Calm and Controlled
Products designed to help dog and cat owners with training and behavior issues are majoring in
multifunction and ease of use while maintaining quality and durability.
“Pet owners are becoming more discerning when it comes to the products they choose for their pets as new
information regarding health and safety is constantly emerging. Because of this, training products are being
developed with less harmful methods in mind that are proven to render better, more positive results.”
—Bryant Baxter of EzyDog
BY SANDY CHEBAT
Training principles and techniques have changed over the years, which is reflected in the products that are now available for working with dogs and cats.
“Thought leaders within the pet training community and training techniques seem to be shifting into two
camps: reward-based training and discipline-based training,” said Kevin Dixon, founder and CEO of Clawguard
in Charlotte, N.C.
These training principles are mirrored in human psychology and in child rearing, said Benjamin Garson, a canine
behavioral specialist at Dogology, which has two locations
Both industry insiders said discipline-based training
uses more force, such as choke chains, shock collars, a jerk
of the leash or scolding. Reward-based training focuses on
reinforcing positive behaviors and is reminiscent of Pavlov’s
classical conditioning, they said.
“My personal training philosophy is pulling for both,”
Garson said. “Some old methods can be harsh and not safe
or effective, and the positive-only is flawed as dogs need
clear boundaries and clear correction.”
Pet owners are increasingly seeking training and behav-
ior products, which are, fortunately, becoming more accessi-
ble, said Bianca Rossi, head of marketing, Americas, for The
Company of Animals in Davenport, Fla.
“Being able to watch online videos, review product specifications and access size guides, all from the comfort of your computer, tablet or phone,
has made training and behavior products more available than ever before to more audiences than ever before,” she said.
Shoppers’ expectations concerning product quality and performance in the category
are rising, insiders said.
“Pet owners are becoming more discerning when it comes to the products they choose
for their pets as new information regarding health and safety is constantly emerging,”
said Bryant Baxter, marketing sales coordinator at EzyDog in Sandpoint, Idaho. “Be-
cause of this, training products are being developed with less harmful methods in mind
that are proven to render better, more positive results.”
Pet owners are also gravitating toward products that fulfill more than one need
at once, such as leashes that can be used in different ways depending on the needs
of the user at any given time, according to insiders.
“People are really drawn to the value proposition of products that have multiple
functions,” said Krista Nixon, category manager of toys and behavior at Knoxville,
Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp., maker of the PetSafe brand. “They love the ease of
having integrated features that allow them to seamlessly transition throughout the day
with their pet.”
For cats, harnesses are a big trend, along with products that calm or entertain to curb
boredom, insiders said.
“People want to take their cats outdoors and on more walks outside, so harnesses are
more popular,” said Eran Konorty, founder and CEO of Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto.
“We’re seeing more smart toys and mobile app toys for cats. Functionality and ease is
key with cats.”
TAKE OWNERSHIP OF EDUCATING CLIENTS
With so many training methods available and a vast array of solutions on the market, it’s
essential that pet specialty retailers take the time to educate pet owners and help them find
the right products for their situation.
“Without a doubt, education is one of the most important factors when it comes to
choosing the best training and behavior products as a pet parent,” said Bianca Rossi, head
of marketing, Americas, for The Company of Animals in Davenport, Fla. “By understanding
product features and their benefits, it allows pet parents to have complete control in their
At Just Dog People in Garner, N.C., owner Jason Ast said he takes time to work with
customers and find solutions for them.
Because the training process is not one-size-fits-all, pet owners must understand their
pets’ unique needs and cater to them, said Ryan Hubbard, category manager of training and
bark at Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp., maker of the PetSafe brand.
“Each pet reacts differently to different training methods,” he said. “It is very important to
understand the temperament of each pet before selecting a training device.”
Many owners head online for this education, said Kim Sykes, CPDT-KA, vice president
of K9 Manners & More in Broken Arrow, Okla. But not all the information is correct or
appropriate for each pet’s case, she added.
At Dogology, which has two locations in Connecticut, sales associates avoid selling certain
training products to clients who are not working with a trainer.
“You can hurt your dog or use products in ineffective ways if you aren’t learning how
to use it appropriately,” said Benjamin Garson, canine behavioral specialist at Dogology.
“Anything that goes on the throat—a slip lead, a [PetSafe] Gentle Leader, a prong collar—we
recommend consulting first.”
Because shoppers are inundated with products, store associates really need to step in
and help, said Eran Konorty, founder and CEO of Angel Pet Supplies in Toronto.
“It’s fundamental on the store level,” he said. “Education of the retailer/staff is paramount
to help customers.”