Toys that alleviate boredom are all the rage among pet owners that
need extra help curbing bad behaviors and overcoming training challenges.
BY KEITH LORIA
Pet owners are choosing to educate themselves and become more involved in the process of training their pets, creating ample sales opportunities for pet specialty retailers.
“[Training] not only creates a more disciplined environment for
the pet, but helps pets and pet parents to strengthen their bond,” said
Patricia McCune, senior product manager for Petmate in Arlington,
Texas. “Behavior and training toys are being designed and created
with both the pet and ‘trainer’ in mind. Simple, effective function is
Toni Lynn Mark, training and behavior education specialist for
PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp., said
one of the most popular trends the company has recently noticed is
to present the dog with a challenge.
“Toys that encourage dogs to work for their food or reward can
be both mentally and physically stimulating,” she said. “This type
of enrichment is very helpful for all dogs, especially ones that might
have a lot of energy or dogs that do not have regular opportunities
to enjoy new things. Toys that present a challenge can also be great
for redirecting a dog’s destructive chewing behavior with items such
as shoes or a child’s toy.”
Sue Tasa, director of education at Pet Food Express, a multistore
chain in California, said that the stores are seeing the most innovation
in the interactive toy segment.
“Manufacturers are producing toys that are challenging more and
more of a dog’s natural behaviors and even engaging multiple senses
such as sight and smell,” she said. “This creates not only an interest-
ing and engaging experience for the pet, but we find that pet own-
ers really enjoy watching their pets interact with these types of toys.
Subsequently, we find these customers coming back again and again,
seeking out new and innovative toys to add to their dog’s ‘toy box.’”
“An occupied and mentally stimulated dog is a better-behaved
dog,” said Dan Hutchison, owner of Wag N’ Wash in Eagan, Minn.
Pattie Boden, manager of Animal Connection in Charlottesville,
Va., said that any behavior toy that involves a dog figuring out how
to get a treat out of the toy flies out of her store.
“Especially the ones that combine a longer-lasting treat like a
bully stick rather than kibble or tiny treats,” she said. “As far as
training toys go, things made out of seatbelt-type fabric, toys that
float and toys that last during dog park play are what work best
for our customers.”
Emily Benson, marketing director for Starmark Pet Products in
Hutto, Texas, said that as pet owners are looking for more ways to
keep their pets occupied, manufacturers are responding with more
innovative and complex designs for puzzle toys.
“Many of these toys function so that the pet must use or manipulate the toy in some way in order to receive a food reward,” she said.
“Clicker training with treats can be beneficial in the grooming
environment to make the job easier on both the pet and the groomer,”
Benson added. “With this training aid, groomers, as well as pet owners, can accustom their pet to standing in position, having feet held,
and even the sounds and sensations of the equipment being used.”
“[Training] not only creates a more disciplined environment for the pet,
but helps pets and pet parents to strengthen their bond.”
—Patricia McCune of Petmate