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Potty Talk

Consumers often need help understanding dog potty training and incontinence products, and it’s up to pet specialty retailers to educate them.


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Dog potty training and incontinence products address very specific issues; therefore, they are only sought when dog owners need them. Yet it’s still important for pet specialty retailers to market this category and provide education, as owners often require a lot of guidance and are typically unaware of all of the options that exist.

Alina Marsch, operations director at NYC Pet in Brooklyn, N.Y., said that to best market these types of products, the staff makes sure that the store is well stocked at all times. This category is not one that will sell itself and often requires some information, she added.

“You need to seek out the conversation with the customer,” Marsch said. “Not many people are comfortable talking about those types of pet needs, but, when successfully done, they will always remember you as that trustworthy, knowledgeable and go-to person, or store, that they can have confidence in.”

Dog owners will want to know what solutions exist for problems that they are dealing with. While pee pads are relatively well known, Alison Schwartz, general manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., said that there are a lot of lesser-known products in this category, particularly diapers and male wraps, which is why it’s so important to have a conversation with consumers.

Retailers can also use displays to draw attention to pet owners’ options. Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, said that she recently created a “pee pad tower” and put the pads on sale to show customers that the store had a good price on this product, one they likely would not find at big-box stores.

In addition to talking about what products are available, having a conversation is also important in terms of education. Dog owners often turn to independent retailers for their guidance.

“Be prepared with some tried-and-true tips for potty training and incontinence,” Schwartz said. “Customers want your advice. One tip I often give customers regarding potty training is not to show any discouragement during the process. Dogs love attention—and negative attention is still attention. Discouragement after an accident in the house is not going to help.”

Schwartz said they educate customers through conversation. Interestingly, talking with customers also educates her, she said. The more she talks to customers, the more she finds what’s worked for them—and can pass that information on. For example, one customer gave her the clever idea of connecting a cloth diaper to little suspenders and hooking them on a harness. This prevented the diaper from falling off. Schwartz said that customers are seeking innovative solutions such as this.

George DiGuido, owner of NYC Pet, added that it is important that retailers are educated on the different types of products out there so they can make helpful suggestions to pet owners.

“Having a conversation definitely works for education,” he said. “What doesn’t work is just letting them pick anything, since a particular brand or product might not necessarily match their dog’s needs or habits.”

DiGuido said it could also be helpful to partner with a trusted dog trainer who has the qualifications to provide education. Retailers can get advice from this expert to pass on to customers.

“Building trusted partnerships is essential nowadays and will help your store to be known as an excellent resource,” he said.

Marsch added that having educational fliers on hand to give customers also helps drive the education home.

“And don’t be shy to seek out the subject,” she said. “Even when issues such as incontinence are resolved, you want to be sure the dog parent is keeping up with preventative measures.”

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