Play it Safe

The dog days of summer are filled with travel, leisure and plenty of outdoor activity, and retailers can help keep dogs safe with a seasonal products, advice and services.


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As summer approaches, it’s important for retailers to think about ensuring the safety of their customers’ four-legged companions. Heat exhaustion, dehydration, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas, sunburn, water hazards and even vacation travel pose real safety risks for animals. Retailers should help customers understand these risks and should be ready with products, services and information that help dog owners walk into summer safely.

Heat and dehydration pose the most immediate risks to dogs. Some breeds are particularly susceptible, and dog owners need to be especially mindful. Water bottles can carry hydration outdoors. Some bottles are designed with a handy fold-down trough that provides a drinking station for the dog. Collapsible bowls are lightweight and compact, and some bottle attachments let the dog drink right from the bottle.

Water needn’t simply be utilitarian, however. Toys that squirt, drip, freeze and spray will keep dogs hydrated while providing exercise and fun. Ice toys for dogs have been a big hit in recent years. These ice blocks can be filled with toys and treats and staked outside in the yard. As the dog licks and the ice melts, the toys and treats locked inside are gradually exposed.

Doggie ice cream and frozen goodies also provide cool, wet treats that are fun to share and easy to prepare.


Sun Exposure
Believe it or not, dogs can get sunburned. Be sure the grooming supplies section of the store stocks sunscreen for customers preparing vacations to the beach or lake. Ultraviolet sunrays can also damage a dog’s eyes. Doggie goggles–a fun  accessory–provide effective UV protection. They also protect eyes from flying grit if a dog is riding with its head out the window of a vehicle. And yes, they look cool, too.

If the dog will be outside for long periods of time, a portable shade tent provide a wonderful little oasis for rest time. These lightweight shelters are easy to pack up and carry along. Cooling mats are also great for scorching beaches, hot decks, boat docks and sunny lawns. The same principle has also has been applied to cooling bandanas that help lower a dog’s core temperature while it stays on the move.


Summer Travel
For many, summer means vacation travel. For highway travel, dog owners can ensure the safety of their pet with a harness that fits into their seat belt system. Doggie car seats that keep the animal enclosed and secure are generally suitable for smaller dogs. Simple crates–especially lightweight, soft-sided collapsible designs–also help keep pets secure while driving in the car and prevent luggage and other items from flying around and hurting the dog.

Remember to always make sure customers know how dangerous it is to leave a dog in a parked car in the heat–even moderate heat and even with the windows cracked. At our store, if customers need to run another quick shopping errand and they can’t take their dog along, we are quick to offer to watch the dog in our store rather than see it left in a car.

For air travel, look for airline-standard or airline-approved carriers that can be worn over the shoulder and that fully enclose the animal with plenty of ventilation.

Portable bowls, water bottles, food and snack containers, poop bags and clean-up wipes are must-have travel items, and storeowners would do well to stock plenty of choices to help guide customers through the various scenarios in which these items would be useful.

Retailers can distinguish themselves with customers by offering recommendations and tips about pet-friendly accommodations in some destinations, as well as other travel tips. Besides hotel and restaurants that welcome dogs, suggest local retailers, pet sitters or doggie daycare options. Local dog spas or do-it-yourself dog wash services might also be helpful. The point is that, in the interest of summer safety, the retailer has an opportunity to help customers plan fun activities they can share with their pets.


Play it Safe
People head for the shoreline when the weather turns hot, but water safety is often overlooked when it comes to dogs. Doggie life preservers keep pets safe on boats, docks, surf and lakes. And they’re not just for weak swimmers. We have several customers whose athletic Labs play to exhaustion in the water and their owners are worried they’ll go under. They fit their dogs with life preservers and let them play worry-free.

Water sports also present opportunities to sell grooming supplies for cleanup afterward.

In addition, mosquitoes, ticks and fleas can turn those summer days  into a season of tribulation. Chemical-based flea control products can only do so much, so retailers should also stock clippers, scissors, flea combs, tick nippers, brushes, shedding blades, shampoos, insect-repelling sprays and soothing hot-spot and bug-bite balms.

And finally, summer heat often prompts dog owners to take their exercise in the cool of the evening, to escape mid-day sun. Nighttime walks call for reflective collars, leads and vests. Lights and blinking strobes help motorists spot pedestrians and dogs.

Summer is a time for relaxation, travel, leisure and plenty of outdoor activity, and those dog days can seem carefree. Help customers by making pet safety a priority and by communicating that commitment with a good supply of products and services. 


Dan Headrick is a freelance writer who, with his wife Pam Guthrie, owns Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, N.C. The couple, former corporate burnouts who got fed up with leaving their dogs home alone all day, opened Wag in 2003. The store has received numerous community and industry awards.

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