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Sizzling Stock: Dog Training Products

Posted: June 27, 2012, 8:45 p.m. EDT


Back to School
The number of customers looking for products and advice to help them train their dogs continues to grow.
By Audrey Pavia

With the popularity of TV shows like “Dog Whisperer” and the increase in availability of training classes at pet stores and community centers, dog owners are investing in products such as harnesses, collars, leads and treats to help them teach their dogs to be good canine citizens.

Training Gear
Products designed to help dogs learn proper behavior are also good sellers for retailers who carry these types of items.

Trixie Pet Products in Tarp, Germany, is offering a martingale training collar designed to prevent the dog from slipping his head out of the collar while still providing a comfortable fit, according to Bernadette Bauman, marketing coordinator for Trixie.

Dog training products include collars, harnesses and leashes
Having a knowledgeable sales staff is essential when it comes to offering training products to pet owners. Sherri L. Collins/Bowtie Inc. at PetStop Warehouse
“The collar fits comfortably around the dog’s neck on a loose lead or when unattached,” she said. “The draw chain at the back of the neck causes many dogs to react to pressure much sooner than they would with a normal collar. This offers a training advantage, as the handler can use much more subtle signals.”

A training collar designed to apply pressure to a dog’s neck without causing undue discomfort is offered by Ezy Dog, a pet products manufacturer in Ponderay, Idaho.

“The CheckMate Collar is a very low-profile, limited-slip collar that applies pressure to the dog’s neck when he pulls,” said John Hatcher, company president.

The Checkmate uses a snap buckle closure that can be fitted like a traditional collar, according to Hatcher.

“Typically, correction collars require resizing when fitting and removing the collar from the dog each time that it is used,” he continued. “Since training collars shouldn’t be left on an unattended dog, this innovation makes using the training collar very simple.”

A popular training item at Pet Life Stores in Stratham, N.H., is the Premier Easy Walk anti-pull harness, according to president Pete Risano.

“These harnesses offer immediate results and require minimal physical effort or training to use,” he said. “Customers can try them on in our stores and take them for a test drive to see how their dog reacts. Customers appreciate seeing the results prior to taking it home.”

Rewarding Treats
For most dogs, food is the greatest motivator. Most dog trainers advocate using treats to teach dogs everything from basic obedience commands to more advanced activities such as agility.

Manufacturers are looking to fill the need for training treats by providing products that allow owners to easily dole out small quantities during training sessions.

Tricks of the Trade
Want more tips for recommending training products? In this video, dog trainer Heidi Voll demonstrate how harnesses, treats, clickers and more can help meet your customers' training needs.
“Dog training is based upon positive reinforcement, and what better way to reward dogs than with something they can get excited about, like a tasty treat,” said Jennifer Melton, co-founder of Cloud Star, a manufacturer in San Luis Obispo, Calif. “Training treats can be utilized for a variety of training needs, from teaching basic commands to house, crate and service dog training to teaching fun tricks and rewarding a dog for staying off of the couch.”

Treats are also great for keeping a dog’s attention and maintaining focus and to let the dog know that the rewarded behavior is the desired one, Melton noted.

When considering training treats, it’s imperative that the treat is something dogs can get excited about, Melton said.

Training treats are typically bite-sized, which makes it easy for the dog’s handler to give out.

“No one likes to waste precious training time breaking treats into smaller pieces or waiting for the dog to snack on the reward,” Melton said.

At Pet ‘n Shape, a treat producer in North Hollywood, Calif., freeze-dried treats are marketed specifically for training because they are highly palatable and easy to handle, making them an excellent bait for training dogs.

“Our freeze-dried treats come in several varieties, including Chicken Liver PLUS, Peanut Butter PLUS and Beef Liver PLUS,” said Ahdee Abramson, company president. “They include real pieces of fruits and vegetables for added vitamins and nutrients.”

Dog owners like these treats because they are natural and taste good, Abramson added.

“They are good for training because you can put them in your pocket without getting the pocket all yucky with broken, wet pieces of treats,” he said.

At Elephant Nose Pet Center, a retailer in Morristown, N.J., liver treats are the most popular training reward.

“These products are readily available and easy to use,” said Julie Pilas, the store’s owner. “A simple one-step training session for the pet’s owner is all that is needed to prepare the owner for the training process.”

One unique training treat on the market is a liquid product called Lickety Stik, by PetSafe in Knoxville, Tenn., according to the company.

The product provides the benefit of rewarding dogs with an all-natural moist treat without a sticky mess, said Tracy Quillin, category manager for the company, adding that it also prevents dogs from overindulging on treats.

“Because it’s a liquid treat, dogs in training don’t fill up like they would with biscuits or soft moist treats,” she added.

Display and Marketing
When it comes to marketing and merchandising training products, demonstration is the key to success, said Jeanette Holliday, marketing manager for U.S. division of The Company of Animals in Bridgeport, Conn.

“Having the products properly displayed within the store is essential,” Holliday said. “We have plenty of pictures and videos for retailers’ use, as well as to help demonstrate the products if they don’t have the capability or resources to demonstrate on a customer’s pet.”

Stewart Pet in South Bend, Ind., maker of Pro-Treat Plus and Pro-Treat freeze-dried liver treats, also provides advice and accessories to help retailers display their training treats.

“Our products are available in trial-size pouches attached to clip strips that can be hung at the register or an endcap or shelf,” said Sharon Burden, marketing representative for Stewart Pet. “Pro-Treat Plus is also available in a floor display containing 36 units, which can help if shelf space is limited. The Pro-Treat freeze-dried liver treats are packaged in tubs, too, for easy stacking.”

Donna Holick, owner of Whiskers Bakery in Scottsdale, Ariz., a 1,000-square-foot pet store, makes the most of display and marketing material provided by training gear manufacturers.

“Our customers have come to rely on us to solve their pet problems, and quality products help us do just that,” she said. “We also use manufacturer videos and other POP tools to promote these and other products.”

Sales of training products are also reliant on customer education, something that is emphasized at Lofty Dog, a retailer with two locations in Austin, Texas. The Easy Walk and Gentle Leader training harnesses, and the Wiggles, Wags and Whiskers harness are among the store’s best-sellers in this category, according to store owner Veronique Michalik.

“Our staff is trained on how to fit and use the products, so if someone comes in stating that their dog pulls on leash, they know how to explain and fit the product,” Michalik said. “Most clients can see the results right away.”

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