BY LIZETT BOND
Plush, tough, interactive, entertaining. Today’s canine playthings contribute to myriad facets of a four-legged lifestyle, including exercise, play, prevention
of behavior problems, strengthening and
cleaning canine teeth, and simply warding
“We always encourage owners and fami-
lies to interact as much as possible by bond-
ing with their dog over a fun activity,” said
Michael Parness, chief marketing officer for
Outward Hound in Centennial, Colo. “Toys
are a great way to use up mental energy as
a preemptive measure, or to keep dogs busy
when they can’t be taken outside.”
The interactive qualities provided by toys
are also a consideration for pet owners when
they can’t be with their pets, said Jennifer
Cao, co-founder and designer at ZippyPaws
in Chino, Calif.
Some dogs are content to carry
their toys around or cuddle with them, she
“Demand for plush toys is growing substantially, with consumers constantly on the
lookout for cute, fun and unique styles that
will also satiate their dog’s appetite for play,”
Plush and rope dog toys are seeing steady growth in sales and
among the faster-growing segments within the durable pet care category, said Neil Werde, managing director of canine development
for Novato, Calif.-based Worldwise, maker of goDog and Hear Doggy brands.
Safety is another focal point when consumers consider a dog toy
purchase, Werde said.
Pet owners also look for value and size appropriateness, according to Parness.
“Chewing habits are a factor; for instance, is the dog an intense
chewer or one that likes to cuddle? Another element is how engag-
ing the individual dog finds a toy,” he said. “Age plays an important
role as well, because the needs of a puppy are very different than
those of an older dog.”
“Seasonal and holiday-themed toys are also hot sellers,” Parness
Products that align with the lifestyle of the consumer—such as
those that are good for outdoor activities or will travel with ease—
are trending, said Bill Parsons, sales manager at P.L.A. Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You) in San Francisco.
Active toys created for outdoor play take the sales forefront at
Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., said owner Pattie Boden.
“Our local dog park is right next to a river, so water toys are in
demand,” she said.
More items are featuring sustainable and eco-friendly materials,
Parness said. Interactive games, as well as manual and electronic
food-dispensing products, with refills sold separately, are in demand, he added.
“The lines are becoming blurred as to what constitutes a ‘toy.’
For example, hybrid products like treat-dispensing cameras are effectively toys—at least to a dog,” Parness said.
USA-made products comprise a high consumer priority, a category that is lacking in the world of pet toys, noted Boden.
“There are a few out there, but they don’t have the shelf appeal
of some of the overseas designs,” she said. “In my store, we focus
on locally and regionally made foods and treats, so the USA toy
selection fits right in with our marketing model.”
At The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vt., owner Cindra Conison said
that best-selling toys include those manufactured by West Paw. Soft
animals from Purple Pebble, which are squeaker, stuffing and small-
piece free, are also popular.
“Truthfully, we do not experience much demand for interactive
toys,” Conison said. “Instead, customers buy a lot of my chews to
occupy their dogs, but we do find customers buying toys as gifts.”
Pet Product News International August 2018
Filling the Toy Box
The market is chockfull of playthings that meet varying canine needs.
TO YOU IN PART BY
“Retailers do a great job in creating displays that really pop with color and
attract attention,” said Jennifer Cao, co-founder and designer at ZippyPaws
in Chino, Calif. “Many set up clip strips or tables near the front of their
stores to create buzz, display toy lifestyle photos, or show features and
Neil Werde, managing director of canine development for Novato,
Calif.-based Worldwise, maker of goDog and Hear Doggy brands, said
that sections and endcaps promoting seasonal fun can highlight products
promoting exercise, play and a healthy lifestyle.
“Toys always do well when displayed in theme-based containers or
sets,” said Bill Parsons, sales manager at P.L.A. Y. (Pet Lifestyle And You) in
At Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., toys are often grouped by theme,
holiday or season. However, owner Lorin Grow noted that moving and
changing displays will refresh the category and catch the consumer’s eye.
“Move them all the time,” she said. “Move them all over the store, hang
them in unlikely places—two weeks in one spot is long enough.”
A broad selection of items is another must, Grow added.
“Offer plenty of choices,” she said. “Toys fly out of our store daily;
frequent ordering and new offerings are critical to maintaining that
At The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vt., toys are exhibited on a built-in
hardwood shelf; however, a real, in-store tree also beckons shoppers, said
owner Cindra Conison.
“My store is so small, there is a natural flow to the bookshelves, but
sometimes I hang toys from the tree,” she said. “Apple baskets surrounding
the tree also hold toys.”
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