May 2, 2016

Puppies need everything.

Some puppy-owning homes previously had dogs and so may have some supplies on hand, but many puppy owners are first-time dog owners. These newbies need to stock up on the basics, like crates, food, toys, grooming supplies, leashes and collars, and cleaning solutions. From the first-time puppy person’s perspective, this can be overwhelming—and expensive.

“Over half of American households have dogs and this figure is growing, meaning the number of puppies being bought is also growing,” said Gordie Spater, founder and chief business officer at Kurgo.

“We are following this trend by developing products that make it easier to get through the rewarding but exhausting puppy stage. A lot of the puppy stage is about training and our line of leashes and gentle leaders help you maintain control. Our car seat protection products protect your car from puppy accidents and our crash-tested harnesses protect your pup in case of a sudden stop or crash. Our Go-Stuff-It Treat Bag is a must-have for puppy kindergarten.”

Spater also recommended Kurgo’s no-pull walking harness, the Journey Harness; the Enhanced Strength Tru-Fit Smart Harness and the Impact Harness for car-riding puppies.

Puppies Need Playthings

Play for puppies is critical to prevent destructive behavior and to stimulate energetic little ones. Spater recommended Kurgo’s Classic Yard Games Dog Toys to prevent furniture eating.

At PetSafe, the Busy Buddy puppy line is specific to puppies.

“The soft, natural rubber is scented with vanilla, and many of our items have our patented treat meter, which randomly dispenses treats to keep puppies playing for longer periods of time,” said senior product manager Andrea Fleer.

“Puppies should be introduced to toys as early as possible, but they don’t even have teeth until three to six weeks of age and therefore need softer toys to protect gums and baby teeth,” said PetSafe’s training and behavior education manager, Michelle Mullins. “Consider dog-safe plush toys and puppy lines like our Busy Buddy Puppy or Pogo Plush at this stage. Puppies start to lose baby teeth around four months. This teething period can be difficult and you will want to have lots of appropriate chew toys on hand to avoid having your puppy chew up your favorite shoes. Safe chew toys can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy throughout their lifetime.”

Another enrichment option is the new, interactive bowl from PAW5.

“When retailers understand that healthy, well-rounded dogs grow from puppies that are introduced to a wide variety of sights, sounds, smells, places, people and challenges, they can more easily position enrichment products as solutions for their customers,” said Dennis O’Donnel, co-founder of PAW5. “Luckily, many of the puzzle feeders and toys don’t have to be puppy-centric to work, which means retailers can market them for dogs of any age. If they are attempting to capture puppy owners specifically, then a display, shelf talkers or end caps can work wonders in attracting a customer’s attention.”

Meeting Nourishment Needs

Nutrition is a huge sub-segment of puppy. Puppies, especially large breeds, grow rapidly.

Kirill Tikhomirov, vice president of brand commercialization at Nutram Pet Products, explained his brand’s take on puppy nutrition.

“At Nutram, we know very well that puppies, much like babies in a family, have very specific, important nutritional needs,” Tikhomirov said. “As they are growing and developing, they require higher levels of certain nutrients in their foods as well as varied amounts of high quality proteins, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plus, their recipes and the ingredients included must be highly digestible going through their baby stomachs and digestive systems. That is why Nutram offers both Puppy and Large Puppy food (specifically called S2 and S3) in our Sound Balanced Wellness line. Those recipes are specifically crafted and cooked with natural ingredients to meet the puppy’s nutritional needs, be highly digestible, delicious and have the holistic benefits our brand is best known for on top of a very solid base nutrition.”

Another option, Evanger’s USA Made Puppy formula combines fresh meat and produce with a special formulation of vitamins ideal for puppies.

Many first-time puppy owners will have more questions about food than anything else and may have to try several brands before hitting on one that works for their needs. Stock a selection at a range of price points to hit the sweet spot for new pups.

Cleaning up the Pups

Grooming and cleaning supplies also top the list of new puppy must-haves.

Ara Bohchalian, chief executive officer of International Veterinary Sciences (IVS), said that puppies have delicate skin that is prone to irritations, so adult grooming products should be avoided.

“At IVS we’ve specifically formulated our puppy shampoo to gently cleanse and protect a puppy’s delicate skin and help rejuvenate the essential oils needed for a healthy skin and coat,” Bohchalian said. “Our Puppy Shampoo is also pH balanced to help prevent dry skin, infused with natural ingredients such as oatmeal, coconut oil, aloe vera and chamomile and does not include any harsh chemicals or cleansing agents.”

All-natural, non-toxic cleaning supplies should be merchandised with puppy, of course, as well as durable bedding options, like those offered by Molly Mutt, which can be stuffed with the puppy owner’s clothing to prevent separation anxiety.

GoDog’s signature durable mesh lining and double stitched seams make goDog BedZzz with Chew Guard Technology great for chewing puppies. BedZzz is available in six sizes to fit any dog breed or fit inside any dog crate. BedZzz features a 30-day replacement guarantee if the bed does not last longer than a standard dog bed.
Because there are so many puppy products, when it comes to merchandizing, Spater summed up the sales strategy for this category.

“We find that solution-oriented selling works best,” Spater said. “Christmas and summer are popular times for people to get new puppies, so that’s a great time to merchandise a section just for puppies, showing people what they need. Creating a bundled puppy essential package can also be a great way to help out overwhelmed new puppy parents.”

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