Pet Age

Brain Teasers

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When it comes to purchasing dog toys, consumers are concerned with a number of different factors like safety and durability, but are also looking for items that stimulate their pet’s brain, keeps them occupied when they are away and helps prevent chewing problems.

The leading drivers in this segment include games and puzzles, innovations in material and design, and an emphasis on durability. While consumers are becoming more concerned with both eco-friendly products and those that are made in the USA, they have yet to emerge as heavily in the dog toy market compared to the other factors. In fact, the dog toy market is one where consumers seem unwilling to spend a little extra for those added features. This is likely due to the fact that toys may not last a long time.

Among emerging trends in the dog toy market, game and puzzle toys are experiencing a surge in popularity. Dog owners are concerned about keeping their dogs busy, and there is an emphasis on mental stimulation, especially for dogs that are left alone for long stretches of time.

For example, KONG launched a line of Genius toys. Designed to appeal to a dog’s natural curiosity, the KONG Genius toys combat boredom and separation anxiety. Two styles are available in three sizes. Either one can be used as a treat dispensing toy, or they can be connected together to increase the challenge.

Traditional toys appeal to consumers. Toys like ropes and balls will remain popular as reliable favorites. PetSport USA manufactures tennis ball toys, including Tuff Balls, Fling Its and Flavored Mini Balls. The brand also makes the Laser Chase Toy and Laser Chase Toy II. These are toys that pet owners have come to rely upon. Another traditional toy is the plush, stuffed figure.

Patchwork Pet offers a range of sizes, colors, and figures of the traditional squeaky plush toy. The different designs — from a hedgehog to a monkey to toy box classics — are available in different sizes to appeal to owners of small to large breeds. Their Tuff Puff is an example of a toy that fits  both the traditional type of toy with the added toughness.

Be Unique

Whether it’s innovation in design or innovation in material, dog owners look for new products that deliver unique features. In some cases, these new features can prolong the life of a toy. In other cases, the innovation helps make a toy more appealing to the dog or the owner. Dog toy manufacturers who innovate new products will gain ground in the dog toy market.

Quaker Pet Group has two lines of innovative dog toys: Hear Doggy! Ultrasonic Dog Toys and goDog Toys with ChewGuard Technology. The Hear Doggy! toys are patent-pending toys that have an ultrasonic squeaker that only dogs can hear. From an innovation standpoint, the Hear Doggy! toys have been successful for Quaker Pet Group.

The goDog Toys with ChewGuard Technology are among the best-selling dog toys in the country for QPG. The company has put inside the plush what they call their ChewGuard Technology, which is a durable nylon mesh material, similar to what is found in running shows, sewn inside the plush to add a layer of durability. This technology is also being added to the Hear Doggy! toys to make the ultrasonic toys more durable.

Consumers also look for durability in their dog toys. Dog toys require replacement more frequently than other pet products like, for example, dog beds. Consumers want their toys to last to get more value for their dollar. Further, owners are concerned with the safety of toys that are easily destroyed, especially since small pieces can be ingested accidentally.

Get Tough

West Paw Design manufactures a range of eco-friendly toys that are all made in the USA, two factors that also appeal to a certain segment of consumers. The toys include active dog toys, durable dog toys for aggressive chewers and soft plush dog toys.

Zogoflex is tough rubber-like material used to make the durable dog toys.  Buoyant, pliable and designed to be recycled, Zogoflex creates virtually no waste during the manufacturing process. The line comes with a guarantee of a free one-time replacement or refund if the toy gets destroyed. While this guarantee appeals to consumers, according to West Paw Design, less than 1 percent of the toys are returned.

Coastal Pet Products also has a durable line of toys, the Rascals canvas line. Constructed of heavy-duty nylon, the toys are designed to withstand hours of play. Each of the four designs is created to stimulate a different type of play. The Saucer Tosser is a flying disc, perfect for games of chase. The Tug toy has a handle on either end so that owners can play with their dogs or, in households with multiple dogs, the dogs can play tug together.

- Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who covers pets, the pet industry and lifestyle topics. She lives in Indiana.

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