Dog containment products serve an important function in homes, yards and vehicles, and pet owners mandate that these products work and are easy to use, attractive and unobtrusive when possible.
Containment for Companions
With pet owners humanizing their pets more than ever, they want products that are higher quality, said Andrew Darmohraj, executive vice president and COO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA) in Greenwich, Conn.
"In the same way that pet owners are opting for higher-quality food because they are using their own personal preferences when making shopping decisions, you will see pet owners opt for higher-quality containment systems because they want something nice that they feel comfortable using for their beloved animal," Darmohraj said.
When at home, this companionship equates to ensuring the dog is comfortable and nearby, even when being contained.
"Pet owners do not want to just lock up their pets or put them in a cage," said Kristin Butler, marketing coordinator and account executive for Richell USA Inc. in Grand Prairie, Texas.
The company recently released its Expandable Pet Crate and Easy Clean Pet Crate, Butler said.
"Pet owners want pets to be close by and feel like part of the family, but still keep them at bay while cooking, cleaning or when guests are over," Butler added. "In order to do so, many customers want gates and crates that go with their home décor and also allow pets to feel comfortable and at ease in their own space."
The containment category has expanded to include keeping dogs out of certain areas, said Jason Hart, director of Radio Systems Corp.’s PetSafe brand in Knoxville, Tenn.
"Containment was traditionally thought of as a means to keep them in the yard, but with more pet-proofing products in the market, it is also a means of keeping them out of areas—essentially establishing safe areas," Hart said. "We try to provide better ways to keep dogs out of specific areas in the house."Walk-through gates are able to do the dual duty of keeping dogs contained while not making humans feel like they also are contained, said Glenda Bone, owner of Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas. With four small dogs of her own and being the owner of three businesses, she travels everywhere with her dogs. Walk-through gates are used both at the store and at home to keep them under control and safe, Bone said.
Pet gates should not confine the people that use them, Butler agreed.
"They should be easy to use without being a burden to get through—but still work well enough to keep pets comfortable in their own area," Butler said.
Outside and On the Go
Outdoors, dog owners are looking for some of these same features. They want a product that is aesthetically pleasing and comfortable—and of course one that is functionally sound.
"We designed our octagonal Pet Gazebo to be the perfect size so that it doesn’t completely obstruct a view of the backyard and is comfortable and nice for a dog to be in," said CJ Pomerantz, vice president of marketing for Advantek Marketing in Moorpark, Calif.
With more pet owners treating their pets as companions, many more are also traveling with them. Robert Little, general manager of Diggidy Dog in Carmel, Calif., said that in his part of the country dogs goeverywherewith their owners. It’s not uncommon to see more dogs than babies in strollers that pass by. As a result, he said, car seat products are strong sellers.
"With a product like that, it’s important to the pet owner that their dog is safely secured in the vehicle," Little said. "Function and comfort are the two features they’re looking for when traveling in a car with their dog."
Perhaps the biggest trend in the containment category has simply been the number of options to emerge.
"Gone are the days when containment products were all standard-issue colors, sizes and configurations," said Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has locations in Virginia and Washington, D.C. "The more innovation we see in this category, the more options customers have and the more likely they are to consider buying products to fit specific needs."
For some, those needs are being met with out-of-the-box solutions. For example, electronic collars might take the place of a traditional gate or kennel. High Tech Pet Products recently released its Bluefang dog collar, which uses a cellphone and an app to control the functions of remote training, bark control and electronic fence containment, said Nick Bonge, president of the Ventura, Calif., company.
"Integrating the containment category with technology is going to appeal to the new generation of pet owners who prefer technological solutions," Bonge said.
Staff Make the Sale
When it comes to larger items such as fences, including electronic systems, many dog owners turn to the Internet to research and even make their purchases, said the APPA’s Darmohraj, adding that a recent APPA survey indicated around 20 percent of owners had purchased their fencing online. To keep more sales like these in stores, he suggests retailers dedicate the space and become better educated on the products.
"You can keep more customers buying those types of products in retail if you’re able to take the time to properly explain how it works," Darmohraj said. "It can be a challenge for retailers to have the staff to achieve that, but it would definitely help sales."
Radio Systems Corp.’s Hart agreed, noting that because these products often are pricier, consumers are apt to research them before making a purchase.
"A well-educated staff can help make a sale by providing the necessary information to the customer," he said.
How can you boost containment product sales?
Retailers should be providing tips and tricks to pet parents on which products work best for which type of animal. Richell USA has developed a YouTube channel that we are continuing to add to with product features and training tips from an expert to help parents make better decisions for their animals."—Kristin Butler, marketing coordinator and account executive for Richell USA Inc. in Grand Prairie, Texas
Customers weighing containment options typically take the decision very seriously since it is critical to the health and safety of their pet. We found that it helps tremendously to allow customers to interact with containment products. If they are boxed, like gates and crates, we unbox them. If they are collapsible, we suggest that the customers try folding them and setting them up in the store. For car seats, we often go out to the customer’s car and install the seat before the customer decides to purchase it so he or she can make a more informed buying decision."—Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has locations in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
"We have a new program where we are providing a Pet Gazebo to retailers who work with pet rescue groups and have a need to have a portable kennel set up outside or inside their store to show dogs. We’ve found that’s actually how a lot of the gazebos end up getting sold. People do prefer to see a product set up. If you have the floor space, it’s really important that you have product on display so that the customer can not only see it but touch it and practice operating it."—CJ Pomerantz, vice president of marketing for Advantek Marketing in Moorpark, Calif.