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Problem Solvers

Whether it’s for anxiety or another concern, pet owners are looking for behavior and training products that solve problems.


Being able to address potential behavioral issues—including anxiety—and successfully train pets can help strengthen the bond between pet and owner, and it might result in fewer dogs and cats being relinquished to shelters. 

Janet Monaco, owner of Pet Pros in Rockledge, Fla., said that one of the reasons she believes there has been such a marked increase in behavior-related products is that more pet owners are adopting and rescuing pets these days. When a pet is adopted through a shelter or rescue group, it is not always clear what it has been through. Monaco said that because of this, anxiety is a big issue with pets.

Pets can have situational anxiety because they do not understand the events that are taking place around them, said Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Englewood, Colo.

“We all have daily triggers that bring us anxiety, but we can understand the events happening around us,” Smith said. “Pets are exposed to many situations that are new, uncomfortable and scary for them. Traveling, new friends, loud noises, fireworks and even other animals can make pets feel anxious. Our Pet Releaf products can provide pets who suffer from situational anxiety a sense of calm and comfort when these situations arise.” 

Behavioral issues can be why many pets end up in a shelter in the first place—or could even lead to them being returned, said Sarah Beck, president of Doggie Don’t Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. And if a pet didn’t have anxiety before being given up, it’s not uncommon for it to develop it solely from that experience. 

“Most shelter dogs have had no training, and many are given up because of unwanted behavior,” Beck said. “It is our hope that our Doggie Don’t Device, an audible tool used in conjunction with commands, will help decrease those numbers in a pain-free, humane way.” 

In the home, some of dogs’ biggest behavior issues are barking, jumping, chasing, stealing and poor manners, while with cats, inappropriate scratching can cause problems, said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla. 

At Pet Pros, Monaco said that calming agents are a big seller for her customers’ anxiety concerns.

“The two biggest anxiety issues we see are separation anxiety and storm-related anxiety,” Monaco said. “We get a lot of intense thunderstorms here in Florida, particularly in the summer. Once those summertime storms begin, we often end up selling out of anxiety products.” 

Patti Vincent, owner of Puppy Love Dog Store in Beaumont, Texas, said that anxiety is a very hot topic in her area as well. A swaddling effect can play a role in helping relieve some of that anxiety, she said, adding that the ThunderShirt is a popular seller in her store.

Janet Marlow, CEO of Pet Acoustics Inc. in Washington Depot, Conn., said her company is focused on cats this year, as she believes cats have just as complex needs as dogs but that because their behaviors are often so subtle, these needs can be overlooked.

“While we don’t fully understand their anxiety and stress, it has been proven that stress is a trigger for illness in cats,” Marlow said. “Anything we can do to provide them with a calm environment is going to improve their quality of life.” 

Call Attention to Behavior Issues

While many customers often have behavior and training concerns already in mind, you never know who might be walking through your store with an unaddressed issue. Displays are great for both sets of customers. They can catch the attention of shoppers who didn’t know these types of solutions existed and can be educational to those who are at your store already looking for answers. 

Sarah Ercolani, president of Fun Time Dog Shop in Whitmore Lake, Mich., emphasized the importance of setting up training equipment or demoing products that customers might have a hard time visualizing when they’re in a box. Ercolani works with a lot of competition participants and said that having fitness equipment set up for the customer to see is invaluable. 

“We also spend a significant amount of time talking with our customers so that we can truly make the best recommendation based on the outcomes they are striving to achieve,” Ercolani said. 

Janet Marlow, CEO of Pet Acoustics Inc. in Washington Depot, Conn., said that retailers should call consumers’ attention to cats, as they often have many of the same behavioral and training issues as dogs. She suggested doing a month-long focus on cats and utilizing signage to really drive the message home.

“Use your front window display to do something all about cats and their needs,” Marlow said. “There are a lot of cat owners out there, and they often don’t get the same attention that dog owners do. Make the focus on cats and their behavioral issues and you just may get a whole new set of clients. The millennial generation, in particular, has a strong interest in having cats.” 

The Company of Animals recently refreshed the appearance and enhanced the sales appeal of its Halti line when it expanded its product offering to include more than 60 new items. 

“But what we believe is more important than clever marketing is that we created these innovative products that have revolutionized the way people train their pets,” said Larry Cobb, CEO of The Company of Animals’ U.S. division in Davenport, Fla., “which, in return, strengthens the bond between pets and their owners.”

Know Your Products

When it comes to training and behavior products, education is important. It’s likely that your customers are going to have a lot of questions. That’s because, more often than not, they’re coming in with a specific problem or concern in mind. 

Sometimes they’re also looking for new products or something better than what they have. Sarah Ercolani, president of Fun Time Dog Shop in Whitmore Lake, Mich., heavily focuses on training products in her store and has a lot of clients whose dogs compete in agility training. While these clients are already very educated, Ercolani said that they still have plenty of questions. That means she must be at the top of her game. As a result, Ercolani takes a multifaceted approach to reaching customers with information. 

“We offer hands-on training, written materials and videos,” Ercolani said. “We also have posters that show how to use equipment and provide a list of qualified trainers. Customers do need education on how a product will help them and their dog. Plus, not using fitness equipment properly can result in injuries. Providing resources and education is the best way to prevent that.” 

Janet Monaco, owner of Pet Pros in Rockledge, Fla., said that she keeps most of the anxiety products behind the front counter because they’re small. However, she said this also generates the opportunity to encourage discussion.

“We put a big emphasis on talking to our customers and getting to the root of their concerns,” Monaco said. “They come in to ask us questions, and we can pull out some products from behind the counter to suggest as solutions.” 

Conversation is especially important when it comes to cannabidiol (CBD) products. Many consumers do not understand the benefits of hemp/CBD products and are especially confused by the difference between hemp seeds, CBD and marijuana, said Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of Pet Releaf in Englewood, Colo. So her company continually educates its retailer partners about its products, which includes supplying support materials.

Smith said the most important things for retailers to look at when selecting CBD products are hemp country of origin, extraction method, mixing agent, and consistent third-party testing to ensure potency and efficacy.

Taming Behavior & Treating Anxiety

There are several new products on the market to help with behavioral and anxiety issues. Vicki Rae Thorne, certified aromatherapist and herbalist, as well as founder and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., said that Canine Calm, now available in wipes, was announced during Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March. The product is formulated with pure essential oils to help promote relaxation, reduce agitation, improve mood and calm fears, she said. While Canine Calm was previously available as a spray, she said the convenient wipe format makes it easy to transport and use any time. 

Pet Acoustics Inc. in Washington Depot, Conn., has three new products to help prevent or relieve anxiety. The Safe & Sound Cat Tunnel, the Safe & Sound Crate Liner and the Safe & Sound Pet Bed are all designed with patented sound-absorbing material to give a cat (or small dog) a sense of safety, said CEO Janet Marlow. 

In April, Pet Releaf launched Canna Care CBD Topical for Dogs. The 100 percent plant-based cannabidiol (CBD) topical can be used for dogs with insect bites, skin irritations and inflammations, said Alina Smith, CEO and co-founder of the Englewood, Colo.-based company. The product is available in 1-ounce and 4-ounce sizes.

“We’ve been working for quite some time on creating a topical that provides relief for these symptoms and at the same time only uses healthful, good-for-your-pet ingredients,” Smith said. 

In May, the company revamped the packaging for its entire line of Edibites CBD Dog Treats. 

“The new packaging showcases the high-quality, fresh ingredients that we use in each batch and tells the story of our ‘Seed to Sale, Plant to Pet’ philosophy,” Smith said. 

Keep Calm at the Grooming Salon

Pets do not only experience separation anxiety when their owner leaves the home. A trip to the veterinarian or grooming salon can cause mild anxiety or full-blown fear. With the right knowledge, groomers can help pets and their owners feel more at ease.  

Megan Mouser, education manager for Sturtevant, Wis.-based Andis Co., offered Pet Product News readers four go-to tips on alleviating canine anxiety and preventing aggression when working with dogs in distress.

1. Be Firm But Loving

Patience, affection and treats can go a long way toward making an anxious pet feel the love.

 “Most dogs are either scared or spoiled and act accordingly. They may growl, nip or even just lay there like dead weight,” Mouser said. “I’ve found that a firm loving hand, like a grooming restraint, usually solves the problem.” 

2. Make the Dog Feel at Home

Sometimes, pets are just looking for a friendly face. When treats and a soothing voice fall short, incorporating the greatest resource—the pet’s owner—can offer pets some relief. 

“If present, I always recommend calming a nervous dog with a little bit of pet parent TLC,” said Mouser. “For example, many dogs get frightened when a groomer tries lifting them into the tub. Instead, try calming the dog’s nerves by letting the owner lift the dog into the tub.”

Once in the tub, dogs rarely take issue with groomers bringing on the suds. Continue using a soft voice, moving quickly yet gently, to keep the dog calm throughout the bath. 

3. Consider It Spot’s Spa Session

Groomers can borrow a common calming trend from human spas: essential oils. Aromatherapy can soothe a pooch’s senses sans traditional sedatives. 

“Just like humans, many dogs respond positively to essential oils like lavender,” said Mouser. “Adding a small amount of oil to bath water or placing a small amount on a paper towel near the dog can have a calming effect, relieving the dog’s stress and anxiety.”

4. Dog Clipper Desensitization

Dogs are commonly alarmed by noisy, vibrating clippers. Try desensitizing with these simple steps. 

“Start by petting the dog gently all over its body and observe reactions,” Mouser said. Then, try gently stroking the dog’s fur with the clipper before turning it on. 

“Did the dog seem to mind being touched in certain areas? Be mindful of these sensitivities when proceeding with the groom,” Mouser added.

 Groomers have a responsibility to their canine clients and their owners, Mouser said. Following through with the aforementioned tips can help manage anxiety and develop trust so pets will, ultimately, feel more comfortable and willing to return to the salon.

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