Beyond Just a Bath

Today’s dogs aren’t just pets, they’re companions, and owners are treating them like part of the family—from their living quarters to activity schedules to diet. It’s no surprise, then, that the trend also is affecting grooming. Dog owners now are more concerned about regular grooming habits and selecting just the right product for their companion.

This increased interest has meant increased spending, and many dog owners are willing to spend the extra money for higher-quality products.

"Consumers look for brands that have good-quality natural products and that are preferably made in the USA," said Lynda Winkowski, owner and president of Angels’ Eyes in Sunrise, Fla. "Most pet owners will spend money on what is best for their animal."

Dave Campanella, sales and marketing director at Best Shot Pet Products in Lexington, Ky., agreed that consumers expect the best.

"They want a good product and not just with a good scent—though that’s part of the puzzle," he said.

"When people are spending all of their time with their dogs—maybe even sharing a bed with them—they want them to smell good and to be clean."

Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said she rarely sells a bottle of shampoo without opening it.

"They want to smell it, and that’s fine with us," Parsons said. "It’s important that the shampoo smells good—after all, that’s what their dog is going to smell like."

This goes hand in hand with dogs spending so much time with their owners.

"Dogs are part of the family, and owners are willing to invest in grooming," said Gina Dial, vice president of sales and marketing for John Paul Pet in Ventura, Calif. "When people are spending all of their time with their dogs—maybe even sharing a bed with them—they want them to smell good and to be clean."

John Paul Pet recently introduced the Awapoochi grooming line, which includes five products that contain wild ginger root extract to add moisture and shine, and are paraben free, Dial said.

Dog owners also are looking for products that will tackle another common issue.

"With dogs indoors so much nowadays, owners want help with shedding and dander—and they’re willing to pay for [it]," said Dan Owens, co-owner of Four Dogs Pet Supplies in Charlotte, N.C. "Many of the higher-quality products really do help keep skin calmer, and dog owners will spend the money."

Especially if those more-costly products hit all the marks.

"Consumers look for products that leave silky and shiny coats," Winkowski said. "They want shampoos that have long-lasting scents. They want the fur around their pet’s eyes to be clear, noses to be shiny, not crusty, and paws to be soft."

Angels’ Eyes released several new products at SuperZoo in Las Vegas this year, Winkowski said, including Angels’ Eyes Plus Tear Stain Powder, an all-natural enhanced antitear stain formula specifically developed for both dogs and cats; Angels’ Eyes Gentle Tear Stain Wipes, recommended to help remove dried mucus secretions, discharge and tear stains; Angels’ Eyes Soothing Nose Glow Moisturizer to help soften and moisturize pets’ noses; and Angels’ Eyes Soft Paw Moisturizing Cream to help protect and moisturize pets’ rough, dry and cracked paws.

Greener Grooming

These days people are very interested in buzzwords such as "natural" and "organic." The pet industry always has followed human product trends, and because bath and body products are going natural, dog grooming products are, too, said Cameron Fang, owner of Reliq in Southlake, Texas.

Reliq recently introduced Paw Spa, a cream-based human-grade paw protection product that won’t create greasy footprints or cause a dog to slip after the product is applied. It’s great for paws, noses or dry elbows, Fang said.

Parsons agreed that natural products are all the rage and said her customers come in specifically asking for them. In fact, Denny’s Pet World uses signage to direct shoppers to natural products.

"Consumers like the greening trend going on right now," Owens said. "People want more natural products for their dogs that are less harsh on the skin. We specialize in natural products, and it has become a growing business for us. It’s more expensive, but we find most pet owners are willing to pay for it."

Owens said that the natural products his customers tend to value include those with tea tree oil, products that are hypoallergenic, and anything that is dye free.

Eric Grushkin of Henderson, Nev.-based G That’s Awesome Brands Inc. said the company recently introduced G That’s Awesome Certified Organic Dog Shampoo and Certified Organic Pet Shampoo.

"Our development of these products came from retailer demand for truly certified organic products," Grushkin said. "Every ingredient has been inspected and tested, and there are no GMOs or pesticides."

Becky Sturm, CEO and founder of 3WayBeauty in St. Paul, Minn., makes a natural product, but she said she didn’t start out looking to be in the dog shampoo business. After countless customers of her shampoo, shower and shave bar asked if it could be used on their dog, she got to work creating Doggystyle.

"People want fewer chemicals in everything," Sturm said. "They also want less packaging. Our Doggystyle shampoo bar is wrapped in 100 percent recycled paper that has been manufactured at a family-owned paper mill, which runs on hydroelectric power right here in the USA. And you can even shampoo Fido or Fifi in a stream or lake, because nothing in our dog grooming bar will harm the ecosystem."

Brook Bickford, owner of Gone to the Dogs Boutique in St. Pete Beach, Fla., said that the store’s customers are expressing more interest in going natural. They’re asking for oatmeal baths and shampoos that are chemical free, Bickford said.

With all this interest, consumers are paying closer attention to ingredients, said Steven Shweky, president and CEO at Fetch … for Pets! in New York.

"They want to be sure there isn’t anything that is going to be harmful to their pet," said Shweky, who added that the company recently launched BioSilk For Dogs, a line that includes deep-moisture cleansing wipes, shampoos and more. All of the products smell exactly like the BioSilk for humans line.

"What’s happening in the dog world just mirrors what’s happening in the human world," Bickford said. "People are more interested in going natural for themselves and their pets."

That means that retailers need to stay on top of grooming selections.

"Our clients come in and already know a lot about these products, so that keeps us on our game," Bickford said.

"Customers are definitely more educated," Four Dogs Pet Supplies’ Owens said. "They know what questions to ask, so it’s important we know the answers."  

This article originally appeared in the October 2015 issue of Pet Product News.