Something to Gnaw On
Chew products for dogs are versatile, in-demand commodities.
Chews satisfy several needs for consumers. They serve as a toy, provide dental benefits, redirect destructive chewing and keep dogs busy. Chew products are designed to meet those needs in an array of materials from rubber to rawhide and from edible to long-lasting.
“According to the 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, the percentage of dog owners buying dog toys is at its highest point in two decades. Nearly three-quarters of those who purchased dog toys bought chew toys,” Katherine Crawford, product manager at Radio Systems Corporation, said. “The most popular chew toy materials were bone, hard rubber and rawhide.”
When looking for a chew product, owners are concerned about a number of factors unique to their situation. For example, puppy owners want durable products that will keep their new pet from eating their shoes. Owners of older dogs look for products that will help scrape tartar off their pet’s teeth, while owners who leave their dogs unattended for long stretches seek out products to keep their pets occupied.
“I think the most important things to look for are durability, safety, interactivity and the big: Will my dog like this? Will I like this?” Jason Vap, founder and owner of Petprojekt, said.
Vap said consumers look for fun, eye-catching products that are both durable and safe.
Keeping Them Busy
Dog owners who work outside the home seek out products that can keep their dog occupied while they’re away.
“Dog owners are looking for chew products that will keep their dogs busy for an extended period of time,” Crawford said. “Providing dogs with appropriate items to chew can help redirect potentially destructive chewing behavior into positive playtime.”
Nylabone manufactures a range of chews, which the brand targets to specific dog demographics, like size and age. According to the company, their chews promote good dental hygiene while keeping dogs mentally stimulated.
For example, the Puppy Chew Combo Pack includes two chews. One is a flexible rubber designed for teething puppies, while the other is an edible, bacon-flavored chew. Both products encourage appropriate chewing and offer owners the choice between a long-lasting or edible product.
“The trend I see with treats and chews is that consumers want to be more informed regarding their purchases,” Michelle Austin, director of purchasing and marketing for Ryan’s Pet Supplies in Phoenix, Ariz., said. “Customers are reading ingredient lists and asking about country of origin.”
This trend is trickling into the dog chew market from the pet food and treats segments. Owners are educating themselves on what ingredients mean and what works best for their dog. According to Austin, this makes it difficult for retailers to select which products to stock on their shelves because there isn’t a consistent desire among consumers.
“Some customers are looking for no wheat or corn or soy, some are looking for all-natural ingredients, some are concerned about calorie count or wanting products with ingredients added for certain health benefits, such as glucosamine for joints,” she said.
Jones Natural Chews Co. in Rockford, Ill., produces bones and natural chew products based on their family’s 15 decades in meat processing. The brand has developed several types and sizes of chews and treats for all size dogs and all types of chewers.
Beefeaters, a rawhide product manufacturer, produces their chews without additives or preservatives, something that consumers look for specifically.
A somewhat new phenomenon in this category are antlers. Barkworthies offers moose and elk antlers in a variety of sizes for dogs of all sizes. QT Dog offers deer antlers, which do not splinter and comes from a completely renewable source. Wild deer shed their antlers once a year as part of a natural process, after which the deer re-grow another set.
These shed antlers are gathered by ranch workers and transported to QT Dog’s manufacturing facility. The antlers are cut to the appropriate size, cleaned, and packaged to produce Antlerz brand dog chews.
Chews can also encourage play. To achieve that, PetSafe has a line of products designed to be fun while satisfying a dog’s need to chew.
“PetSafe offers a variety of Busy Buddy products that combine chew toys with natural rawhide treat refills,” Crawford said. “The combination of chew toys and refillable treats extends playtime beyond giving treats alone. Multiple size options are available to help dog owners find the best product fit for each dog. PetSafe refillable chew toys include classics like the Busy Buddy Bouncy Bone, as well new Busy Buddy Ultra toys that hold extra thick rawhide treats for determined chewers.”