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Dog Marketplace: Create an Indoor Potty Solutions Center

Posted: Aug. 22, 2012, 3:45 p.m. EDT


By stocking everything from litterboxes to puppy pads and dog diapers, pet stores can become the source for consumers who need convenient indoor waste management options.
Sandy Robins

Back when the market was new, indoor waste management products were created primarily to meet the needs of urban-living dog owners, according to industry participants. However, the category is also well-suited for suburban dwellers, where pets do not have easy access to outdoor areas when home alone, resulting in a fast-growing product sector.

Indoor Potties
With its Potty Patch, a dog restroom designed for use on patios as well as indoors, Toronto-based Eagle Eye Marketing had one main objective: “to make the lives of both pet owners and their dogs better,” said Simon Wright, president of the company. 

Potty training pets
Indoor potties include dog litter and artificial grass systems. Courtesy of Pup-pee Solutions
The top portion of the Potty Patch is made of a soft artificial grass designed to let liquid flow through to the collection tray below, which can hold up to a gallon of liquid and keeps odors and bacteria locked inside, Wright said.

“We see it as a multipurpose item,” he added. “It can be used as a training tool to introduce puppies to going outside on natural grass and also works as an emergency toilet in inclement weather.”

Another artificial grass system is from Pup-Pee Solutions in Melbourne, Australia. The Pet Loo comes in three sizes, and replacement grass is available.

A variety of retailers, including Misty Schneider, have created special areas in-store that focus on indoor waste management systems. She recently introduced Four Paws’ Wee Wee Patch fake grass system into her store, Pet Kingdom…Where Pets Rule, in Algona, Iowa.

“It’s still too new to provide customer feedback on the fake grass system, but I anticipate it selling very well alongside other products we carry such as the Secondnature dog litter system from Purina,” Schneider said. “The latter is very popular and demand exceeds supply. One of the reasons is that breeders, especially of small breeds, are now litterbox training their puppies before they are sold and thus suggesting litterbox systems to the puppy’s new owner as a viable alternative to letting their dog eliminate outdoors.”

Nestlé Purina Petcare’s website is designed to give pet owners and retailers direct access to information and instructional videos, according to Niky Roberts, a spokesperson for the St. Louis company.

“The Secondnature Total Training Program was developed by our team of dog breeders, trainers and behaviorists to address both a dog’s life-stage needs and lifestyle with the concept of reducing canine stress by giving dogs permission to ‘go’ indoors when nature calls,” she said.

While the focus is on canine needs, Schneider also pointed out that all indoor systems, whether fake grass, paper-pellet litter or pee pads, meet the needs of the pet owner, too.

“They are ideal for pet owners to use under a variety of circumstances,” Schneider said. “I have had customers who are recovering from surgery and unable to take their dogs out on a regular basis as well as elderly dog owners who have physical difficulties in being able to take their pets out regularly to do their business.”

Other manufacturers are taking a broader approach.

“We believe that one of the reasons many people don’t have a dog is because they feel they are unable to attend to its toilet needs if they are not home,” said Kim Costello, assistant product manager at Royal Pet Inc. in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. “So the logic behind the development of the Spotty Solution Center was to make a complete package of waste management needs available to retailers so they can in turn meet the needs of their dog-owning customers and, ultimately, get the message out there to potential dog owners who have been hesitant in getting a dog because they felt they couldn’t responsibly take care of a pet’s housebreaking and toilet needs.

Number of dogs kept indoor rises
“We have seen more and more retailers changing the layout of their stores in order to incorporate all the toilet solution-orientated products together in one place,” she added.

Training Pads
Retailer Laura Clark has seen an increase in popularity in the purchase and use of pee pads. She stocks various indoor waste management systems and training solutions in all four of her Wylie Wagg stores in Virginia.

“[Pee pads] are becoming extremely popular,” she said. “Without doubt the most important consumer question with regard to the pads relates to the pads’ absorbency.

“We sell them along with various behavior correcting products such as the Pet Corrector compressed air spray, as well as products that remove odors and prevent pets from eliminating in the wrong places in the home,” she added.

Recently, Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio, revamped the packaging of its Advance Housebreaking Pads to feature a change in the manufacturing technology.

“We’ve added Turbo Dry technology,” said Katie Pusateri, communication specialist for the company. “The redesigned quilted pad now contains superabsorbent polymers to ensure that the pads are splash-resistant to prevent tracking through the home. The new green and blue packaging has this benefit highlighted on multiple facings for flexible merchandising options.”

With its Simple Solution brand Eco-Care Training Pads, The Bramton Co. reported it is taking an earth-friendly approach. The pads contain at least 85 percent recycled fiber and are manufactured to hold up to 41/2 cups of liquid—more than any dog can produce in a 24-hour period, said Mike Mockler, manager of pet specialty brands for the Dallas company.

“While they are marketed as training pads, everyone has a different living situation and every pet is different,” Mockler said. “So they can be used as a permanent ‘bathroom’ solution if needed.”

While pee pads are marketed in different sizes and many have a nonskid backing to keep them in place, Barbara Kahn, owner of WonderDogs Inc., a dog training center and retailer in West Berlin, N.J., said she always suggests using them in conjunction with a pad holder.

“This will prevent dogs from playing with them and often even chewing them, which could have serious consequences,” she said.

Because puppy pee pads are constantly being replaced during the training phase, the Puppy Pad Holder from AbsolutelyNew is designed to hold seven pads so that the moment a soiled one is removed, a clean one is in place.

“The holder is basically a mat made of thermoplastic rubber, with corner grippers to keep the pads secure, and it has a raised outer edge to ensure all runoff is properly contained,” said Steve Lee, director of catalog sales for the San Francisco company.

The holder is designed to fit all makes of 22-inch square pads and rolls up and hooks closed when not in use or when packed for travel purposes. And, like so many products designed initially for training purposes, the Puppy Pad Holder can be used permanently, Lee reported.

Diapers and Belly Bands
When it comes to dog diapers and bellybands, Pet Kingdom’s Schneider said that apart from being worn by incontinent elderly dogs, they could be very useful in a variety of other circumstances.

“I always suggest them to clients for a dog in heat,” she said. “And they can also be useful if you are traveling, or even if you have company coming over and the dog gets overexcited and pees.”

They can also be useful for male dogs that lift their legs around the house, Kahn reported.

However, it’s important to educate customers to ensure they are not misused, Wylie Wagg’s Clark noted.

“They have to be used for a purpose,” she said. “They are not a quick-fix solution for lazy pet owners who find it easier than cleaning a litterbox or dealing with a pee pad or even taking their dog for a walk.”

A lot of science goes into the manufacture of a dog diaper, The Bramton Co.’s Mockler said.

Poochie bells for dog training
Educating customers on how to use training bells can help increase sales. Courtesy of Poochie-Pets
“In fact, they are based on the same technology as kiddie diapers and also have a breathable shell and fasteners that won’t stick to skin or fur for added comfort,” he said. “Just because the dog has to wear a diaper doesn’t mean they should be uncomfortable.”

In addition, because pet retailers and owners alike are becoming very eco-conscious, the question always arises about the efficacy of disposable diapers versus reusable ones.

“Disposable diapers are not biodegradable,” Mockler said. “These days, when trying to be nicer to the environment, recycling gets all of the press. It’s important for both retailers and consumers to also consider the other two ‘Rs’, namely reduce and reuse. This is where a washable option wins every time.”

Training Bells
When Cheryl Pedersen of Poochie-Pets in Simsbury, Conn., adopted Oscar, a terrier poodle mix, she was having a hard time preventing him from peeing at the front door.

“I realized he was sitting and waiting for me to let him out to do his business,” she said. “But I had no way of knowing he was there.”

Unable to find anything suitable to attract her attention, Pedersen created PoochieBells.

The bells are designed to hang on a doorknob or hook next to the exit door.

“Because they are a communication tool, a dog of any age or breed can be trained to ring them quickly and easily with lots of praise,” she said.

When it came to marketing them, Pedersen created an informative hangtag as well as a freestanding point of sale display.

“It’s important for a customer to be able to learn about a product in detail,” she said.

Clark, of Wylie Wagg, can attest to this—she’s received positive feedback on PoochieBells from store visitors.

“It’s an excellent display that explains the concept easily to customers,” she noted. “I like to move it around in my stores from time to time to create new interest. Customer feedback tells us that on average it takes 10 days for a dog to learn to use them consistently. They make great gifts for new dog owners, and because they are available on a wide selection of fabrics, they blend with any home décor color scheme.”

Keeping training bells at the register creates a conversation piece and often leads to impulse buys for personal use or gifts, Kahn, of WonderDogs Inc., added.

Coastal Pet Products already offered Li’l Pals training bells for puppies, but recently it added three designs of training bells to its Advance waste management line to provide a more sophisticated option for consumers, Pusateri reported. The new bells on black ribbon complement different home décor styles, while the other two patterns match the company’s Pet Attire Ribbon and Designer Harness patterns for a more fashion forward look, she added.

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