The Importance of Plush Toys
Plush toys do double duty in a dog’s life. They are essentially soft, cuddly comfort toys, ideal to curl up with at snooze time. But, they also make great prey toys, ideal for carrying and shaking around as part of the innate canine prey drive to attack and kill them. They also fit into the action category because many of them are also great for playing fetch.
When it comes to selling plush toys, a constant question for retailers is how long will it last.
The Quaker Pet Group answers it with their proprietary Chew Guard technology as part of their goDog line.
“We make every effort to educate our retailers about their chew-resistant qualities, too,” said Cristen Underwood, Quaker Pet Group’s director of marketing. “It’s important for retailers to have this information and, further, be able to demonstrate their knowledge. It shows that they are looking out for their customers’ best interests and their pocketbook.”
The Hear Doggy silent squeaker feature employs ultrasonic technology so that it’s only heard by dogs. It creates another selling feature for retailers that highlights that while the toy is fun for dogs, it also offers owners some sanity in the form of a peaceful environment in the car, during dinner at home and by not disturbing neighbors in the backyard.
The company has expanded its goDog line with a line of shellfish shapes, such as plush clams and shrimp for extra large breeds. The toys are available in fun, neon-bright colors and designed specifically for powerful jaws, while the new JUST for ME line features smaller versions of goDog’s best-selling durable plush characters, such as T-Rex, Furballz, Platties, Flying Pigs, Raccoons and Squirrels for tiny breeds.
The company has also extended its line of Sasquatches, consisting of quirky, durable plush characters. Each furry Big Foot character comes with pull-through arms and legs for endless tugging fun.
“Pet owners, who, understandably make the financial decisions regarding plush toy purchases, are intrigued by bright fun and furry characters and continue to buy weird and wonderful plush characters for their dogs,” said Tony Bolling, who, with Vince Anginoli, owns Mackie’s Parlor in Scottsdale, Ariz. “In fact, the brighter, the better. And they also love anything that’s cute.”
However, Bolling also said that there is an increased demand for stuffless toys.
“It’s a matter of the owner knowing their dog,” Bolling said. “If they know the dog is going to tear everything apart in five minutes and leave a mess, they automatically gravitate to the stuffless ones. And, in this category, the bigger the toys are, the better. That even applies to little dogs. They love to carry things that are their size or even bigger around, play with them and then collapse and sleep on them.”
Brett Hirschberg, director of licensing and brand discovery for Multipet, agreed.
“When it comes to the stuffing versus the stuffless debate, the dogs are really in charge,” he said. “Because ultimately it’s about how they play with them. Our aim is to please all dogs. Most of our toys fall in the 8-inch to 12-inch range in length. We do bigger, up to 27 inches and, of course, very small sizes, too.”
Ethical Pet Products Inc. has a line called Skinneeez, which is stuffing-free.
“Stuffing-free toys allow dogs to enjoy a soft, plush, squeaky toy without all the mess,” said Susan McCann, national marketing manager for the company. “And we’ve taken our Skinneeez toys a step further and added new features, such as water bottles with beans for a rattle sound, crinkle paper and multiple squeakers, as many as 19.”
And, on the subject of canine plush preferences, dogs are also drawn to the realistic, furry animal-styled toys.
In this regard, Rolf C. Hagen has launched a new line called All Four Paws, consisting of furry and very realistic creatures designed to hone the canine prey drive. The line consists of six animals, namely a brown rabbit, squirrel, hedgehog, fox, chipmunk and pheasant, all with a fuzzy texture and squeakers to engage dogs in play.
Another popular trend in canine plush is licensed items.
According to Hirschberg, Multipet recently added new popular movie characters to their product lines, which includes classic cartoon characters such Garfield, Woody Woodpecker, Mr. Bill and Lambchop.
But, the real motivation to continue the Multipet–DreamWorks partnership was the release of the 3D animated film, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman,” released earlier this year.
“We find that this movie a particularly was a good fit for us because the main character, Mr. Peabody, is a dog.,” he said. “Further, the steady growth of DreamWorks’ success at the box office has made it easy for the average consumer to easily identify and feel a connection with some of these heart-warming characters. Then they mimic this association by purchasing the plush character versions for their dogs.”