’s perennial need: lint rollers.
The Flea and Tick Boom
Flea and tick populations have exploded across the United States and Canada. Drought conditions have allowed flea numbers to increase, while a mild winter in 2015 kept those pests alive for longer throughout 2016. Plus, a rise in global temperatures has elongated the lifecycle of ticks.
These global temperature trends and corresponding shifts in weather patterns will continue, so manufacturers of flea and tick products are innovating solutions that meet consumer demands while tackling the real dangers associated with flea and tick infestations.
“The flea control and heartworm preventatives market has been one of the most innovative areas in animal health, with a variety of new active ingredients and novel formulations,” said Senior Consultant Dr. Lynn Fondon in a new study from Brakke Consulting. “Sales of flea control products have quadrupled in size since the introduction of Program, the first of the new-generation products, in 1995, and the new generation of oral flea and tick products are transforming the landscape once again.”
So, what is the next generation?
According to Susan Goldstein of Earth Animal, after years of relying on toxic products, like the earliest nerve gas to the insecticides and pesticides prevalent today, consumer demand is shifting to natural, organic solutions.
This shift has been occurring in nearly every vertical in the pet industry, so it makes sense to be a growing part of flea and tick.
“There’s been a huge shift in consumers who are pet parents,” Goldstein said. “They’re very enlightened. They’re extremely on to side effects. They’re very open to organic approaches. It’s just amazing. The time has come. Everyone wants safety. Everyone wants organic. We need to be really careful of our animals’ immune systems. We need to be careful not to compromise them.”
Started in 1979, Earth Animal made herbal collars out of her natural food store, and from there, the company “embarked on a mission to do a cause-no-harm product line for dogs and cats, to really look to the earth for solutions,” according to Goldstein.
Goldstein and her husband, Dr. Bob Goldstein, run a veterinary practice in addition to formulating natural pet products. She said that in the practice, they’ve seen cancer become an epidemic.
“There are triggers that we can take control of,” she said. “One of them is to eliminate insecticides and pesticides. We should not be putting them on the bodies of dogs and cats.”
Earth Animal’s flea and tick line includes a powder and drops that are added to food, along with a shampoo and a spray.
The goal of the food additives is to change the odor of the dog’s blood to make it distasteful to fleas and ticks, as well as mosquitoes and black flies.
“I call it ‘vitamizing’ the blood,” Goldstein said.
The brand intends to expand their line into an organic flea collar and a spot-on by spring.
“There are more ticks in more places than ever before, and more tick-transmitted disease, too,” said Thomas Mather, a professor and director of TickEncounter Resource Center, in a release published by tweezer manufacturer Tick Ease. “It is critically important to educate and equip people to take appropriate tick bite preventative actions.”
Product innovation in this category becomes increasingly important as global temperatures rise. Ticks are spreading further and faster than ever before; the population in many parts of the United States is booming. With that population growth comes an increase in tick-borne illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tick-borne diseases have tripled since 1995.
Reliable tools, like tweezers, still sell well because they’re effective and can help dog and owner avoid exposure to the pesticides that Goldstein discussed.
One such tool is the TickEase, which was designed to comply with the CDC’s guidelines on tick removal. It’s a dual-tipped tool with a tweezer end and a scoop end that works for both people and pets and on engorged ticks.
Knowledge is Essential
This category faces tremendous challenges with the increasing threats of flea and tick population explosions, along with disease prevalence. Educated consumers likely will shop for products based on disease prevalence in your geographic region.
However, one of the strongest techniques for selling flea and tick products is to be educated and prepared to share that information with your customers. The CDC website includes distribution patterns of specific ticks and the diseases they carry. Those tools can be incredibly effective sales aids.
In addition, a variety of products—from food additives to spot-on treatments and shampoos to flea collars—appeals to the widest range of consumers. Most consumers want to purchase the products they’re most familiar with, so the range allows for that comfort level.
Finally, while these products have been considered by some consumers to be a seasonal item—skipping the purchase and, thus, the application—in winter months, the longer-term effects of the increase in the flea and tick population should make this a year-round purchase.
A Boost to Salon Products
The nail care vertical has blossomed beyond simple clippers. Though the segment still includes traditional basics like clippers and styptic powers, it has expanded into the growing fashion market with products like stick-on rhinestone nail decals and more. However, nail care is fundamentally about nail health and starts with a regular trim.
Nail trims provide an added value to grooming clients. More often than not, though, nail trims are a walk-in, on-demand service that many dog owners have come to rely on to keep their pets’ nails in shape. However, because the cost of consistent nail trims can add up, and because some dogs simply don’t feel comfortable in the salon, some owners are turning to at-home nail care for maintenance.
Varying Price Points
For the first-time at-home groomer, files serve as the first step into nail maintenance. Electric tools like FURminator’s Dog and Cat Nail Grinder provides a comfortable, easy-to-use solution. The FURminator nail grinder starts at an affordable price point and delivers two battery-powered speeds. Its built-in automatic LED light keeps the nail well-lit for safety and control. Be sure to stock the appropriately-sized replacement bands nearby.
At a slightly higher price point, the Andis Master Grooming Tools Professional Pet Nail Grinder includes a suite of attachments and allows the at-home groomer to trim, shape and smooth pets’ nails. The ergonomic design keeps the groomer comfortable while the fast RPMs help grind the nails quickly and efficiently.
The best-selling Dremel tool delivers a solid performance but at a heftier weight—the hand tool weighs just over 1 pound, possibly making it a cumbersome piece to use for long stretches for some. However, it’s a bestseller for a reason. The removable battery pack allows the customer to buy a backup so that nail trims can continue uninterrupted. A fast speed with light pressure files the nails quickly, and a few different sanding bands allow your customer to pick the one that’s best for his or her pet.
For dogs over 40 pounds, the Millers Forge Dog Nail Clip is a heavy-duty clipper constructed from German stainless steel and is made in Italy. The sharp cutting blades ensure a quick, clean cut. It’s a no-frills clipper that provides consistent, reliable cuts.
In case of emergency—because cuts happen even to the most experienced groomer—Miracle Care launched improved formulas for its Kwik Stop Swabs and Caps. Made with the Original Kwik Stop Powder, these two products fill a need for fast, easy, on-the-spot control of minor bleeding.
The Gel Swabs come with a single-use applicator, and the new formula includes Benzocaine to help reduce the pain of a cut quick. The Kwik Tips Nail Caps are flexible caps filled with the Original Kwik Stop Powder that pet owners and professionals can push onto the nail to control the bleeding and ease the pain. The caps are also single-use and stop the bleeding while preventing blood stains.
Beyond the Basics
A small but growing segment of the nail care market seeks style alongside routine care. In the salon, groomers can offer a nail polish application as an additional service to a nail trim. However, offering the same polishes for sale allows the additional sale of a consumable. Consider a rack to display polishes just like these pet owners expect to see in salons for humans.
Style items, such as nail polish and nail applications (including decals, stickers and “bling”), appeal to this growing segment of shoppers. One effective way to merchandise these products is with “Mommy and Me” signage.
The Company of Animals recently acquired the worldwide brand, product and distribution rights for the Pet Head brand from Pet Head Inc. Many pet-safe nail products, like the polishes from Pet Head, can be used on people and pets, so style-driven dog owners can apply matching manicures to themselves and their pets.
Warren London’s patented Pawdicure Polish Pen is a water-based, odorless, non-toxic paint pen that dries in under a minute. They’re available in 13 colors ranging from a traditional red to a collection of neon brights.
Making the Sale
Reassurance is the key to selling at-home nail care products. An effective way to showcase and sell nail care items is with in-store demonstrations or one-on-one education. Many customers are nervous about taking aspects of nail care home because they’re afraid of accidents like cutting the quick. Showcasing products and ease-of-use tips will dispel those worries while boosting sales.
In the salon, groomers can make product recommendations based on the specific breed and the individual dog’s needs. And because even the steadiest hand can err, always recommend an add-on sale of a styptic powder so that customers understand that it happens (and, of course, that their dog will be fine).
Designed for Play
When it comes to dog toys, the product development focus has historically centered on durability. Dog owners wanted a toy that would last, and since most dogs destroy toys pretty quickly, toys with innovative materials—seat belts, fire hoses, ballistic-grade fabric—emerged as bestsellers. However, many dogs were still able to destroy these toys, and owners continued to look for alternatives.
A major shift in the pet industry and dog ownership is changing how play products are developed. The human-animal bond is emerging as the industry’s meta-trend, driving product development and innovation across segments. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, “the human-animal bond is a mutually beneficial and dynamic relationship between people and animals that is influenced by behaviors that are essential to the health and well-being of both. This includes, but is not limited to, emotional, psychological and physical interactions of people, animals and the environment.”
As dog owners learn more about their best friends, they seek products that fulfill their dogs’ needs. Interactive and fetch toys meet many of those needs. For customers looking to build a strong, trusting relationship, interactive toys like tugs, ropes and fetching toys help to establish and develop that partnership.
Within this segment, technology integration is a growing facet, with innovations like remote-operation, dog-triggered actions and even sensing and video capabilities.
PetSafe’s Automatic Ball Launcher, for example, allows dogs to deposit the ball into the launcher by themselves. Safety features ensure that the ball doesn’t launch if the dog is standing directly in front of the toy. The launcher has nine different distance settings, ranging from eight to 30 feet, which allows it to be used indoors or out. It’s water-resistant and can be used either with battery power or a power cord.
For interactive games of fetch, Hyper Pet manufactures options for every type of dog and dog owner. The K-9 Kannon is a hand-held ball launcher that launches a standard tennis ball up to 75 feet. Unlike electronic ball launchers, this one has a simple pull-and-shoot mechanism. Similarly, the brand offers slingshot-style toys made from ballistic nylon with a bungy cord that can launch a toy 100 feet.
For dogs who don’t love chasing down a tennis ball from great distances, the brand also manufactures their signature neon yellow fetch toys like the Flippy Flopper, a rubber and nylon flying disc.
Planet Dog toys can be another popular option when looking for fun interactive or fetch toys. For customers looking for a product that can stimulate a dog’s brain for hours, there is Planet Dog’s Mazee. Pop a few treats into the translucent toy and watch as dogs’ senses come alive. The dogs can hear, see and smell the treats inside the maze ball and have to figure out the puzzle to get them out.
For a fetch toy from Planet Dog, there is the Fetch Ball with its attached rope. The durable, three-inch ball is available in green and pink and can provide tons of fun.
There are also perennial favorites that are simple and help dog owners bond with their dogs.
According to Lisa Kamer, founder and CEO of Knots of Fun, consumers looking for an interactive toy are attracted to bright, colorful toys with lots of texture. The toys that her company produces from fleece tick all of those boxes.
“Most people don’t really think that fleece comes textured, thick, thin, heavy, not heavy, pebbled and on and on,” Kamer explained. “Using combinations of colors and textures is very eye catching.”
The fleece toys are substantially sized, with ropes reaching up to three feet in length. Kamer explained that her store displays catch customers’ eyes because of the bright colors, but the versatility of the toys entices them to buy.
“My customers are looking for a durable toy,” she said. “It also floats. It can be used for beach sports or even frozen. It becomes a whole different toy, a whole different experience.”
Beyond that, though, her customers love Knots of Fun’s made-in-the-USA commitment.
“They seem to be attracted to the USA component,” Kamer said. “That’s what I sell. That’s all I know. I think that’s one of the reasons that people are coming to me. I do manufacture a 100 percent USA-made toy. I am very pleased to be able to say that not only are my toys manufactured here, but the material is also made here.”
Regardless of the play style, safety is paramount in this category. Kamer’s toys are safe enough that, if a dog chews off a piece, it will pass. Hyper Pet’s toys comply with children’s toy safety protocols and, in some cases, exceed those standards. PetSafe’s ball launcher has a series of built-in sensors that prevent the ball from launching if a person or a pet happens to be in front of the toy.
Interactive and fetch toys are not chew toys. In other words, customers should not expect to leave these toys out and have them last. Instead, these are items that should be brought out for specific play sessions. Educate customers on this specific class of product to prevent disappointment.
These toys can also get lost in the bigger toy aisle. Consider endcaps and signage that call attention to benefits of play and interaction between dog owners and their pets.
Kamer’s sales pitch for these toys?
“Use the toy; play with your dog,” Kamer said. “Enjoy that bond that you can establish with your dog through play.”
Effective Ear Care
When dog owners book a grooming appointment, grooming professionals examine the pet’s ears and often perform an ear cleaning as part of the service. However, dog owners should conduct their own routine at-home cleaning to stave off infection and keep the ears and canals clean and odor free. Some dog owners feel uncomfortable with the task because they don’t know how to clean their pet’s ears appropriately, and many are afraid of hurting the pet.
It’s a good idea to start a discussion by asking customers what signs and symptoms they’ve noted. There are several topics to discuss, depending on the client’s needs. Do they see a groomer or their vet regularly? Does their dog swim often?
Safe and Simple
Observations of discharge, odor, swelling or excessive scratching should first be referred to their veterinarian. Then, for clients looking to implement an at-home maintenance routine, be prepared to walk them through a safe cleaning routine.
Be sure to offer a range of products, including those that break up ear wax, dry out the canal or are convenient, like grooming wipes. In fact, grooming wipes are a simple way for reluctant dog owners to start an ear cleaning routine.
“When we created PL360 grooming wipes, we wanted to be sure it would be a product that pet owners can use on all areas of the pet, including sensitive areas like the ears,” said Katie Rogers, director of sales and marketing at PL360 Pet Care. “The gentle, plant-based formula works really well to remove wax and discharge, as well as any other kind of crust, odor or goop that has built up in the ears.”
Just like the trends in other grooming verticals, the demand in the ear products category is for natural, safe ingredients that are also effective.
“Ear cleaning is important to help support the overall health and wellness of dogs, which is why we use natural ingredients blended in a way that is not only effective in removing dirt, but that is also nourishing so it won’t leave your dog’s ears dry and susceptible to irritation,” Rogers said.
Offer Them Options
When choosing which products to stock on your shelves, it’s important to remember that customers want a range of options. They often will select not only what works for their dog but also what they feel confident using on their pet.
“We understand that at-home pet care can be stressful, so we like to make it as easy and convenient as possible for owners to keep up on it themselves,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management at MiracleCorp. “Typically, they’re either looking for something that assists with a specific problem, like mites, for example, or they may have had issues in the past and are just looking for a safe and natural product they can use on their pet regularly as a preventative measure. Our products not only work, but they are very reasonably priced and cover both aspects of ear care previously mentioned: treatment for a specific issue and ongoing care options for preventative use. The treatment type that works best for one pet might not work as well for another, which is why we have sprays, cleaner pads, creams, powders and total ear care cleaning kits.”
At MiracleCorp, product development is driven by larger purchasing trends, according to vice president of sales management Lori Fouts.
“Convenient, at-home care products and natural remedies are growing trends in the pet industry,” she said. “We also like to look at the trends on the human beauty and care side. For example, multi-step face wash systems are popular with human consumers as well as two-part nail kits and such. We’ve been around long enough to know that consumers tend to mimic their own trends and preferences when it comes to purchasing products for their pets. Our stand-alone products and total ear care cleaning kits not only follow human consumer trends, but they ultimately provide a more efficient and effective solution to at-home ear care.”
Providing options, as long as they’re all equally effective, meets the varying needs of different dog owners and variety of dog breeds.
“It’s important [for the customer] to know that a variety exists in terms of how to actually clean their pet’s ear, but also to know that the products can be used in conjunction with each other because they are made up of all safe and natural ingredients” Fouts said.
She recommends merchandizing a complete line together to show customers the options available.
As the saying goes, a little education goes a long way. Signage in the aisle or a special end-cap display help guide customers to make the right purchasing decision, but one-on-one conversations can help make the sale.
Present a range of options in all types, from wipes to liquids to pre-soaked pads, and discuss the benefits of each for your customer’s needs and breed. Help them understand what they need, along with a product recommendation to meet that need, and you’ll have a satisfied customer.
Good Ol’ Dog
Dogs live longer than ever before. With the addition of productive innovations, the senior dog category is expanding as more dogs reach their golden years. In fact, dog owners are beginning to expect to have the products they need to help their best friends live a long, healthy life.
“People are becoming more pro-active about seeking solutions for the issues that impact quality of life for their senior dogs,” said Dr. Julie Buzby, founder of Dr. Buzby’s Innovations, LLC. “Of course, we know dogs, like people, are going to slow down as they age. However, the mindset is shifting from ‘We expect this and there’s nothing we can do about it’ to ‘What can we do to support, protect and preserve mobility and wellness during the aging process?’”
The biggest demand for senior support falls in the mobility category. Joint supplements have always been a growth market, and consumers are now looking for products to help their dogs in addition to those supplements.
The GingerLead Dog Support and Rehabilitation Harness, for example, is a support-style leash that allows dogs with limited mobility the chance to get exercise while being safely supported by their owner.
“As an integrative veterinarian, I feel good about using a multimodal approach to successfully manage pain and mobility in my senior patients,” Dr. Buzby said. “But I was constantly frustrated by the issue of slipping. A dog who struggles on hardwood, tile or laminate floors is experiencing a biomechanical problem. Acupuncture, herbs, pain medications, etc., cannot stop dogs from slipping.”
Her company launched ToeGrips, nonslip nail grips that fit onto dogs’ toenails to restore traction on slippery floors.
“They are a biomechanics solution to the biomechanical problem,” she said. “As dogs regain mobility and stability, they also regain confidence, which has a huge impact on quality of life.”
Value of Exercise
Senior dogs also benefit from mobility support because they continue to require exercise—though modified—throughout their life for optimal health. StarWalk is an activity monitor that serves well for senior dogs.
“It’s important that senior dogs get some level of exercise throughout the day, depending on their breed and age,” explained Pete Fischer at StarWalk. “The StarWalk is an easy way to encourage pet owners to monitor their senior dog’s daily activity and set overall goals for them, plus set important vet and medication reminders and more. Our customers say that it’s a great, user-friendly device that keeps them connected to and constantly aware of their pets’ overall activity on a daily basis.”
Another category for senior dogs that is booming involves health and wellness. Everything from dental products to supplements to live-stage-appropriate dog food are in high demand. Herbsmith manufactures a probiotic, Microflora Plus for Digestion, which is a complete combination of probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes, and herbs that support proper digestion and bowel health.
According to Lisa Senafe, founder of Bentley’s Pet Stuff, a series of 19 stores and growing across the Midwest, it all starts with healthy digestion.
“Start with a good diet first,” she said. “Gut health is a niche market. Until there’s a problem, people aren’t aware of probiotics. Sometimes seniors are lacking the enzymes to help process the food and pull the nutrients out more. Probiotics keep the guy and the immune system healthy.”
Senafe also recommends supplements for additional support, and those from Ark Naturals are among her favorites.
Beyond overall health, comfort is a topic that is of interest to senior dog owners. Larry Wright, president of The Green Pet Shop, offers several solutions.
“Just as with humans today, knowledge, healthier lifestyles, and enhanced medical care have all helped in extending the lives of our pets,” he said. “There is more of an emphasis on exercise, healthier ingredients in foods and treats, and creative products that solve problems and keep pets healthy and comfortable, thus reducing stress. Many of our products help in this manner.”
Wright outlined three options for owners concerned about their senior dogs.
“Our patented Cool Pet Pad keeps pets cool and comfortable without the need for refrigeration, adding water or electricity,” he said. “This helps prevent overheating, calms pain from achy joints and arthritis, cools sore muscles and helps relax your senior pet by keeping them cool and comfortable. Our Achy Paws Warming Mat uses bamboo/charcoal technology, which helps with circulation. Increased circulation keeps our pets healthier for longer and the warmth from the pad helps soothe them. Our new CBD Pet Care Lotion calms and soothes. With its patented transdermal delivery system, it is more quickly and completely absorbed into the bloodstream.”
Incontinence and accidents can often happen with senior pets, so a smart display aimed at aging dogs includes healthy, safe cleanup solutions. ECOS for Pets! Stain and Odor Remover is effective against all types of pet messes without using ammonia, bleach or other dangerous chemicals. Enzymes safely remove stains and odor without leaving any toxic residue behind. A pet-safe and senior-friendly product, the brand does not include petroleum-based surfactants, artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances, preventing the chance of those ingredients causing respiratory problems or skin irritations.
Senafe suggested one way of guiding customers to find the right products for their senior pets. In her store, she said employees try to draw parallels to help customers choose the most appropriate products.
“We always try to humanize for our customers, how we feel and how we handle aging,” she said. “It helps connect the dots between their own health.”
Tools of the Trade
Dog owners who groom at home range from the basic bath-and-nail-trim groomers to the owners who clip, trim and shape their dog at home. The typical shopper in that latter vertical falls into one of two categories: the first are the at-home groomers who take care of all their dogs’ grooming themselves; the second are people who have their dogs professionally groomed on a regular basis but perform small maintenance tasks at home between appointments.
Those two types of at-home groomers seek similar types of products, and both consumers benefit from in-store education to choose the right products.
“Consumers are looking for tools and products that are easy to use, work effectively with their dog’s coat, and will keep their dog looking great in between visits to the groomer,” said Karen Formico, vice president of marketing at Andis Company. “This year, we’ve made a big push to meet the growing trend of more at-home pet parents demanding grooming tools that pack that professional performance, but are still easy to use.”
“The first product we’ve released to meet those needs is our Cordless Easyclip Li adjustable blade clipper,” she continued. “The Cordless EasyClip Li brings clipping versatility that works with a variety of coat types and dog breeds. Additionally, our lithium ion battery technology runs for two hours on just a 90-minute charge. More and more consumers and professionals are demanding corded performance out of cordless products, and the Cordless EasyClip Li is another great example of how Andis is delivering for our customers.”
According to Formico, cordless is the biggest demand from at-home groomers right now. It makes sense: Not all dog owners have the space or a professional table for grooming sessions at home. Products with versatility, ranging from the bathroom to the kitchen sink, appeal to a broader customer base.
One popular cordless item is the Sunbeam Dog Turbo Cordless Clipper. The same brand also offers a Quiet Dog Clipper Kit that, while a corded product, sells well among pet owners who have an anxiety-prone dog.
Additional bestsellers include complete kits that contain the various pieces an at-home groomer might want. The Wahl Pet Clipper Kit provides everything a dog owner might need in a convenient carrying case. Another bestseller is the Oster Complete Performance Clipper Kit, which offers a whisper quiet mode for sound-sensitive animals and a compact design that enables a user to groom those hard-to-reach areas.
Along with ease-of-use and safety, consumers are looking for stylish grooming tools. Brands like Andis, Wahl and Conair offer a range of clippers in colors like bright pink. Some specialty tools even come in patterns and prints, like leopard. While colors and designs aren’t necessities for these tools to function, fun options may help consumers make a final purchasing decision if they’re wavering between two brands.
But, as all these manufacturers attest, making the sale of any grooming product comes down to two things: first, teaching the consumers what they need for their dogs’ coat; and second, how to use the tools.
“The biggest challenge we have in the retail space is education,” Formico said. “As a grooming brand, it’s critical that Andis tools are being used appropriately, with the right breeds, with the right coat type. Not every tool works the same way with different coat types. So, what we’ve done is redesign our packaging to take the confusion out of the purchasing process for consumers.”
Beyond the packaging, though, retailers should be well-versed in the grooming tools on the shelf and for which dogs they are most appropriate.
“We’ve developed new scales, icons and comparison charts that help consumers understand which clippers, shears and grooming tools are going to work best with their dog,” Formico said. “Andis is also testing some exciting kiosk concepts with retail partners that we’re very excited about. One thing we hear a lot from both our professional groomers and consumers is they want to hold and feel the clipper, trimmer, brush or comb before making that purchasing decision, so the kiosk actually gives them the opportunity to do that with a wide variety of our products.”
While signage and displays go a long way in helping to educate the consumer, conversation can help make the sale. In-store demonstrations or one-on-one consultations can help consumers make informed decisions.
In the short term, this is a greater investment in time and staff energy. And, in the long term, closing the gap on that education piece will help at-home groomers select the right clippers and shears, which will result in a happy customer.
Bet on Wet Food
Wet food accounts for 20 percent of pet food sales in the US, according to a webinar hosted by GfK earlier this year. That represents roughly $4.8 billion of the $24 billion US pet food market. A small segment, to be sure, but a powerful and growing one.
Dog owners tend to purchase wet food for two distinct purposes: First, there’s a perception that wet food delivers higher-quality nutrition. Second, some pet owners feel that feeding wet food—either by itself or as a topper to dry kibble—allows them to spoil their dog. Either way, the product-selection emphasis is on quality.
According to Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet, “Just like dry food, high-quality, natural wet food offers the complete and balanced nutrition dogs and cats need for a happy, healthy life. More than ever, pet parents are looking for ways to add variety and excitement to mealtime, and this can be accomplished by feeding wet food recipes, either exclusively or along with dry food. Mealtime has come to represent a special moment between pet and pet parents—it’s a way for pet parents to show their four-legged family members how much they care and wet food can help make mealtime even more special by adding textures, flavors and nutrients that appeal to pets’ palates and help them feel their best.”
When it comes to premium products, consumers want nutritionally-dense formulas and are concerned about ingredients and their sourcing.
“When pet parents choose wet food, they look for quality, natural ingredients that they know will help support their pets’ overall health and wellbeing—including grain-free recipes made without fillers or artificial colors, flavors and preservatives—and exciting flavor combinations and textures that will end the monotony of mealtime,” said Leary-Coutu.
At Wellness, the brand recently introduced new wet food options, TruFood Complements and Wellness CORE Hearty Cuts. Grain Free Wellness TruFood Complements for cats and dogs are made with whole prey proteins and fresh produce, each with no more than five ingredients. CORE Hearty Cuts offers protein-packed wet food with quality proteins like beef, venison, turkey, duck or salmon, along with superfoods like spinach, sweet potatoes and kale for a balanced, highly nutritious meal.
Retailers are capitalizing on the increase in demand for wholesome, organic products by stocking organic, natural wet food. One example is Mulligan Stew, a premium wet food developed by a naturopathic practitioner. The formula aids in increasing the healthy enzymes that support detoxification, anti-oxidant production and cellular health.
Bravo’s new Canine Cafe line provides complete and balanced nutrition for all ages and breeds. The formulas include popular, trending ingredients like salmon oil, green lipped mussels and turmeric. Additionally, for concerned customers, Bravo has made their Country of Origin (COO) data available as downloadable PDFs for each product on the company’s website.
Beyond ingredient demands, consumers are using wet food increasingly as a topper to the kibble they already feed. According to Leary-Coutu, “One of the biggest trends we are seeing in the pet food industry as a whole is the rise in meal toppers which can be served over dry food or as a snack, providing delicious taste, texture, hydration and nutrients to a cat or dog’s diet.”
This makes sense with the larger trends of treating pets like an integrated member of the family and expecting the same quality for them as for your own family. Adding high-quality wet food as a topper allows dog owners to feel like they’re pampering their pet with premium nutrition and a tasty treat.
Ultimately, though, the key to successfully selling wet food: education.
“Pet parents are doing more research to educate themselves on what goes into their pet’s foods, so it’s important for retailers to have a true understanding of what’s in the foods they’re selling and how those ingredients can help pets’ overall health. Pet parents will come into their neighborhood,” stated Leary-Coutu. “This is especially true in the natural category. Pet parents who feed their dogs and cats natural recipes have already done part of their homework. They know natural ingredients are a fundamental source of health for their pets, so retailers need to know even more than the basics. They need to understand the order in which ingredients are listed, where the ingredients are sourced, and the nutritional value and health benefits of these various ingredients, which are all key factors to help pet parents find the recipes that are best suited for their pet’s nutritional needs.”
Work closely with brand partners to understand how wet food recipes benefit dogs, and help your customers make educated decisions for their pets’ needs.
Choosing the Best Cosmetics
Pet cosmetics: Few other niches cause as varied reactions as this, with some consumers clamoring for more and better products, while others tease the coifed dogs. Regardless, the segment is growing—and quickly—though it’s still a small market. Those clamoring for more, however, tend to be millennials, often child-free, with expendable income they’re willing to spend on pampering their pets.
Once thought of as bling and polish, the cosmetics aisle is expanding rapidly into beauty and style products that mimic human products. Whatever the product, though, consumers are expecting the same level of quality for their pets that they expect for themselves.
“The grooming industry has piggy backed the ride in human cosmetics opting for a healthier alternative,” said Tara Pellegrino, a groomer who also serves as a distributor for Envirogroom Professional Pet Products. “Keep in mind, it is not only the pet’s skin and coat we are monitoring but also our own hands that are soaking in these products as well.”
Eric Bittman of Warren London said consumers are seeking better products.
“Consumers are starting to look for high quality products that actually work,” he said. “There are many watered-down products in the industry that are imported very cheaply from China and many companies don’t put ingredients on their bottles. We believe in all-natural, high-quality ingredients made here in the USA and are happy to show all of our ingredients on every product. Just like human products, we believe it’s important to know what ingredients you are using on your dog.”
“Be wary of claims,” she said. “Pet stylists need to learn how to read labels. Just because it says ‘all natural’ or ‘organic’ in bold on the front of the packaging, doesn’t necessarily mean it is. In fact, if it is organic, the percentage of ingredients that are organic must be listed on the label, for example: organic jojoba oil (50 percent).”
Consumers are becoming hyper-aware of ingredients and label-savvy when it comes to their own beauty and cosmetic purchases, so the same demands are trickling into cosmetic grooming products.
“Another thing groomers need to keep in mind is that just because a product is natural, does not mean a pet will not have an allergic reaction,” Pellegrino said. “I often say grass is natural, yet more dogs are allergic to grass than anything else. That’s one of the reasons Envirogroom invented their certified gluten free product line for groomers and bathers with celiac disease. The general trend in the grooming world has to do with natural products. For the past few years, all product manufacturers have gone natural, organic, gluten free, soy free and the like.”
These trends follow along with the bigger shifts in the pet industry as a whole.
“Also driving this growth is now that many families are humanizing their dogs, they are consuming products that will give their pup a better quality of life,” Bittman said. “For example, 10 to 15 years ago no one cared if their dog licked their itchy paws, had dandruff and dry skin. Today, many concerned dog parents have great high-quality products to choose from to fix these ailments and give their puppy the happiness they deserve.”
These products are similar to what their human owners purchase for themselves. Exfoliation has been big in the human cosmetic industry for decades. Now, it’s popping up in products like Warren London’s Butter Wash with Exfoliating Jojoba Beads, which is a moisturizing shampoo that removes dead skin and dead hair from the dog.
At SuperZoo, Warren London launched a new product that is Dog Sunscreen with Aloe Vera Moisturizer to provide sun protection while moisturizing the coat.
When it comes to decorative cosmetics, just about anything goes: pet-friendly dyes, along with trendy cuts and bling applications, plus the standard nail polish.
“Groomers are also artists, so anything fun, such as creative color products and bling are hot right now,” Pellegrino said. “Few actually do full blown coloring in their spas due to the time and energy it takes to creatively color a dog, but most pet stylists dabble. Coloring tips of tails, ears and mohawks has become the norm. Stenciling products and blow pens sell out at all the groomer trade shows.”
When deciding what products to stock, consider your customer base. For at-home groomers, stencils and dyes, along with packets of adhesive bling, make great additions to endcaps and POP displays. For those who don’t groom at home and rely on your staff, try offering cosmetic services like bling applications and nail painting as an add-on to existing services.
Thinking Outside the Bag
Dealing with waste is one of the least favorite but most important tasks for any dog owner. Whether it’s addressing accidents in the house, cleaning up the yard or stopping problematic behaviors, waste products are needed by all dog owners. Diversify your product mix and capitalize on cross-merchandizing to maximize these sales. Poop products cross a number of aisles by offering creative product and dietary solutions to messy problems.
Supplements make up an unexpected but important part of the poop product mix. Dog owners whose dogs exhibit problematic behaviors like coprophagia (stool eating) or butt scooting seek out food, treats or supplements that combat those problems. Solid Gold’s S.E.P. (Stop Eating Poop) product is popular and easy to administer. It makes the stool distasteful to the dog. Likewise, NaturVet’s Coprophagia Deterrent Soft Chews is given like a treat to deter the stool-eating behavior. Both products also include a breath freshener.
For butt scooting, a visit to the vet is recommended to eliminate any underlying medical conditions, but for maintenance, products like NaturVet’s No Scoot meet customers’ needs. For a unique solution, Pet Naturals of Vermont offers Scoot Bars. Scoot Bars provide immune, digestive and colonic support. Pet Naturals’ 2800 mg proprietary pumpkin blend includes three sources of fiber: larch tree extract, digestion-resistant maltodextrin and pumpkin powder. The product, though, is the size and texture of a chew, so dog owners feel like they’re rewarding their pet while treating the condition.
Accidents Will Happen
In case of accidents, a selection of training and clean-up products is at the ready. For puppies and elderly dogs, potty pads and diapers help dog owners keep their homes clean while providing their pet with an elimination spot. Simple Solution, Arm & Hammer and AKC training pads are among the most popular, but this is one category where consumers typically seek the lowest prices regardless of brand because they’re a quickly consumed product. To educate your customers on the best products for the money, consider having in-store demo pads or allow customers to trial a pad from a sample box.
For indoor accident clean-up, the trend is toward natural cleaning solutions that are non-toxic and eco-friendly. Nature’s Miracle is a perennial best-seller and is branded specifically for pet accidents. Skout’s Honor also offers a complete line of eco-friendly, non-toxic stain and odor removers for pet messes.
One eco-friendly brand, PL360, offers a range of pet-safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly products in fresh, modern packaging. The household line from PL360 includes a citrus-scented Stain & Odor Remover, as well as Odor Neutralizing Carpet Powder.
Lifestyle brand ECOS launched an array of pet cleaning products, including a safe, biodegradable Stain & Odor remover. Among the products in their pet line is the innovative Powdered Pick-Up Sponge. The enzymes in the formulation do the work: Sprinkle on pet accidents and watch the mess absorb into the sponge material and disappear. Once absorbed, the pet owner only has to sweep up and throw away.
While there are numerous product lines to diversify your waste product selection, the basics are pick-up bags and poop scoops. With pick-up bags, two major trends are growing: eco-friendly and style choices.
The overarching trend toward eco-friendly options in nearly every pet product category includes pick-up bags, though the options are limited. Poop Bags by Earth Rated hit on a number of consumer demands: They’re an affordable, eco-friendly option with some customization available. The bags, in their traditional green style or white vegetable-based style, are available lavender scented or unscented. Matching dispensers or tissue-box-like dispensers round out the selection.
A wider range of personalized pick-up products appeal to consumers who are searching for ways to show their (and their dogs’) personalities. Bags in different prints and colors, along with leash-clip holders that feature everything from licensed professional sports logos to cartoon characters and fashion prints, allow pet owners to choose products that express individuality.
Pooper scoopers fill out the waste product aisle, and customers who purchase these products are looking for ease of use. Nature’s Miracle offers its Advanced Jaw Scoop made of durable plastic with a special antimicrobial coating that keeps it odor-free and easy to clean. Plus, it enables the pet owner to scoop the poop without having to bend over. Other popular options include cost-conscious pan-and-rake sets.
With the number of waste-related products available, combined with the fact that waste is one of the least pleasant aspects of dog ownership, merchandizing opportunities abound. An aisle dedicated to waste-related products is a natural fit to any store setup, but sprinkling endcaps and free-standing displays throughout the store captures those customers who come in seeking other products. For instance, a display of potty pads naturally fits into any puppy training or puppy product aisle, as does a display of cleaning solutions. Cleaning solutions also fit well among senior-specific products. Since poop bag rolls are a universal need, displays throughout the store, especially at point of purchase, allow customers to stick them in the cart as an impulse. Cross-merchandise and cross-promote waste products where they naturally fit to grow these sales.
Get the Grain Out
As dog owners shift their own eating habits because of prevailing trends, they are scrutinizing their pets’ diets more than ever before.
“There are a few motivating factors in choosing grain-free options,” said Bette Shubert, Bravo Pet Food’s co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “The primary one is pet parents’ desire to feed a better, more nutritionally-sound food benefitting the overall health and well-being of the companion animal. Cats and dogs are carnivores, or meat-eaters. Many pet foods are at least 50 percent (or more) grain because the carbohydrates are needed to hold the food together. But as The Merck Veterinary Manual tells us, dogs and cats have ‘no dietary requirement for carbohydrates.’”
Like Humans Do
The human food industry is experiencing massive change with an emphasis on what the Institute of Food Technologists calls “the intersection of health and convenience.” And, as most trends do, that is trickling into the pet space.
“Pet owners are becoming more conscious of ingredients and paying closer attention to food labels and nutritional benefits, which is primarily driving their increasing belief that grains are bad for dogs with digestive sensitivities,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “In fact, this belief is backed by veterinarians that agree that pets do not need as much grain in their diets as originally thought, and [they] often recommend that pets eat little or no grains, as to not trigger metabolism difficulties or potential diseases. Overall, as pet parents make healthy decisions for themselves and their families, they are doing the same for their furry companions by purchasing wholesome foods that contain nutritious benefits to support their individual needs.”
Caru’s Tetra Pak cartons deliver on the convenience factor because they are easy to open, close and store. The recipes inside provide the healthy, grain-free formulas.
“Caru recipes are ‘just like homemade’—we focus on carefully choosing our products’ ingredients and treating each with integrity to maintain its most healthful qualities to benefit the pet’s diet and promote an overall healthy lifestyle,” Pettyan said. “That said, we recognized consumers’ need for grain-free pet food and treats, and also formulated our grain-free Stews and Treats with GMO-free ingredients. We also recently launched a new line of GMO-free dog treats with exotic proteins: alligator, rabbit and wild boar. These items were created for owners who believe a change of proteins or novel proteins will help alleviate food sensitivities or simply want to satisfy their pets’ wild cravings.”
Part of the grain-free trend, which Bravo embraces, is a push for a raw food diet. Some consumers have been reluctant to make that shift for fear of preparing and storing raw meat. Bravo has combined the desire for that feeding approach with packaged convenience.
“Bravo has always offered single-source protein, limited and grain-free ingredient formulas that all serve a specific nutritional purpose,” Shubert said. “Using our raw foods as an example, the muscle meats provide energy, the organs are nutrient-rich, and the bones are great for dental health and as a source of calcium. In some cases, we add vegetables for added nutrients. Our fresh-frozen raw foods are simple by design and provide a great foundation for creating a custom food based on the specific nutritional needs of the companion animal. Our grain-free freeze dried dinners meet the AAFCO standards for complete and balanced nutrition right out of the package. And if you look at our treats, you’ll find they are made from 100 percent muscle meats and/or organs, making them highly nutritious and delicious and 100 percent grain-free.”
Treats Going Against the Grain
These shifts in consumer demands aren’t exclusive to food; grain-free treats are also popular.
“Currently, pet parents are regularly seeking products that are grain-free and corn-free, as well as products that offer limited, natural ingredients,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of sales and marketing at Paragon Pet Products. “WHIMZEES dental dog chews are an incredible solution because they offer all of the benefits that help to promote healthier gums and teeth, but in a more fun, delicious and highly digestible way than anything else on the market. The limited, natural ingredients in WHIMZEES offer a high quality vegetarian option that promotes dental and oral health but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”
Camosci emphasized that “simple, limited ingredients are very on-trend, and we see this trend evolving to be the standard versus the exception. Our company is continuing to see grain-free as a highly sought requirement with regards to dogs with all different kinds of allergies.”
For those considering grain-free products to stock your shelves, these products were previously specialty but are now a basic consumer expectation. A range of treats and grain-free kibble, plus alternative options like Caru and Bravo, hit major pain points for consumers who want the health of a grain-free meal with the convenience of simple-serve packaging.
An Ounce of Prevention
What steps do you take to keep your salon safe, not just for the pets entrusted in your care but also for you and your employees?
A safe work environment is crucial to successful operation. Each staff member needs to be trained in the salon’s policies and procedures, and it starts when the first client walks through the door.
Earlier this year, Andis Company announced a partnership with Animal Behavior College (ABC). ABC certifies professional dog obedience trainers, pet groomers and veterinary assistants. Andis will provide educational support for ABC’s grooming students in their Grooming Instruction Program. For one year, Andis will provide Grooming Instruction students with Andis products and tools training, along with product samples, breed grooming guidelines and best practices training.
In 2015, the Professional Pet Groomers & Stylists Alliance (PPGSA) released standards for safety and sanitation. Last fall, Pet Age staff reported “the document includes sections addressing pet housing standards, equipment standards, general professional standards and work standards, and demonstrates responsible grooming practices within the industry. These standards establish industry-wide guidelines that pet owners can rely on when entrusting their pets to the care of a professional groomer or stylist.”
The PPGSA was created as the collaboration of expertise of the three major national dog styling associations—International Professional Groomers, Inc., the International Society of Canine Cosmetologists and the National Dog Groomers Association of America, Inc.—along with other industry and retail partners to develop industry-wide safety and sanitation standards for pet grooming. Membership in the PPGSA provides a salon with the guidelines that ensure safe operations.
Salons can be hectic places, especially at drop-off and pick-up times. However, to ensure staff safety, ask pet owners specific questions about their animal’s behavior and medical history. If you can discover that a dog snaps when his paws are touched, staff can make accommodations in advance without risk. Ask about medical issues, particularly problems with the skin, coat, ears, eyes and anal glands. Grooming methods may need to be altered to accommodate any issues, including referring the client to their vet.
Safety also includes basic precautions like walking slowly on the often-wet floor to avoid slips and keeping the work environment clean and orderly. Each state has its own laws and regulations regarding these and many more, so educate the entire staff on those rules.
Keep tools in safe, working order and ensure that all staff members are trained in how to operate them properly. This is critical for large pieces like tables, lifts and any arms or restraints. Safe operation of those heavy pieces of equipment keeps both groomer and pet safe.
Consider apparel designed for safety, like the scrubs made by Insect Shield, which integrate insect-repelling technology.
“Regarding the safer environment, wearing Insect Shield apparel helps protect staff from fleas and ticks that can carry dangerous illnesses such as Lyme,” said Insect Shield’s Janine Robertson. “It also helps prevent staff from potentially bringing the critters home after work.”
Safety for the pet starts with restraint. Have a plan in place to ensure every animal in the salon is restrained at all times. It’s never a good idea to let any animal wander around the shop.
Dogs can bite. Cats can scratch (and bite). Have the appropriate equipment, like muzzles and emergency bite-proof gloves, within easy reach. Having them tucked in a cabinet won’t do anyone any good in an emergency situation. Make it part of the routine to check that equipment for rips or tears and replace as needed. Train staff on how to use the appropriate equipment and when to do so.
Remember that you aren’t required to groom every animal that walks through the door. If the situation becomes unsafe beyond the staff’s training, simply call the owner to come pick up their animal. While they may be unhappy, safety comes first.
An often-overlooked procedure that ensures safety: Don’t overbook. A salon is already busy and can become chaotic. Overbooking stretches the staff’s ability to properly restrain every animal at all times, and it often forces groomers to work too quickly. An overbooked, stressed staff can make mistakes that can lead to injuries to themselves or to the animals in their care.
Finally, a safe work environment is a clean work environment. In addition to sterilizing tools and work surfaces, have a cleaning procedure in place that all staff members can follow. In addition to daily tasks, schedule in larger ones like cleaning out vents, ducts and filters that can become clogged with fur and, thus, a fire hazard.
Everything outlined here can be planned in advance and procedures developed (and trained). Safe operations ensure that employees and customers stay happy and healthy. That keeps your business running smoothly.
Something to Chew On
Nearly every dog owner—91 percent, according to the 2015-16 APPA National Pet Owners Survey—purchases dog toys annually. The need for toys continues throughout a dog’s entire life, from durable chew toys that last through the puppy stage to chews that provide dental benefits as the dog ages.
According to Andrea Fleer, PetSafe’s senior product manager for toys and behavior, consumers are looking for three things when shopping for chew toys: durability, price and function.
“Customers are looking for chew toys that will withstand the test of time due to Fido’s natural instinct to chew,” Fleer said. “Dog owners often purchase classically shaped chew toys, such as a bone, ball or disc. However, customers often have a toy box for their dog filled with toys made from different materials with unique designs.”
“Consumers are looking for variety in materials to occupy and enrich their dogs,” said Sarah Bell, vice president of sales at Hyper Pet. “Durability is the most important factor, but the extra features like squeakers and the ability for the toy to dispense treats or float is also desirable. Toys with multiple features deliver on the value proposition.”
Hyper Pet’s products include a selection of functional chew toys. For example, the Hyper Chewz line is made of durable foam used for fetch or for floating. Others, like Flav-A-Bones are designed to occupy a dog, to provide dental benefits or mitigate loneliness.
At Ethical Pet, national marketing manager Susan McCann said there is always a demand for durable chew toys.
“We use different materials, textures and shapes to address these demands,” McCann said. “Knowing a dog’s chewing habits are key to purchasing the right toy for your dog. Our line of Play’N Chew toys combines durable thermoplastic rubber (TPR) with an edible beef flavored treat. The raised ridges on the toys help massage teeth and gums for a healthy mouth. Combining a treat with a toy helps prevent destructive behaviors through a play-and-reward system. The dog can chew on the toy, not your shoes, and the treat is the reward. Our Play’N Chew Nylon Bones offer the same features and benefits.”
Replacement treats are available for repeat sales.
“Last year, PetSafe brand created a line called Busy Buddy Squeak ‘n Treat toys, which make a squeaking noise and also dispense treats,” Fleer said. “The toys are made of durable natural rubber and come in three different shapes—Booya, Troog and Ooga—and have been well received by customers.”
However, the brand’s bestsellers include those from the Busy Buddy line.
“The PetSafe Busy Buddy treat-dispensing, ring-holding and meal-holding toys continue to be bestsellers year after year,” Fleer said. “This is due to PetSafe brand staying true to our values by offering durable, innovative and affordable pet toys that will enhance the pet owner’s experience with their dog.”
Hyper Pet is also not resting its laurels.
“Our development team at Hyper Pet is currently working on new and innovative materials and designs to satisfy multiple desired traits of chew toys,” Bell said. “We just launched our new Tennis Chews toy assortment made of durable TPR and tennis ball material.”
“There are a multitude of new materials that offer their own unique qualities such as maximum durability or the ability to incorporate a noise maker, flavor or give a uniquely transparent look,” she continued. “Once product development teams determine the desired deliverables of a new chew toy, there is a variety of material compositions to test. Hyper Pet is innovating with multiple materials, textures and features.”
“As a manufacturer, we are faced with many challenges in developing toys that meet the demands of every type of dog and their chewing habits,” McCann said. “Creatively, we design toys that are unique in that they offer non-traditional features that aren’t found in every other toy and that will appeal to different size dogs and the various breeds. We strive to offer a wide variety of toys using the most popular materials and design techniques so the consumer has many choices and at a great price.”
“We are always listening to our retail partners and their customers as to what is being requested and make every effort to offer a well-rounded line of toys to meet these requests,” he said.
The toy aisle needs variety: squeakers, tugs, ropes, balls and all manner of interactive toy. Each of these brands indicates that consumers have such diverse needs for chew toys, from staving off boredom and anxiety to exercising a dog in the water or keeping a puppy from destroying the furniture. There are perennial favorites, like durable Nylabone chews, that customers expect to see in the aisle. The category, though, has welcomed numerous developments to achieve greater variety.
DIY Dog Grooming
According to data from the American Kennel Club, nearly 70 percent of dog owners reported that they groom their pets themselves. Only about 26 percent of dog owners rely solely on professional groomers.
For the majority who groom at home and the smaller percentage of dog owners who alternate between professional grooming appointments and at-home care, the single biggest demand driving sales is ease-of-use. Safety is another driving factor, followed closely by price. Dog owners want to be sure that they can use the product safely and effectively, especially when it comes to nail clippers and electric trimmers.
Shampoos and conditioners meet the most basic needs of the at-home groomer. Some customers seek out the simplest, easiest-to-use product, which means a single step that lathers and rinses quickly. Other at-home groomers are doing baths at home out of necessity to treat a specific condition.
When it comes to choosing which bath products to stock, Bobbi Panter, founder of Bobbi Panter Pet Products, believes quality is key.
“Consumers are looking for quality products with quality ingredients that are easy to use at home and have a great result,” Panter said, pointing out that consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the ingredients in bath products.
“All ingredients and their functions are listed clearly on the label so consumers know what’s in them and why,” Panter said. “Every one of my shampoos and conditioners are salt free, which makes them easy to rinse, quick to dry and easy on the hands and your pet’s skin and fur. Consumers see instant results and they smell amazing. Because my products are so easy to lather and rinse, smell great and relax the consumer and their pet, it makes the bonding experience really fun for everyone.”
Beyond bathing products, at-home groomers need a variety of tools that are both effective and available at an affordable price point. Required tools range from nail trimmers to clippers and trimmers for different types of coats. These can be a tougher sell because consumers often feel intimidated by professional-looking tools.
Andis has found success in strong packaging with a clear message.
“In response to customer feedback, one of the things we’ve done this year is redesign our consumer packaging so that at-home groomers can make sure that they’re comparing apples to apples when selecting a clipper that works best for their pet,” said Karen Formico, Andis’ vice president of marketing.
“Historically, manufacturers haven’t always made it easy for consumers to understand what they’re buying, which does both the manufacturer and customer a disservice,” Formico said. “So, to make sure that customers are selecting the right clipper or trimmer for their pet, Andis has introduced a new rating scale that shows what tools work best for certain coat types and cutting techniques. For example, the clipper you use on a golden retriever is going to be considerably different than one you would use on a poodle, so our new packaging makes that easier for the consumer to understand.”
The brand’s packaging also includes grooming tips provided by the Andis Grooming Educators to help the customer understand how to use the product.
The brand’s line of at-home grooming products hit every major need.
“Our at-home grooming customers are looking for versatility and ease of use when it comes to Andis’ consumer grooming products,” Formico said. “At Andis, we’re meeting that demand with products like our Easyclip Cordless Li (available in August) which is a super versatile, adjustable blade cordless clipper that gives pet parents the ability to do everything from overall trims in-between visits to the groomer, to clipping around the ears, eyes and paws. We also have a line of excellent at-home grooming tools that includes nail clippers, a self-cleaning slicker brush, deshedding tools, pin brushes and steel combs. Those tools are great for daily use and maintenance.”
Bestsellers include the AGC clipper, EasyClip Grooming Kit, Deshedding Tool, Nail Clipper and Slicker brushes.
In the aisle, creative merchandising can increase sales with unexpected add-ons. At-home grooming provides an opportunity for crossovers with products like water-resistant harnesses for dogs who squirm or anti-anxiety products for owners whose dogs experience anxiety during grooming. Panter pointed out that grooming provides a bonding experience, too, and for dogs who may not love the process, unexpected goodies like treats with educational signage or even consultations with your staff groomers can increase sales.