Chew On This
Natural dog chews come in a wide variety to satisfy the needs of all dogs, from casual nibblers to the most enthusiastic chewers.
Customers at All the Best Pet Care, which has several stores in Washington, can pick and choose their dogs’ favorite natural chews from a special display bar.
“When it comes to chews, it’s all about choice and having a large variety for our customers,” said Susan Moss, owner. “People can mix and match whichever ones they want. And if they buy five chews, they get one free.”
The selection at the stores is varied; Moss counted 107 different items in her stores’ inventory.
“With chews, the more you have, the more you sell,” she said. “And the products themselves are very important for the pets. Dogs have a strong chew drive; they are hard-wired for that.”
Obviously, a product that satisfies a great Dane’s chew drive might not do the same for a miniature schnauzer. Size and durability matter when it comes to dog chews. Hence the multiple chews in Moss’ inventory, and the variety of chews stocked at Natural Pet Food & Supplies in Temecula, Calif.
One of the more popular of these items is the Slammer Bone from Jones Natural Chews, said Annette Merrifield, assistant manager.
“A lot of our customers buy these for their larger dogs,” Merrifield said. “They tend to last a long time.”
Shane Somerville, co-owner of Paddywack in Mill Creek, Wash., agreed that it is important to offer pet owners a range of choices in chews.
“We sell a wide variety of natural chews, including Himalayan Dog Chews, naturally shed antlers, bully sticks, tracheas, water buffalo horns, smoked bones and dried sweet potatoes, among others,” she said. “We think it is important to offer our customers’ pets a wide variety of types and hardness of chews, as well as edible and nonedible.”
With so many available choices, how can a customer choose the right chew for their particular dog? The employees at Paddywack continually ask customers for feedback on the different types of chews in stock so they can pass that information along to other customers.
“By being open and welcoming to hearing their thoughts on what has and hasn’t worked for them, you can get some great information that will help you sell your products to the right customer and avoid selling the wrong items for a specific dog,” Somerville said.
One key factor for customers when choosing a natural dog chew is the product’s longevity, Moss said. Other important traits include palatability, cost and uniqueness.
“People really seem to look forward to new and innovative yet long-lasting chews that are safe and healthful,” Somerville said.
In fact, the search for something new in natural dog chews led 26 Bars and a Band to start distributing all-natural, Australian-made Puppy Love dental chews in the U.S. via OzPure, a division of the company.
“We wanted to come up with something new in the pet market that was not only beneficial to the animal but also innovative,” said Sandi Kaneko, president of the City of Industry, Calif., company. “Consumers want things that are good for their animals and that you can’t find on every corner.”
Customers also want natural products made from “ingredients that they understand,” Kaneko said. “They don’t want a lot of fluff in the ingredients.”
Mike McCabe, owner of Great Dog Co. in Minneapolis, agreed.
“The same trends that apply to human foods apply to dog chews,” he said.
Dog owners want chews with ingredients that are “fresh, organic, natural, traceable, locally sourced, minimally processed, nonmodified and low calorie,” he added.
To meet customers’ demands, Great Dog Co. recently introduced bison achilles tendons and bison scapula cartilage chews.
“Both products come from animals that are free to roam and don’t have added hormones or antibiotics added to their feed,” McCabe said. “Dogs love the tendons because they are tough to chew and have little bits of fat and meat left on them.”
Joint bones—including knuckle bones and knee bones—remain popular with customers at All the Best Pet Care.
“Dogs love them; they can work on them a long time,” Moss said. “Because many of them still have bits of cartilage on them, they help build strength in a dog’s joints.”
For dogs with food allergies, Paddywack carries several alternative chews.
“Chews such as antlers, sweet potatoes or Himalayan Dog Chews are almost always good bets for all but the most sensitive dogs, since they skirt almost every potential for allergic reactions,” Somerville said.
Somerville also stocks Himalayan Corp.’s Ruff Roots.
Ruff Roots are “a chew toy made from the root of a heathland tree … and inspired by all the powerful chewers out there,” said Brandon Barney, marketing manager for Himalayan Corp. in Mukilteo, Wash. “This superhard wood is great for any dog but especially those who have a natural desire to chew on sticks or furniture.”
While new products definitely garner interest from dog owners, sometimes nothing beats the tried and true.
“Bully sticks remain the gold standard,” Moss said. “They are long lasting, and many are sourced in the USA.”
Shelly Dillingham, owner of Pet Stop in Murrieta, Calif., agreed.
“Bully sticks are definitely the most popular dog chews in our store,” she said. “Customers come in specifically for them.”
What about chews that have not yet built up such a strong following? Store owners can bring attention to these items by educating customers about the products’ nutritional value, Barney said.
“People are becoming more aware of what they’re giving their pets,” he said. “Retailers should emphasize the nutritional benefits [of the products] as well as the fact that [the ingredients] are all natural.”
When customers learn the benefits of natural dog chews, they might be more likely to select them for their pets.
“They understand that this isn’t just a fun product, but a functional one as well,” 26 Bars and a Band’s Kaneko said. “They feel good about giving these chews to their animals and feel justified in their purchase.”
|The Bone Blanket: A Genius Add-on Sale|
While many natural chews fulfill a dog’s need to chew, they might not satisfy an owner’s desire to keep the floor or carpet clean.
“We are big proponents of raw beef bones, but they can be a little messy,” said Susan Moss, owner of All the Best Pet Care, which has several locations in Washington. “Dogs work on them a long time to get all the extra bits off them.”
That prolonged chewing effort can lead to messes on the floor and carpet. To avoid stains, Moss and her employees recommend that customers train their dogs to chew the items only in a specific area on a towel or blanket.
“Give the dog the chew while he is sitting on the blanket,” Moss said. “If he takes the chew to a different area of the house, remove it from him, and take the chew back to the blanket. Repeat this as often as needed. The dog will learn that if he stays on the blanket, he gets to keep his chew.”—SNH