Nearly every dog owner—91 percent, according to the 2015-16 APPA National Pet Owners Survey—purchases dog toys annually. The need for toys continues throughout a dog’s entire life, from durable chew toys that last through the puppy stage to chews that provide dental benefits as the dog ages.
According to Andrea Fleer, PetSafe’s senior product manager for toys and behavior, consumers are looking for three things when shopping for chew toys: durability, price and function.
“Customers are looking for chew toys that will withstand the test of time due to Fido’s natural instinct to chew,” Fleer said. “Dog owners often purchase classically shaped chew toys, such as a bone, ball or disc. However, customers often have a toy box for their dog filled with toys made from different materials with unique designs.”
“Consumers are looking for variety in materials to occupy and enrich their dogs,” said Sarah Bell, vice president of sales at Hyper Pet. “Durability is the most important factor, but the extra features like squeakers and the ability for the toy to dispense treats or float is also desirable. Toys with multiple features deliver on the value proposition.”
Hyper Pet’s products include a selection of functional chew toys. For example, the Hyper Chewz line is made of durable foam used for fetch or for floating. Others, like Flav-A-Bones are designed to occupy a dog, to provide dental benefits or mitigate loneliness.
At Ethical Pet, national marketing manager Susan McCann said there is always a demand for durable chew toys.
“We use different materials, textures and shapes to address these demands,” McCann said. “Knowing a dog’s chewing habits are key to purchasing the right toy for your dog. Our line of Play’N Chew toys combines durable thermoplastic rubber (TPR) with an edible beef flavored treat. The raised ridges on the toys help massage teeth and gums for a healthy mouth. Combining a treat with a toy helps prevent destructive behaviors through a play-and-reward system. The dog can chew on the toy, not your shoes, and the treat is the reward. Our Play’N Chew Nylon Bones offer the same features and benefits.”
Replacement treats are available for repeat sales.
Mixing it Up
At PetSafe, Fleer said combining features when developing new chew toys adds value for the customer.
“Last year, PetSafe brand created a line called Busy Buddy Squeak ‘n Treat toys, which make a squeaking noise and also dispense treats,” Fleer said. “The toys are made of durable natural rubber and come in three different shapes—Booya, Troog and Ooga—and have been well received by customers.”
However, the brand’s bestsellers include those from the Busy Buddy line.
“The PetSafe Busy Buddy treat-dispensing, ring-holding and meal-holding toys continue to be bestsellers year after year,” Fleer said. “This is due to PetSafe brand staying true to our values by offering durable, innovative and affordable pet toys that will enhance the pet owner’s experience with their dog.”
Hyper Pet is also not resting its laurels.
“Our development team at Hyper Pet is currently working on new and innovative materials and designs to satisfy multiple desired traits of chew toys,” Bell said. “We just launched our new Tennis Chews toy assortment made of durable TPR and tennis ball material.”
“There are a multitude of new materials that offer their own unique qualities such as maximum durability or the ability to incorporate a noise maker, flavor or give a uniquely transparent look,” she continued. “Once product development teams determine the desired deliverables of a new chew toy, there is a variety of material compositions to test. Hyper Pet is innovating with multiple materials, textures and features.”
“As a manufacturer, we are faced with many challenges in developing toys that meet the demands of every type of dog and their chewing habits,” McCann said. “Creatively, we design toys that are unique in that they offer non-traditional features that aren’t found in every other toy and that will appeal to different size dogs and the various breeds. We strive to offer a wide variety of toys using the most popular materials and design techniques so the consumer has many choices and at a great price.”
“We are always listening to our retail partners and their customers as to what is being requested and make every effort to offer a well-rounded line of toys to meet these requests,” he said.
The toy aisle needs variety: squeakers, tugs, ropes, balls and all manner of interactive toy. Each of these brands indicates that consumers have such diverse needs for chew toys, from staving off boredom and anxiety to exercising a dog in the water or keeping a puppy from destroying the furniture. There are perennial favorites, like durable Nylabone chews, that customers expect to see in the aisle. The category, though, has welcomed numerous developments to achieve greater variety.