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Dog Marketplace: Motivate Profits With Training Products

Posted: Feb. 6, 2013, 2:00 p.m. EST

Offer customers the tools and knowledge needed to turn their dogs into well-behaved members of the family pack.
By Lizett Bond

As pets take pleasure in their new status as “family members,” this elevated standing creates new demands that are often met with additional training. Likewise, as dogs are welcomed into more settings, socialization and good manners are essential.

By providing proper tools, training, education and advice, retailers can assist consumers with this process, creating a positive experience as canines join their human family pack.

“It’s a different kind of training now,” said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif. “It used to be you trained your dog to do tricks—rollover, shake, sit. Now, as family members, we expect them to behave as such, but they behave like a member of a dog family, a pack, where families are managed in black and white conditions.”

Training collars, leashes and harnesses
Customers often look to staff for advice on using training collars, leashes and more. Stephanie Brown/I-5 Publishing LLC at Kriser’s in Studio City, Calif.
These differences can result in training errors and frustration for all.

“Training consists of a range, from proper leash manners to preventing dogs from jumping to basic obedience,” said Claudia Loomis, owner of Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies, with four locations in New Jersey.

Treats for Training
Keeping things positive includes praise and treats. Rewarding a dog for a desired behavior can be a powerful tool.

“A motivated dog trains far more easily,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder and national sales director of Bravo! in Vernon, Conn.

However, as consumers become more ingredient-conscious about their own diets, that attitude has transferred to food selection for four-legged family members as well.

“We are seeing a consumer shift toward a ‘my pet is what he/she eats’ mentality,” Schubert said.

“If a consumer is reading labels when it comes to dog food, it is not going to be any different when it comes to treats,” she continued. “The demand for great-quality ingredients still is there.”

For this reason, Bravo!’s training treats are grain-free with no fillers or preservatives and are made in the USA from human-grade ingredients, Schubert noted, adding that the treats’ red meat is grass-fed and its poultry is antibiotic-free.

It’s not just ingredients that factor in to consumer treat choices. Customers also are aware of the impact of empty calories on pet waistlines.

Many of Blue Dog Bakery’s customers expressed demand for all-natural training treats in portion-controlled sizes that are free of animal byproducts, said Kyle Polanski, CEO of the Seattle company.

Retailers reported a growing demand for training treats.

“We can never have enough meaty, small training treats that trainers recommend owners use,” said Elsie Lampl, co-owner of Petagogy in Pittsburgh.

Because of the importance of rewards being issued in a timely fashion, treating pouches go hand-in-hand with treats.

“The treat bag is probably the most essential item for training,” said Christine Allison, ABCDT, project analyst coordinator and certified behavior and training specialist for Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio. “A dog has a short attention span. With the treat bags, rewards are in a central location and easily accessible.”

For more information on selling natural pet treats, click here.

Motivating With Sound
While tasty food treats are always a way to a dog’s heart, clicker training is another popular means to teach a pet obedience.

“If the owner is going to do any type of leash work once they get past basic obedience, we oftentimes  will recommend the clicker for focus,” Furry Face’s Grow said. “We also provide help with clicker training in our store.”

Off to a Good Start
The arrival of a new puppy is an exciting occasion. However, the task of potty training calls for patience and education on the part of youngster and pet owner alike. Products that foster success with this chore can help ensure a happy union.

“The training pad category has increased as more retailers have added [to their] pet products,” said Aaron Fisher, product manager of The Bramton Co. in Dallas. “New technology has helped to make these products better.”

This includes environmentally friendly pads, such as Eco-Care Training Pads by The Bramton Co.’s Simple Solution brand, made with high-quality surplus materials that would otherwise be destined for the landfill, Fisher said.

In addition to pads, attractants formulated to encourage puppies to urinate in a particular area help make house training even more effective.

“The special spray scent of Simple Solution Puppy Aid attracts puppies to eliminate in a specific spot,” Fisher said.

Likewise, teaching a puppy to request a trip outdoors can be accomplished with potty training bells.

“Puppies are taught to jingle the bell, letting their owners know they need to go out,” said Christine Allison, ABCDT, project analyst coordinator and certified behavior and training specialist for Coastal Pet Products in Alliance, Ohio.

Dogs prefer a clean den, and a crate recreates that safety and security, helping puppies learn to wait, noted Steven Appelbaum in Pet Product News International’s December 2012 Education Series: Training & Behavior Modification column, “The Basics of Housebreaking.” Size matters, he added, and a crate that is a proper fit will keep the puppy from eliminating in one end and sleeping in the other.

“MidWest Crates feature free divider panels for use while puppies grow; the length can be adjusted as the dog grows into adulthood,” said Neil Smith, sales manager for MidWest Homes for Pets in Muncie, Ind. —LB

While Loomis of Cherrybrook noted that clickers are popular for attracting a dog’s attention, she added that the ‘hiss’ sound created by the Pet Corrector, made by The Company of Animals, is one that pets naturally are sensitive to, and it redirects their attention.

“We carry the Pet Corrector, which is probably the foremost and No. 1 tool,” Grow agreed. “We have sold hundreds of these.”

To ensure repeat sales, consumers need to know how to properly use this, Loomis noted.

“Customers need to keep it handy; it doesn’t work if you pull it out of your purse and use it after the dog has stopped the unwanted behavior,” she said.

Collars, Leashes and Harnesses
Teaching a dog to walk calmly on a loose leash is a common challenge faced by owners. Products to assist in this task have moved beyond the traditional choke chain collar.

“We do not carry choke chains,” Lampl said. “We carry martingales, which are the same concept—they pull and tighten, but won’t choke. We carry Premier and Earthdog.”

For this training task, Lampl noted that Petagogy often recommends products based on the four owners’ successful experiences with their own pets.

“Popular products, particularly with puppies, are ‘solution’ products like Easy Walk Harnesses, made by Premier, and that is the best one we have come across,” she said. “It’s different. The hook is in front so when the dogs pull it pulls their bodies back but doesn’t hurt or jerk their necks, teaching them not to lunge or pull away.”

With success in mind, Petagogy customers are encouraged to test such products with a fitting and a walk down the street.

 “We almost always have a customer come back and purchase it,” Lampl stated.
There is also a demand for head collars, noted Coastal Pet Products’ Allison.

“We see people with dogs that are pulling them every which way, and these are popular tools,” she said. “We offer two versions, the Walk ‘n Train Head Halter and the Walk ‘n Train Head Collar, each with slightly different features.”

Proper socialization requires practice, according to Loomis.

“We suggest that our customers role play when training a dog not to jump on guests,” Loomis said. “Have someone come to the door, ring the bell and come in, for example. Be sure to reward the pet for good behavior.”

Cherrybrook offers a No Jump Harness from Classic Products to aid in this task, she added.

A traffic lead to help eliminate this behavior is another good product to recommend, Loomis noted.

“These 1-foot-long leashes connect to the collar and keep the dog close,” she said. “The owner can prevent the dog from jumping up just by holding on to the lead.”

Once reserved for dogs in the sporting industry, remote trainer collars have softened their appeal and look to shed the misconception of hard discipline and punishment, said Michael Tribble, category manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.

“We are seeing an increased demand [for these products],” he said, adding, “If you look over the history of the remote training collar, that stigma, as far as PetSafe goes, couldn’t be more the opposite.”

To assist customers wishing to use remote training collars, PetSafe established a new website ( for 2013 to provide information and tips.

“We do sell electronic collars, but it is important to be very consistent. If you are not, it can send a very confusing message to the dog,” Loomis said.

Crate Training
As den animals, most dogs find comfort in their own personal space, such as in a crate or a pen.

Though some retailers reported carrying a large inventory and selection of crates, this can consume precious retail space.

“We do special order crates, but we generally send customers to the bigger box pet stores that carry them,” Petagogy’s Lampl said.

Having a knowledgeable retail staff capable of sharing their understanding of crate training is crucial to promoting and marketing crates. Creating a display that allows owners and pets to interact with the products also is recommended, reported Neil Smith, sales manager for MidWest Homes For Pets in Muncie, Ind. Keeping related accessories nearby, such as attachable water bowls and crate pads, also is beneficial, he added.

“We have seen an increase in demand in this category,” Smith said. “Crate training has gained acceptance and popularity among pet parents.”

For dogs out of their crates and ready to chew, scented sprays can act as a deterrent, saving shoes, table legs and anything else that might tempt canine teeth.

Watcch Training Products Video
Click here to watch a video and get more tips for recommending dog training products.
“We sell pheromone-scented sprays, such as Bitter Apple by Grannick, to discourage puppies from chewing on furniture,” Loomis said. “If they don’t listen to ‘no,’ the spray is the next step.”

For all types of training tools, education is important both for retail staff and the consumer. Engaging customers in conversation will result in more positive shopping experiences, as well as successful training outcomes.

“It comes down to owners being properly educated to communicate with their dogs,” Grow of Furry Face said. “If you can help your customers to understand how a dog thinks, they will have a better chance of success.”

To further the communication process, stores should offer training seminars and classes in-store, retailers reported.

 “We feature an ‘ask the trainer’ event several times a year,” Lampl said. “An area trainer comes in for a few hours and customers can ask questions and get advice about different behavioral issues they might be experiencing.”
In addition, Petagogy offers a lending library, with books that provide information about puppy training and assimilating new dogs into the family being the most frequently requested selections.

“Our dogs want to make us happy; they just need to understand what we are asking,” Grow said. “It’s a partnership between owner and dog.” 

Want to learn more about promoting training products? Read Dog Marketplace: Take Command of Training Product Sales.


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