Travel Trends Reveal What Dog Owners Need On the Go
Pet owners want safe, convenient and effect travel items that will make both short and extended trips easier and more enjoyable for all involved.
For so many people, pets are important family members, and including pets in excursions outside of the home has become the new norm. As a result, sales of travel items continue to rise, according to industry insiders.
“Sales of travel products have increased year after year,” said Leslie Stewart, owner and buyer for Southern Barker, which has three locations in Kentucky. “The acceptability of traveling with pets has become more prevalent.”
According to Neil Werde, managing director of canine toys and accessories for Worldwise, which is headquartered in Novato, Calif., “Over 50 million Americans travel with their pet every year—daily, on plane trips, in the car, on the train, etc.”
These on-the-go experiences range from quick trips to the store or veterinarian to weekend getaways and extended vacations.
“In greater numbers, owners are taking their pets with them on the road, on short jaunts to dog parks, doggie day care, agility training and even to the owner’s workplace,” said Michael Leung, co-founder and lead product designer of Sleepypod in Pasadena, Calif. “The fun does not stop there, though. More and more often, pets are included in short day trips and extended vacations.”
Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash On Life in Albuquerque, N.M., agreed.
“We’ve also seen a huge spike in the purchase and/or rental of RVs among our customers so that they can accommodate their pets on their vacations or during cross-country trips,” he said.
Some of the key trends in the dog travel products category center around owners seeking the same levels of safety and security features that they expect and see in products for themselves and their children, Werde said.
“More than ever before, all new solutions for traveling with your pet need to be addressing convenience, comfort and safety,” he added.
Specific demands include crash-tested carriers, car barriers, portable and spill-less water bowls and bottles, natural calming aids and car booster seats, insiders reported.
“Products such as water bottles that have an attached bowl or collapsible bowls enable dog owners to feed and water their pets at any time or place,” Stewart said. “Seat belt restraints, carrier bags and travel crates provide safety while traveling.”
Marsha Vallee, owner of Noble Beast in Phoenix, said she has noticed an increased demand for cannabidiol (CBD) products that help calm pets during trips and car safety products that are tested and proven to work.
Chelsea Gennings, co-founder and vice president of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo., also reported increased popularity of CBD travel products.
“We’re seeing a massive shift in what pet parents are looking for when it comes to supplements for travel and beyond,” she said. “Rather than relying on more traditional pharmaceuticals or medications, pet parents first are looking towards holistic alternatives.”
Overall, consumers “want something that offers them everything to make life better and easier for a pet-friendly lifestyle on the go,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J., “whether around the block or around the world.”
Products to Pack
As sales of travel products continue to increase, manufacturers are providing new and interesting items to keep pets safe and retailers stocked with options. The market’s most recent introductions have ranged from treats and carriers to harnesses and accessories, each designed with pet safety and owner accessibility in mind.
Pet Releaf introduced trial-size versions of the company’s Regular Crunchy Edibites in October 2018. The 2.25-ounce-sized bags come in Peanut Butter & Banana and Blueberry & Cranberry Edibite flavors. This January, the Littleton, Colo.-based manufacturer released trial-size Grain-Free Soft Chew Edibites in Sweet Potato Pie and Peanut Butter & Carob Swirl flavors.
“Many of our customers are interested in our Edibites but do not want to commit to a full bag without trying it out on their dog first,” said Chelsea Gennings, co-founder and vice president of Pet Releaf. “This also makes it easier for when you’re traveling with your dog, so you don’t need to bring a larger bag in your suitcase.”
Worldwise in Novato, Calif., launched its Sherpa Travel line the first quarter of this year. In January, the company introduced Sherpa FormaFrame Crash Tested Carriers, which are designed to keep smaller dogs restrained during car trips. Available in extra-small and medium sizes, the carrier features three windows for ventilation and seat belt-style straps for extra strength and protection. It can be used with existing latch and car seat tether systems for three strong points of contact.
In February, the company added the Sherpa Seat Belt Harness Crash Tested Harnesses to the line. Doubling as a walking harness, it comes in small, medium and large, and is made with reflective safety stripes, seat belt-style straps and four adjustment points for a customized fit.
Worldwise rounded out the line with the introduction of two final products in March: the Sherpa Collar with Built-In Leash and the Sherpa Harness with Built-In Leash.
Selling to Ensure Pet Safety
A critical part of selling dog travel items is educating consumers. Making sure that pet specialty retailers know the products they carry inside and out is where consumer education starts, according to Chelsea Gennings, co-founder and vice president of Pet Releaf in Littleton, Colo.
“With cannabidiol (CBD) being a newer category, and with the vast differences in product quality, making sure our retail partners feel well educated on how to make these products approachable to their customers is extremely important,” she said.
Associates are the key to making sure customers understand the solutions that retailers offer, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.
“Consumers need to understand the problems and solutions offered by the products you carry,” he said. “Associates should be able to speak not only to the features and benefits, but also why they’re needed for safe and comfortable travel, regardless of where the consumer and their pet are going.”
Companies offer many online tutorials and other tools to help educate staff, said Marsha Vallee, owner of Noble Beast, a store in Phoenix.
“Experience is very helpful when it comes to fittings especially,” she added. “It is also critical that staff understand calming products. We rely on company literature, in-store education from the reps and online tutorials to educate our staff on these products.”
The staff at Southern Barker, which has three locations in Kentucky, also relies on manufacturer-provided materials, but education doesn’t stop there.
“We take advantage of all material and information provided to us by the manufacturers as well as test the products out ourselves with our own dogs,” said Leslie Stewart, owner and buyer. “We are then able to know what is best for our customers and their pet.”
Safety is a mandatory topic of education for customers at Long Leash On Life in Albuquerque, N.M.
“The majority of our pet travel products are focused on safety, so that is how we educate our pet parent customers,” said Norm Shrout, co-owner. “Many of them are surprised by our hydration or calming suggestions, as they would not have considered those for pet travel. We also fill customers in about securing pets inside of vehicles and how any pet in the open bed of a pickup truck is unsafe. Fortunately, local laws prohibit that, but enforcement is another matter altogether.”