As today’s furry travelers enjoy acceptance in many public settings, dog owners are seeking accessories that will give them peace of mind and promote convenience, safety and comfort—whatever the journey.
"Consumers are increasingly conscious of their pet’s safety when traveling and are inquiring more frequently for products that will satisfy this demand," said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator for EzyDog, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based manufacturer of dog gear.
Shannon Ross, chief marketing officer at Highwave, an Oxnard, Calif.-based manufacturer, agreed, noting an increase in demand for travel products that promote health and convenience.
"People are traveling with their dogs more than ever before and want products that make it easy to take their pup with them while also keeping them safe," Ross said.
Dog owners are also seeking products that serve multiple functions and blend in to their lives seamlessly, said Mandie Sweetnam, travel and access category manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based manufacturer Radio Systems Corp.
"Solution-based products have always been in high demand, and we are happy to provide them with added benefits and comfort," Sweetnam said.
At Dog Krazy, a retailer with multiple locations in Virginia, owner Nancy Guinn said pet owners are looking for travel bowls, poop bags and seat belt leashes.
"We run out of seat belt leashes constantly," she said. "People bring their dogs with them everywhere these days, and we love it!"
Anna DePaolo, owner of Dollys Pet Shoppe in Sandy, Ore., said that collapsible water and food bowls are in demand.
"I also carry portable water bottles and stock some kennels for travel," she said.
A range of popular travel items is in the mix at Pawz on Main, a pet store in Cottonwood, Ariz., said owner Denise Strong.
"I carry Eartbath travel-size wipes, poop bags and dispensers, back and front packs for those who hike with their smaller fur kids, plus seat belt tethers," she said.
Because many journeys with the family pet take place by car, there is an emphasis on automotive safety when a pet is onboard, Sweetnam said.
"There is a growing awareness among consumers about how to be safe while their pets are in their vehicles," Sweetnam said. "This doesn’t just include keeping the pet safe in the event of an accident, but preventing driver distraction and comfortably restraining pets while riding in the vehicle."
At Agri Feed Pet Supply, which has stores in Knoxville, Tenn., popular travel products include vehicle accessories, crash-tested harnesses, seat belts, seat covers and strollers, said vice president Britt Sturm.
Sturm added that demand is growing, particularly in the safety category.
"Our single most popular travel product is the Snoozer Lookout [Dog] Car Seat, [for] which we sell a variety of sizes and styles," he said. "We are seeing more and more people looking for ways to safely secure their pets in the vehicle."
On the Cutting Edge
For manufacturers developing products in the dog travel category, bringing innovation to pet owners, solving their problems and listening to feedback are important parts of the process.
"At EzyDog, we tend to remain at the forefront of introducing new innovative solutions to life with dogs in general," said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator for EzyDog, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based manufacturer of dog gear. "From a research and development perspective, we identify the problem, devise a solution, and design a unique finished product that incorporates high-quality materials."
New development is further based on consumer interest, and in setting a high standard for the category, with concepts adapted based on direct consumer feedback, Baxter said.
Staying connected with customers is central to product research and development for PetSafe, said Mandie Sweetnam, travel and access category manager for the Knoxville, Tenn.-based brand, which is part of Radio Systems Corp.
"Whether we are reading and responding to reviews, researching feedback, or talking directly to customers on our support line, we aren’t just helping to solve current problems, we are working at building solutions for the future," she said.
Shannon Ross, chief marketing officer for Highwave, a manufacturer in Oxnard, Calif., agreed that consumer feedback is key.
"When determining what products to develop next, we rely heavily on the needs and wants of our customers," she said. "Our process is typically to look for a problem that dog owners face every day and create a solution."
Environmental concerns are also taken into consideration at Highwave, Ross said.
"We look at the entire life cycle of the product," she said. "It is important for us to identify how we can make a product that has a positive rather than negative environmental impact on the earth."
Making Journeys Safer and More Convenient
As more family expeditions include pets, manufacturers are responding by creating items to improve the travel experience.
For example, EzyDog introduced a series of collapsible bowls to its Drive travel line.
"Drive Takeaway water and food bowls provide a convenient solution to feeding and hydrating dogs while traveling," said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator for EzyDog in Sandpoint, Idaho.
Available in one- and two-liter sizes, the lightweight water and food bowls offer a travel-safe solution to providing refreshment for the on-the-go dog. Collapsing flat for ease of storage, the bowls are constructed of waterproof and washable ripstop nylon. A drawstring closure prevents food spillage on the road.
PetSafe has made a few style and convenience updates to some of its travel products.
The PetSafe Happy Ride Booster Seat and Happy Ride Dog Safety Seat are now available in a new navy color, and the PetSafe Happy Ride Cargo Liner and PetSafe Happy Ride Bucket Seat Cover are now available in a new gray color, said Mandie Sweetnam, travel and access category manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp.
"We are also releasing carpeted treads as an option for our folding pet ramp, as well as providing easy access to traction paper replacements," Sweetnam said.
The treads and traction paper replacements will be available for purchase on e-commerce sites only beginning May 1 this year. Customers will be able to purchase either the traction paper or the carpet replacements for PetSafe’s plastic folding stairs and folding ramps.
"The plastic steps are available in tan and black, while the ramp is available in black only," she said. "We hope customers will find this useful for their pets if they should need a different tread material or a replacement for already worn treads."
Just like a child’s car seat, a dog’s safety harness should be replaced after an automobile accident to ensure continued protection, according to PetSafe. To further its commitment to secure pet travel, PetSafe recently launched a Car Safety Harness Replacement Program. The initiative offers a free crash-test-certified Happy Ride Safety Harness as a replacement for any dog harness involved in a vehicle accident, including those made by other brands.
Highwave recently launched two new sizes in its AutoDogMug water bottle, said Shannon Ross, chief marketing officer for the Oxnard, Calif.-based manufacturer.
"We now have a 15-ounce mini size and a ‘growler’ size at 44 ounces," she said. "Currently, we are in development with some new products that we are pretty excited about and are planning to launch later in 2020. We will keep everyone posted!"
Sales Floor Success
Retailers with an easy-to-navigate, comprehensive travel product section will see the most success in this category.
"Travel solutions are becoming so popular that they’re certainly worthy of their very own section within the retail space," said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator for EzyDog, a Sandpoint, Idaho-based manufacturer of dog gear.
Baxter suggested that retailers build marketing around a presentation that captures the desired message, whether the focal point is safety or convenience.
"Placing an actual car seat and model dog next to the products will enhance their presence and will allow staff to demonstrate the various offerings and educate the consumer on their features," he added.
Employee education will differentiate retailers from other stores, said Mandie Sweetnam, travel and access category manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based manufacturer Radio Systems Corp.
"Customers coming in to stores are looking for advice and a curated selection of products they can trust," Sweetnam said. "If employees aren’t properly educated, even the best prices and products on the shelf won’t win their business and trust."
Shannon Ross, chief marketing officer at Highwave, a manufacturer in Oxnard, Calif., noted that interactive displays are helpful in marketing travel products, as is social media.
"Our stores that engage in social media marketing also see a lot of success," Ross said. "We will happily provide content to customers requesting it."
When it comes to displaying travel items, retailers agreed that an organized, designated area is key to sales success.
"We have a travel section where the popular [Snoozer] Lookout [Dog] Car Seats are displayed on shelves and most of our other products are either on shelves or pegged, which takes up about 12 linear feet," said Britt Sturm, vice president of Agri Feed Pet Supply, which has stores in Knoxville, Tenn. "It is important to be neat, organized and make sure you have a nice product selection in stock. The convenience of the internet makes it so easy for a retailer to lose a sale if we don’t have what the customer is looking for right away."
At Pawz on Main, a pet store in Cottonwood, Ariz., in-demand travel products are grouped in an easy-to-find presentation.
"Collapsible travel bowls by Dexas are best-sellers, and I display them on a large wood and iron trunk sitting next to the checkout counter," said owner Denise Strong. "Seat belts, tethers and poop bags are in the same location."
At Dog Krazy, which has multiple locations in Virginia, travel products have their own section, said owner Nancy Guinn.
"People come in to pick up one item, and then see others that they need," she said. "When we can make sure they get everything they need for their outing in one trip, it’s the perfect purchase."
Further, as many Dog Krazy employees bring their dogs along on their own trips, their personal order requests assist Guinn in maintaining a cutting-edge product mix.
"They ask me to order things I would not have thought of," she said.