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.
Professional groomers and stylists are attuned to the animals in their care and focus on their health and safety. But what about the groomers’ health and safety? Investing in tables and lifts that support the functional aspects of the job can prevent injuries—such as those from repetitive strain—and accidents.
“Grooming tables are an important piece of equipment because they allow groomers to safely secure dogs and work on them at a comfortable height,” said Melissa Viera, owner of MJ’s Pet Training Academy and founder of PositiveGroomer.com.
Because there are so many options for tables and lifts, it is critical to test what’s out there.
“The most important features for a grooming table to have include a non-slip surface that is also easy to clean, no pointed or sharp corners, and it must be very sturdy,” Viera said.
As the market expands and more types of tables become available, it’s important to list your shop’s specific needs before making an investment in new tables.
“When it comes to grooming tables, groomers now have more options than ever before,” Viera said. “There are tables that fold, hydraulic tables and custom grooming tables on the market to meet just about any needs that groomers might have. When choosing a grooming table, groomers should take into consideration what their needs are. A groomer who grooms large dogs might want a table that lowers to the floor, or a table that has stairs or a ramp, especially if they work alone.”
Shor-Line offers a number in a range of custom colors so that the tables can accent the design of the salon or the brand colors. The Big Top Grooming Tables line allows for four different adjustments and a new, larger 48-inch table top. The brand’s Elite Grooming Tables with electric lifts are Canadian Standards Association- and Underwriters Laboratories-certified for safety.
“Another important piece of the grooming table is the arm, which gives groomers a way to secure dogs using a harness or loop attached to the arm,” Viera said. “When securing dogs to the arm, a safety release clip should always be used so a dog can quickly be released if they panic, try to twist around or try to jump off of the table.”
The MidWest Grooming Table can be paired with the brand’s zinc table arm. The zinc square steel tubing protects against rust and holds up well in the grooming environment. A two-inch “dial grip” and “swing over” arm with a cast aluminum clamp allows for easy adjustment of grooming arms.
Another option, the MidWest Deluxe Grooming Arm is made of epoxy-coated steel and fits most grooming tables. The arm features an aluminum clamp and easy-use dial adjustment knobs for quick and secure table attachments. It is available in 36-inch and 48-inch versions.
Shor-Line’s Big Top Grooming Tables line includes a pivoting grooming arm that travels 180 degrees around the end of the table. The arm locks into five positions horizontally, any position between 22- and 39-inches vertically and the loop hook has six position choices.
Pet Lift offers a wide range of grooming tables, including the Low Rider Lighted Top Grooming Table and the Folding Grooming Table. Both have grooming arms. The Low Rider has an arm that swivels and a lighted top to illuminate all angles of the pet. The Folding Grooming Table is portable for dog shows, house calls and other events.
Of the types and styles of tables, lifts and arms available, this only scratches the surface. Viera suggested attending grooming shows to shop for tables.
“When shopping for a table, it is helpful if you see it first,” Viera said. “A good way to do so is by going to grooming shows. You can also talk to grooming friends about what tables they like and dislike.”
When deciding to purchase or replace existing tables, measuring the tables to determine what will fit best in your salon is a critical step not to be overlooked. It is inefficient for groomers to constantly step over ramps or around corners, so whichever tables your salon considers, get an accurate measurement of both your space and the tables. Consider taping the floor with the new equipment’s dimensions and run through a work day to see if it’s conducive to business.
Viera noted that some groomers have chosen to build their own tables, but cautions against doing so because there are no guidelines or specifications about important details like weight capacity. And, because there are so many tables on the market, it is easy to attend a grooming show and scope out the array of options to find something that is safe for both the groomer and the animal.
“If a table is safe, comfortable for the animal, and it works for you, then there is really no right or wrong choice for a grooming table,” Viera said.
Keep It Simple
When it comes to taking care of their dogs’ joints, there are two types of customers: those seeking preventative care and those seeking treatment. At first glance, those seem like disparate needs; however, both consumers want the same two features—efficacy and convenience—with their joint care purchases.
“29 percent of consumers start joint supplementation after their dog starts showing signs of pain or decreased mobility and 28 percent start because their vet advised them to start,” said Vicky Mann, vice president of innovation and brand development at H&C Animal Health. “Since the majority of consumers are entering into the category because of an existing problem, the more effective the product, the more satisfied the consumer.”
Mann said that H&C Animal Health, maker of ActivPhy products, has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research to determine what consumers want in joint care.
“First, they want to know the product is safe and effective,” Mann said. “The joint supplement needs to work for their dog. Secondly, they are interested in cost per day. This is different than price. With most joint supplements, the larger the dog, the more product you need to give them. The lower the cost per day the better it is for the consumer. Finally, consumers want to know that their dog will like that taste and eat their supplement without any trouble. This makes supplementation an easier and more positive experience for the pet parent and their dog.”
On that last point, Mann reported that 60 percent of consumers prefer soft chews to other forms of supplements.
The brand has also conducted clinical research on ActivPhy products.
“Not many supplements are clinically tested,” Mann said. “Having our formula clinically proven gives both retailers and consumers additional confidence in our product. Our studies focus on the effect of our blue-green algae extract on a dog’s mobility. Our results show that 80 percent of dogs experienced a difference in their mobility after 30 days.”
At Lifes2Good, the product development focus has been on liquid solutions.
“Consumers are really looking for something that works when it comes to joint care for pet health,” said Joe Petracca, vice president of business development. “Efficacy is the first concern.”
His Pettura brand offers a liquid solution that has a pump.
“The pumping action makes it easy for pet parents to add the designated amount to food or treats, and the liquid formula absorbs three times faster than tablets, and is twice as effective,” Petracca said.
In fact, product development in this category leads Petracca to predict an increase in the number of liquid solutions available to meet consumer demand for effective, convenient products.
“As consumers continue to invest in the overall health and wellness of their pets, we expect to see a continued growing interest in pet supplements,” said Jaime McKinley, vice president of new business development at Absorbine Pet and W.F. Young. “Supplements offer a simple way to ensure our pets are getting all the vitamins and nutrients they need to be as healthy as possible. Consumers will also continue to focus on the quality and efficacy of ingredients in everything they feed their pets, supplements included. They will be looking for qualities such as organically and sustainably grown and made without fillers, preservatives, added sugars, artificial colors, or flavors, which we offer with our supplements.”
Additionally, McKinley said that they’ve seen an increase in demand for ingredients made in the USA.
Aborbine’s line of supplements includes specific lifestage formulas: Ultimate Canine Hip & Joint Formula, Ultimate Small Breed Hip, Joint & Coat Formula, Well Blend Food Sensitive Hip, Joint & More, Ultimate Puppy Health Formula and Ultimate Canine Senior Health Formula.
The company is also leveraging kelp as a hot ingredient in the market.
“Our Pet Kelp Joint & Bone formula combines the benefits of organic kelp with omega-3 and omega-6 rich flaxseed, as well as glucosamine and chondroitin, to support joint mobility and strong bones,” McKinley said. “Absorbine Pet’s Pet Kelp formulas for dogs and cats use a special blend of four kelp varieties, all of it organic and sustainably grown. It’s then hand-harvested, sun-dried and ground into a fine powder, to ensure high bioavailability of nutrients.”
“Pet Kelp powdered supplements deliver more than 70 different vitamins, minerals and micronutrients that support canine health Pet Kelp Joint & Bone is a great complement to raw food diets or for virtually any pet that would benefit from kelp and flaxseed’s natural nutrients to improve wellness, mobility, and skin and coat health,” McKinley said. “It’s also easy to use—simply sprinkle the easy-to-use powder on your pet’s daily food, or combine it with water to create a gravy you can pour over their regular meal.”
The results of each manufacturer’s research resulted in similar findings: Whether it’s a chew, a liquid, a powder or even a treat, consumers want to give their dogs an effective, convenient joint care product. With a handful of options on the shelf, retailers can hit on those major pain points to help owners prevent pain in their dogs.
“We see that there are really two different types of consumers in the category,” said Doug Gleason, president of TrueBlue Pet Products. “One group is made up of those people who have dogs who get tear stains, and the other group is looking for more general eye care.”
“For the people who are dealing with tear stains, they are looking for a product that is both effective at removing the tear stains and also safe for the pet,” Gleason said. “And that’s no small order. Years ago, many people were using food additives that included antibiotics. These products did a great job of eliminating the tear stains, but many consumers began to think that it was overkill to be giving their dog antibiotics every day just to treat this condition. So they began looking for other ways to deal with tear stains. Tear stains are very stubborn and hard to remove, but the strongest cleansers that most quickly remove the stains can be very harsh and irritating to the skin.”
For customers whose dogs aren’t prone to tear stains but who are looking for a daily maintenance solution to prevent problems, safety is still key.
“For the consumers who just want general eye care, they are primarily concerned with safety,” Gleason said. “They want to feel comfortable that it’s okay to use the product so close to the eye. For example, they may want a wipe that they can use to remove the crust that can appear in the corner of the eye in the morning.”
Safety-minded customers benefit from an in-store demonstration about how to quickly groom their dog’s eyes with the products available for purchase.
TrueBlue’s Safe and Sure Eye Wipes strike a balance between strong and safe. It includes all-natural witch hazel to clean, and chamomile and cucumber to soothe the delicate skin around the eyes.
“Also, our pads have a special texture that helps pull dirt away from the fur, and many people tell us they are the perfect size and shape for the job,” Gleason said.
Because eye care should be a daily grooming task, consumers seek simple, easy-to-use options like wipes and cloths. Grooming tasks should be an enjoyable experience for both dog and person, but that isn’t always the case with eye wash solutions. Quick and easy wipes solve that problem.
Miracle Care Sterile Eye Wash Pads are formulated to clean and remove uncomfortable debris from the eye. The formula is soothing and non-stinging on pre-soaked pads.
Another wipe option is Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes. Recommended for daily use, Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain wipes help remove dried mucus secretions, discharge and tear stains.
“Used daily, our award-winning Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes will keep a pet’s eye exterior clean and reduce the risk of irritation caused by foreign matter,” said Lynda Winkowski, president of Angels’ Eyes. “Our unique formulation requires no rinsing and is safe to use daily.”
In the future, product development in eye care will be shifting toward natural.
“The trend that we think is most important is that consumers want products that are both natural and really work well,” according to Gleason. “Ten years ago, people were willing to accept a less effective product if it was natural. Now they expect both: all-natural products that truly get the job done.”
Demos and Dedicated Sections
Some owners prefer at-home grooming to salon appointments, so when planning your eye care section, blunt-tipped scissors round out the wash and wipe options. Long-haired breeds risk eye injury if the hair around the eyes grows long enough to scratch the eye. Those owners––even the ones who bring their dogs for regular grooming sessions––could benefit from a demonstration and a scissor purchase to learn how to trim at home between appointments.
Gleason recommended that all eye care products be merchandised in an easy-to-navigate section.
“I do believe that it’s smart for a retailer to create an eye care section with all the products in the category,” he said. “For the consumer who is looking for an eye care product, that’s the easiest way to be able to compare all the different products at one point at the shelf.”
Offer an array of product solutions but be prepared to discuss with customers their eye care needs. This category walks the line between health and aesthetics. Many dog owners are unaware that a quick, daily swipe of the eye can prevent health problems from cropping up. Likewise, many dog owners are unware of the distinction between debris that can be wiped away each morning and debris that signifies a health concern. Dog owners who come into your store looking for eye care solutions may be dealing with a medical condition that should be referred to a veterinarian. Be prepared to guide customers to the right product, grooming service or veterinarian.
Some puppy-owning homes previously had dogs and so may have some supplies on hand, but many puppy owners are first-time dog owners. These newbies need to stock up on the basics, like crates, food, toys, grooming supplies, leashes and collars, and cleaning solutions. From the first-time puppy person’s perspective, this can be overwhelming—and expensive.
“Over half of American households have dogs and this figure is growing, meaning the number of puppies being bought is also growing,” said Gordie Spater, founder and chief business officer at Kurgo.
“We are following this trend by developing products that make it easier to get through the rewarding but exhausting puppy stage. A lot of the puppy stage is about training and our line of leashes and gentle leaders help you maintain control. Our car seat protection products protect your car from puppy accidents and our crash-tested harnesses protect your pup in case of a sudden stop or crash. Our Go-Stuff-It Treat Bag is a must-have for puppy kindergarten.”
Spater also recommended Kurgo’s no-pull walking harness, the Journey Harness; the Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and the Impact Harness for car-riding puppies.
Puppies Need Playthings
Play for puppies is critical to prevent destructive behavior and to stimulate energetic little ones. Spater recommended Kurgo’s Classic Yard Games Dog Toys to prevent furniture eating.
At PetSafe, the Busy Buddy puppy line is specific to puppies.
“The soft, natural rubber is scented with vanilla, and many of our items have our patented treat meter, which randomly dispenses treats to keep puppies playing for longer periods of time,” said senior product manager Andrea Fleer.
“Puppies should be introduced to toys as early as possible, but they don’t even have teeth until three to six weeks of age and therefore need softer toys to protect gums and baby teeth,” said PetSafe’s training and behavior education manager, Michelle Mullins. “Consider dog-safe plush toys and puppy lines like our Busy Buddy Puppy or Pogo Plush at this stage. Puppies start to lose baby teeth around four months. This teething period can be difficult and you will want to have lots of appropriate chew toys on hand to avoid having your puppy chew up your favorite shoes. Safe chew toys can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy throughout their lifetime.”
Another enrichment option is the new, interactive bowl from PAW5.
“When retailers understand that healthy, well-rounded dogs grow from puppies that are introduced to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, places, people and challenges, they can more easily position enrichment products as solutions for their customers,” said Dennis O’Donnel, co-founder of PAW5. “Luckily, many of the puzzle feeders and toys don’t have to be puppy-centric to work, which means retailers can market them for dogs of any age. If they are attempting to capture puppy owners specifically, then a display, shelf talkers or end caps can work wonders in attracting a customer’s attention.”
Meeting Nourishment Needs
Nutrition is a huge sub-segment of puppy. Puppies, especially large breeds, grow rapidly.
Kirill Tikhomirov, vice president of brand commercialization at Nutram Pet Products, explained his brand’s take on puppy nutrition.
“At Nutram, we know very well that puppies, much like babies in a family, have very specific, important nutritional needs,” Tikhomirov said. “As they are growing and developing, they require higher levels of certain nutrients in their foods as well as varied amounts of high quality proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plus, their recipes and the ingredients included must be highly digestible going through their baby stomachs and digestive systems. That is why Nutram offers both Puppy and Large Puppy food (specifically called S2 and S3) in our Sound Balanced Wellness line. Those recipes are specifically crafted and cooked with natural ingredients to meet the puppy’s nutritional needs, be highly digestible, delicious and have the holistic benefits our brand is best known for on top of a very solid base nutrition.”
Another option, Evanger’s USA Made Puppy formula combines fresh meat and produce with a special formulation of vitamins ideal for puppies.
Many first-time puppy owners will have more questions about food than anything else and may have to try several brands before hitting on one that works for their needs. Stock a selection at a range of price points to hit the sweet spot for new pups.
Cleaning up the Pups
Grooming and cleaning supplies also top the list of new puppy must-haves.
Ara Bohchalian, chief executive officer of International Veterinary Sciences (IVS), said that puppies have delicate skin that is prone to irritations, so adult grooming products should be avoided.
“At IVS we’ve specifically formulated our puppy shampoo to gently cleanse and protect a puppy’s delicate skin and help rejuvenate the essential oils needed for a healthy skin and coat,” Bohchalian said. “Our Puppy Shampoo is also pH balanced to help prevent dry skin, infused with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, coconut oil, aloe vera and chamomile and does not include any harsh chemicals or cleansing agents.”
All-natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies should be merchandised with puppy, of course, as well as durable bedding options, like those offered by Molly Mutt, which can be stuffed with the puppy owner’s clothing to prevent separation anxiety.
GoDog’s signature durable mesh lining and double stitched seams make goDog BedZzz with Chew Guard Technology great for chewing puppies. BedZzz is available in six sizes to fit any dog breed or fit inside any dog crate. BedZzz features a 30-day replacement guarantee if the bed does not last longer than a standard dog bed.
Because there are so many puppy products, when it comes to merchandizing, Spater summed up the sales strategy for this category.
“We find that solution-oriented selling works best,” Spater said. “Christmas and summer are popular times for people to get new puppies, so that’s a great time to merchandise a section just for puppies, showing people what they need. Creating a bundled puppy essential package can also be a great way to help out overwhelmed new puppy parents.”
Cut the Shed
Pet hair is the scourge of many pet owners. In fact, Kelton Research conducted a survey of pet owners and found that more than half would skip their summer vacation or even take a pay cut if they never had to clean up pet hair again. Shedding is a major pain point for your customers, so offering an array of products and services to cut down on shedding—if they are effective—will build a loyal customer base.
For pet owners concerned about allergens in the home, de-shedding products can offer an effective solution to the build-up of fur and dander. This is especially important in homes with an allergy-prone family member. Excess fur floating around the home can also clog dryer vents, air filters and appliance bases. In the store, emphasize an educational approach with signage and specific displays, like a well-designed endcap that calls attention to de-shedding products. Customers need to understand that de-shedding is important for their pet’s health—and for cutting down on those annoying tumbleweeds.
Brush It Off
“Regular grooming is critical to keeping your pet’s coat and skin healthy and shedding under control,” said Rikki Mor, founder and owner of Groom Genie. “Pet hair loosens naturally so removing that excess hair regularly helps keep it from ending up on your couches, floors and black pants.”
Available in fresh colors and two sizes, the Groom Genie was designed to reduce stress during a grooming session. The brush contains bristles of different lengths to mimic the feel of fingers patting the animal while detangling and removing loose hair.
“The Groom Genie gently untangles knots and helps remove loose hair without pulling it so pets enjoy the experience,” Mor said. “Many dog and cat owners tell us that their pets who normally hate being brushed actually like the feel of the Groom Genie. That’s because it’s more like a petting session than a grooming session. It doesn’t cut or pull the fur. The brush does not have a handle so pet owners hold it in the palm of their hand, giving them more control over the pressure they use when brushing their pets. All of these factors make the grooming experience enjoyable.”
FURminator brand products round out a de-shedding mix because it’s a grooming brand with almost immediate customer recognition. According to the manufacturer, FURminator products can reduce up to 90 percent of loose hair from shedding. Because there are so many sizes and shapes available for both dogs and cats, FURminator products can cover a range of customer needs.
For customers whose dogs have thick undercoats, ActiVet’s Silver Firm Coatgrabber removes undercoat and, according to the brand, saves 70 percent of brushing time. They also recommend the brush as a finishing tool for breeds with light undercoats, making it an appealing option to stock to meet the needs of both undercoat types.
Beyond the Brush
Beyond brushes, specific shampoos, conditioners and sprays help minimize shedding and offer additional solutions to fur-frustrated customers. FURminator’s deShedding products merchandize nicely beside their grooming tools.
For a natural alternative, Earthbath offers a Shed Control Shampoo that contains a mix of naturally-derived antioxidants and moisturizers, like organic fair trade shea butter, essential green tea leaf extract, ginseng, omega-6 fatty acids, awapuhi and other natural humectants and emollients.
Leave-in products are also popular options because they deliver long-lasting moisturizing benefits, which helps keep the dog’s coat and skin healthy.
For instance, Jorge at M Boutique Fur Hydrating Butter mixes neroli and wild mint, providing a rich conditioning treatment for dogs with long coats or dry, damaged coats. It includes natural shea butter, palm butter and Moroccan argan oil.
When choosing de-shedding shampoos to stock, look for products containing the most popular and reportedly effective de-shedding ingredients, like omega-3 fatty acids, coconut and vitamin E.
Regardless of the cleanser’s ingredients, a de-shedding shampoo simply isn’t enough by itself and most pet owners with heavily shedding animals will find that they need to use the shampoo in conjunction with a grooming tool. This provides a unique opportunity to display these products as a package deal or as add-ons to an existing de-shedding purchase.
Not all pet owners feel comfortable fully de-shedding their dogs themselves, though, so the salon has the opportunity to provide services designed specifically for heavy shedders. This is especially true for customers who want their dogs to be clipped or sheared. Most pet owners are unwilling or unable to do that at home and look to the salon to cut down on the pet hair.
Happy customers will likely schedule services out in advance, keeping the business consistent, but groomers can also use these appointments as an opportunity to encourage owners to purchase de-shedding tools and shampoos to use between appointments. For those who are interested in between-appointment trims, stock a selection of easy-to-use grooming tools at affordable price points, like those from Andis. Educate grooming clients on appropriate at-home use as part of your service.
By offering the right mix of de-shedding products and services, you can help your customers keep their pets fur-free, their homes clean and maybe even still take that summer vacation.
Keep Them Calm
According to the Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association, “Separation anxiety is one of the most common canine behavior problems and is diagnosed in 20 to 40 percent of dogs referred to animal behavioral practices in North America.”
While separation anxiety is a common concern, others—like noise phobias, dog reactivity, and even travel anxiety, among others—are on the rise. In a GMI, Inc., study sponsored by Thundershirt, it was found that “over 29 percent of all dogs suffer from at least one anxiety or fear issue… nearly 23 million dogs in the United States alone. 16 percent of all dogs are suffering from multiple anxiety and/or fear issues.”
Of those, approximately half are not receiving any official treatment.
Retailers have an opportunity to provide products and solutions to help dogs suffering from anxiety and their frustrated owners. However, it’s important to remember that products may not solve everything, so be prepared to refer your customers to a veterinarian.
Not So Nervous
When it comes to anti-anxiety products, Thundershirt secured a large corner of the market with its eponymous offering, the Thundershirt. Available for dogs and cats, the vest-like product fits snugly around the animal to provide a calming effect. With the popularity of the Thundershirt, the brand expanded into other calming products. Accessories like the rain coat and trench coat cover the Thundershirt so that owners of people- or dog-reactive dogs can still walk their pets in inclement weather. Other calming products offered include the Calming Spray and Thundercap. For other behavioral problems, the Thunderleash is a no-pull solution designed to wrap around the dog’s chest.
For dogs that express their anxiety through aggression, a muzzle is a necessity, though many owners hesitate to use one. However, Larry Cobb, U.S. vice president of sales, marketing and operations at The Company of Animals, said that a muzzle, like their brand’s Baskerville Ultra Muzzle, is important to have on hand.
“A muzzle can offer a sense of comfort and safety to dogs suffering from certain anxieties because they learn to rely more so on species specific calming and cut-off signals to communicate with their owner,” Cobb said. “Similarly, pet parents can learn their pet’s stress cues while ensuring a situation doesn’t escalate without need. Unlike competitor or fabric muzzles, dogs can freely eat, drink and pant while wearing the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle. The durable plastic structure is comfortably lined with neoprene padding and is even malleable. Available in six sizes, the Baskerville Ultra Muzzle is easy to stock and fit.”
Cobb also suggested that retailers showcase training resources, like Dr. Roger Mugford’s book, “The Perfect Dog,” alongside anxiety products so that pet owners can be empowered with training methods to work on their dog’s behavior and confidence.
Sentry offers a range of calming products that utilize DAP, dog-appeasing pheromones. The Calming Collar is at a lower price point than some of the brand’s other products. The collar releases calming pheromones for up to 30 days and is useful because, unlike the brand’s diffuser products, it goes with the dog in fearful or stressful situations. The plug-in diffuser allows the pheromones to spread through the home and refill packs provide an opportunity for repeat sales. The brand’s other products, like the Calming Dog Chew and GOOD Behavior Cuddlin’ Companion Bedtime Bear toy, provide added value to pet owners looking for outlets for their dogs’ anxiety.
Calming treats are a growing segment of the anti-anxiety market. Blue Buffalo’s Tranquility Tasty Chicken Jerky Dog Treats contain lavender and chamomile, which are thought to have calming properties. Formulated with natural ingredients, Pet Naturals of Vermont’s Calming Soft Chews is a supplement designed to support dogs that are faced with environmental stressors like thunderstorms or travel.
VetriScience’s Composure Behavioral Health Bite-Sized Dog Chews are formulated for dogs exhibiting nervousness, hyperactivity or anxiety or are responding to environmentally-induced stress. The calming formula provides their C3 Calming Complex, l-theanine, and thiamine, with chicken-liver flavor. While it can be given to dogs for daily maintenance, it also works when faced with an acute stressor, like a thunderstorm or strangers coming into the home.
Because these products meet a very specific customer need, merchandising the products together can help a shopper easily pinpoint the exact aisle or endcap they need. Display a mix of product types—like training aids with calming treats, for instance—to present your customer with options. Many pet owners whose dogs experience anxiety feel anxious themselves or stressed by their pet’s behavior. Be prepared to answer questions and make product recommendations to ease their—and their pets’—anxiety.