April 1, 2016

Anxiety manifests in many forms: destructive behavior, accidents and disruptions like excessive barking. Many pet owners have concerns about separation anxiety.

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.

Calmer Canines

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.

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