According to a March 2017 survey by Packaged Facts on durable dog and pet care products in the U.S., 40 percent of dog owners base their toy-purchasing decision on what they perceive would offer their dog the most enjoyment.
Toys, for both dogs and cats, comprise the largest category of durable pet care products, representing 28 percent of the overall market and racking up retail sales of approximately $1 billion in 2016. Consequently, interactive/fetch toys offer perennial revenue for retailers.
And while canine enjoyment is a key element of a successful toy, designers and manufacturers are notching up the importance of this enjoyment factor, saying it also has to offer an enriched play experience between pet and owner, ultimately enhancing the human-animal bond.
A Better Connection
“Current sales trends indicate an increased interest in interactive toys that allow both pet and pet owner to get more exercise and be active together,” said Tim Blurton, CEO of Hyper Pet. The company’s PETLOGIX line is designed specifically and exclusively for the pet specialty channel.
“The future of interactive toys is definitely in developing toys which are fun for both the pet and their owner to play—ones that enhance the interaction between the pet and the owner,” Blurton added.
The PETLOGIX Zinger, the company’s newest launcher was well received by retailers attending trade shows such as Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo.
“It allows the pet parent to launch tennis balls as well as a range of other toys 40 feet and more, thus enriching the game of fetch and making it more interesting for both the pet and the owner,” Blurton explained.
The FX Launch is a tennis ball launcher that allows the owner to fire a tennis ball over a range of distances and is designed for multiple-dog interaction. It features storage for two balls and hands-free pickup and is designed to allow pet owners to have fun and effortlessly play while their pet both plays and exercises with them.
Kitter Spater, chief creative officer at Kurgo, concurred with Blurton on interactive toy design goals.
“It’s all about shared experiences,” he explained. “We define interactive as a fetch toy, a puzzle, training toy—anything that reinforces that ‘together’ moment. We steer away from toys that are handed to the dog when you walk in the front door and they take it to their bed to chew on [it]. And there is no doubt that outdoor interactive dog toys are growing in popularity.
“It goes without say that durability is also important,” Spater continued. “When creating our line of backyard game toys, we focused on products that would primarily inspire an emotional response from the owner; after all, they are the ones making the purchase. The backyard games conjure up memories of good times in the back yard growing up, and who wouldn’t want to share that with their dog? They embody our ‘Go Together’ philosophy inspiring dog owners to get up and get active without limiting the fun to dogs.
“On top of being a blast to play with, all toys in this line are made of non-toxic TPE material and are PVC free, they float in water, and are dishwasher safe,” he concluded.
All in Good Fun
According to Damian Hall, marketing manager for RC Hagen, all toys should be interactive.
“With that in mind, all fetch toys are interactive but not all interactive toys require fetching. Further, play should be supervised by a pet parent at all times,” he said. “The list of appealing qualities for toys and activities is as diverse as dogs themselves. We need to remember that ‘first rule of play’ is it has to be fun! Some dogs love a simple game of fetch where they can run around and do crazy fun dog things. Other dogs crave mental stimulation so puzzles and hide-and-seek activities rule the day.”
Hall described the Dogit Treat Twister as a toy and dog treat dispenser in one.
“It hones a dog’s natural hunting and foraging instincts, providing fun and exercise as well as mental stimulation,” he said. “The Dogit Mind Games Interactive Smart toy is a 3-in-1 gaming system that includes Hide-and-Seek, Spin-a-Whirl and a Sliding Puzzle.”
Colleen McCracken, CEO of Planet Dog, which produces the Planet Dog Mazee among other toys for canines, explains the value of the interactive category.
“Interactive is a broad and continuously growing space and it’s important to understand and identify what category you’re creating a toy for,” she said. “We have several toys in the fetch category, specifically designed to be thrown and fetched, and we also have several toys that fall more in the ‘brain stimulation/puzzle’ category like our Snoop and Link. Th e design of these is to keep dogs engaged and thinking.
“Lastly, we have a few toys in what we’d call ‘sensory,’” she continued. “Those would be our Squeak and Whistle Balls. They literally engage a dog’s senses. We consider them different categories under the umbrella of interactive.”
According to Lars Lund, sales director of the Americas for Danish company Kruuse, pet owners may be surprised to learn that their dogs are smarter than they think. They also might be surprised that mentally stimulating dogs is a great way to contribute to their overall health and happiness.
“Consequently, we have designed several challenging interactive toys in our BUSTER line which includes the ActivityMat, the Flex Range, Strong Range and Crunch interactive toys, all designed to stimulate the brain,” Lund said.
“People often overlook the importance of providing their pets with mental stimulation,” he continued. “Everyone is aware of the need for proper exercise, but it is also important to provide for your pet’s mental needs.
“The ActivityMat is fun for both dogs and their owners. It consists of a heavy fabric mat on which there are 35 press-on snaps. Dog owners can choose from a series of different tasks that snap into place on the mat. Most of these tasks have varying levels of difficulty that present the dog with different challenging and motivational drivers. Pet owners should always be present with their pet when playing with the mat,” he cautioned.
Todd Tietz, manager of one of the Two Bostons stores in Naperville, Illinois, confirmed that many of his customers spell out their requirements when shopping for dog toys and toys that allow people and pets to spend quality time together is high on the list.
“As a retail store, we are not only dealing with pet parents who know their dog’s play strategy,” he said. “Often people come in to buy a gift for someone else’s dog and are not very familiar with the category. Nevertheless, they still spell out that they are looking for something that will provide people and pet enjoyment. And while we always stock bestsellers such as the Planet Dog Mazee, we do change out our inventory throughout the year so that our customers will always find something new that fits the bill.”