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3:47 PM   April 28, 2015
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Only the Best for Baby

Trends in puppy products lean toward going natural and green.
By Scott and Ann Springer

The first stage of life is the most critical in the development of a young pup, just as the first few years of life are for a baby.

For most breeds, the first seven months of a dog’s life are considered the puppy stage. Retailers can educate their new puppy parents about this brief but important span, says Phil Brown, D.V.M., senior vice president for Nutri-Vet, a Boise, Idaho-based manufacturer.

“Pediatric care of these dogs really determines how healthy the dog will be into adulthood,” Dr. Brown says. “It’s a critical time for these guys.”

Big Sellers

New Puppy Checklist:
What does a new puppy owner need?

As a resource to his clientele, Chuck Bartlett, owner of Dooley’s Dog House in Kirkland, Wash., has a checklist for new puppy owners that he has posted on his website. Below is a listing of his must-have suggestions.

• Collar and leash set. Owners can pick one that will be adjustable as the dog grows through its first stages of life, Bartlett says.

• Identification tags. Whether an owner chooses a high-tech GPS-style device or a low-tech traditional metal tag, it’s important to have something around a puppy’s neck if it gets out, Bartlett says.

• Toys specially designed for puppy teeth and gums. A large variety of toys will help keep the pup’s interest and save a customer’s furniture, he says.

• Food and water bowls. Metal or ceramic dishes help keep bacteria at bay, he says.

• Chew toys and treats. Chewing conditions a puppy’s teeth and gums and it feels good as the dog teethes, Bartlett says. Training treats motivate the young dog to learn some old tricks.

• Grooming tools. These tools can be an investment that last the lifetime of the pet. Getting a puppy off to a good start with grooming will make trips to the groomer less stressful in the future, he says.

• Bed. Puppies need to have a place they can call home, too, he says.

• Healthy food. Owners can refer to brochures and guidelines to find the right food for each puppy, he says.

• Stain and odor remover. Potty-training is not completed without a few accidents, so it’s best for customers to have a product handy when the time arises, he says.

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Consumers desire green products and this consciousness has transposed into many categories, including puppy products, Brown says.

Raw and holistic diets have trickled down from the main dog food category and are extremely popular among new puppy parents, says Amy Radez, owner of Le Doggie Divine, a retailer in Geneva, Ill.

“New owners are learning about new products on the market and want all the cutting-edge stuff,” Radez says.

Brown says that the trend continues to grow for puppy owners to seek out organic diets for their new furry family members.

“It’s a niche that is growing rapidly—25 percent every year—but you also have a smaller number of people to begin with in that category,” he says.

Like foods, supplements now feature more life stage-specific products on the market.

“Puppies have certain needs and these products are trying to fit into that niche,” Brown says.

A puppy’s rapid growth and high level of activity produce more free radicals than dogs in other stages. Antioxidant products may neutralize these waste byproducts, Brown says.

Additionally, puppies may also need calcium, phosphorus, manganese and other minerals to accommodate this early developmental stage.

Step-in and soft, padded harnesses are big sellers among Radez’s puppy owners.

“I sell them like hotcakes,” Radez says. “It’s hard to keep them in stock.”

Sling carriers also are popular for owners who like to tote their pups around town like new moms do their babies, Radez says.

What’s Next?
“As the category expands and becomes more fine-tuned, specific products will be created as we better understand the needs of puppies,” Brown says. “Ultimately, we want them to grow better.”

Dental care products continue to increase in popularity as awareness increases about the importance of these hygiene products, Radez says.

Safety products such as car seats will also become essential items for puppy owners down the road, Radez predicts.

“The basis of dog ownership is to keep safety and the pet’s best interest in mind in every situation,” she says.

Chuck Bartlett, owner of Dooley’s Dog House in Kirkland, Wash., says his customers want green products. He sees natural and organic puppy toys as an area of growth in the near future as manufacturers answer the demand from consumers.

Comfort products to help with separation anxiety from the litter to a puppy’s new home are also expanding in availability, says Jennifer Crotty, product development manager for Petstages, a Northbrook, Ill.-based company. Microwaveable fleece blankets and pillows with simulated heartbeats can calm puppies, provide warmth and reduce separation anxiety.

“New pet owners are becoming increasingly aware of the separation anxiety a new pup experiences,” Crotty says.

Teething products can use innovative materials, such as a frozen fabric toy that provides ailing gums some relief, Crotty says.

Lending a Hand to New Puppy Parents
The first step retailers can take in teaching new owners the basics is to study puppy products offered in their stores, Brown says. Many manufacturers also offer training seminars that may be helpful.

“You have to be able to provide an honest and informed answer,” Brown says, adding that today’s consumers do their homework before they step foot in a shop.

Retailers can accurately direct customers to products when they understand the basic needs of each breed of puppy, Radez says.

Retailers can use simple signage with clear messages that defines what makes a product a must-have.

“A retailer who displays products with signs that say, ‘This product is best because it has this in it,’ is a retailer who can sell product,” Brown says. <HOME> 

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