Traveling with Pets
Manufacturers are introducing products that make it easier than ever to travel with pets.
People are taking their pets on everything from quick errand-runs to far-off vacations and even business trips. Manufacturers are helping to make sure these loved ones travel comfortably and safely by providing greater variety than ever.
“There’s more to pet travel than a container to put the animal in,” says Bob Thorne, president of SmartPetLove. “We try to look at the pet and we try to look at the owner, and the needs that both have.”
Calming products are among those needs. Some dogs don’t like to ride in a car, while others become overwhelmed by new scents, sights and sounds when they arrive at their destination. The Novi, Mich.-based company manufactures Snuggle Puppy, a plush animal that contains heartbeat technology, so that the pup is soothed by the pulse.
SmartPetLove also makes the Safe & Sound Harness, which contains the heartbeat technology to calm the dog while walking. The harness can also clip into the seatbelt in a car, to ease the dog’s anxiety during a drive and to protect the dog from becoming a projectile if the human slams on the brakes. “The innovation in the harness we created was based on the fact [that traveling with pets is becoming more popular],” says Thorne. “For almost a decade now, that’s why you are seeing more hotels that are pet friendly. They have to be; otherwise they won’t get [pet-owning] customers.”
For pets that stay in hotels, SmartPetLove offers the Snuggle Bed, which can act as a mat for dogs to lie on top of, or as a blanket pocket for a small dog to lie inside. The bed can also serve as a pillow sham so the pet owner can slip a pillow into it and turn it into a dog bed. “I’ve never seen a hotel without an extra pillow,” Thorne says. “You don’t have to carry around a bulky blanket.”
The company will soon launch durable plush dog toys. While toys are not typically considered to be a travel product, they can ease the anxiety some dogs suffer when they are left in an unfamiliar room while the human goes sightseeing or to a conference.
The pet travel category is growing, Thorne says, in the U.S. and in other countries. SmartPetLove will soon start selling products in China to a growing middle class that has discretionary income and is starting to travel with pets.
No matter where they travel, pet owners are demanding products that boast safety and convenience and feature materials that are durable and comfortable, says Katie Wood, sales and marketing coordinator for EzyDog, which makes travel harnesses and other accessories. “We focus our product development in these areas in an effort to provide the best products that a consumer will love to use with their pet,” she says.
The Sandpoint, Idaho-based company will soon launch a crash-tested harness for use in automobiles, its latest innovation in a category that Wood expects will continue growing. “The sky is the limit,” she says. “The more we take our pets with us and make their comfort and safety a priority, the more innovative and creative this category becomes.”
Safety and comfort are also important in airline travel. Sherpa, a brand of Worldwise, Inc., in Novato, Calif., offers a new design of its Sherpa Ultimate On Wheels pet carrier. The carrier features recessed wheels for easy-glide motion and a detachable padded pull strap, mesh panels on all four sides to provide ventilation, and roll-down flaps to provide privacy to soothe stressed pets when traveling. The padded, adjustable shoulder strap doubles as a comfortable, easy-to-use pull strap. The new size is included in Sherpa’s Guaranteed On Board program, which enables the pet parent to go online before traveling and make sure the pet carrier meets the requirements for that airline and that flight. The traveler can print a Guaranteed On Board certificate and present it to the gate agent.
“The latest trends in the pet carrier category are safety and functionality first, then followed by design, style and color trends,” says Neil Werde, managing director of canine development at Worldwise. “Trends in the colors, textures and features of pet carriers often mirror or follow human handbag fashion trends.”
Sherpa has worked to improve the materials in its carriers. “As new technologies become available, we have been able to improve the durability and strength of our carriers from the nylon to the mesh,” says Werde. “We strive to produce a durable bag at a competitive price point.”
For car travel, Worldwise last year introduced the Sherpa Safety Suite, which can secure any brand of soft-sided pet carrier in a safe position using the standard latch system. The design works to prevent tipping, sliding and lateral shifting. Consumers are looking for these safety-related products, Werde says, especially as more states are enforcing laws about restraining pets in moving vehicles.
More people are seeking solutions to keep their pet safe in the car, agrees Gordie Spater, co-owner of Kurgo, in Salisbury, Mass. “We have seen a huge increase in the sales of crash-tested auto harnesses and seat belts for dogs. People are also asking a lot of questions about features and testing,” he says.
Kurgo recently launched the Impact Harness, which has passed crash tests with dogs up to 130 pounds. “It’s a single piece of webbing, which makes it stronger as there are fewer stitch points,” says Spater. “It also has all-metal hardware based on the same types of materials used in rock-climbing harnesses.”
Appearance is also important. Kurgo recently added new patterns for cat seat covers. The Heather Nutmeg is a stylish update to the typical khaki, and the Heather Charcoal is an update to the standard grey. They are available in both a hammock and bench seat cover.
Dining on the Road
Of course, pets also need food and water while traveling. Kurgo, which makes the Collaps A Bowl, will launch the Gourd Water Bottle & Bowl, a water bottle that a human can drink out of, with a small detachable bowl where water can be poured for the dog to drink. “People have been asking for a solution to carry water for both human and dogs for a long time, and we think we have a great option,” says Spater.
The food and water carrying segment is growing. “It is definitely an increasing category,” says Chris Allen, vice president of Lansing, Mich.-based Poochie Bowl. “The innovation and the products available for travel in the pet industry in the last three to five years has changed drastically, in terms of things offered.”
The Poochie Bowl features an anti-tip design with a spill-proof lid that doubles as a non-skid base. The company recently updated the design so that now there are two lids, one for the top and one for the bottom. The human can store food in one side of the bowl and water on the other. The dog eats, and then the person can put the lid on the bowl, flip it over, and open the side with water. “Our goal is to eliminate the messiness of traveling with your dog,” says Allen. “A lot of people didn’t want to carry one bowl for food and one bowl for water.”
The Poochie Bowl is a hard plastic, BPA-free bowl and is available in six colors. Allen says the pet travel food and water bowl segment will continue to grow. “I think products and companies continue to innovate and create these new products, and it is becoming easier to travel with your dog,” he says. “We are continuing this trend of our pets becoming our children.”
Functionality is a big trend in pet travel products, and consumers are looking for items that do more than one task, says Kim Goldsworthy, general manager of sales and marketing for Heyrex. The Auckland, New Zealand company offers the Torus bowl, which is a watering system and portable storage bowl in one. The Torus bowl stores up to two liters of water in its reservoir walls, and automatically dispenses filtered water without batteries or a power source. The design allows for the water to dispense even in moving vehicles. Heyrex also offers a one-liter bowl for smaller pets.
This year Heyrex is launching a soluble health supplement range for cats and dogs for use in both the one- and two-liter Torus watering bowls. The range will include Electrolyte, Immunity, Joint and Probiotic.
“We believe that you will see more products coming into the space offering innovation, new technology and increased functionality,” says Goldsworthy. “Pet parents will have multiple products to meet their varied requirements.”
Compactness is another important feature in on-the-road feeding solutions. “It certainly is appealing to folks who take their dogs along if the pet products have space-saving features, collapsibility, are easy to pop open quickly for use, and are easy to clean by running through the dishwasher,” says Jeff Logan, director of marketing for Dexas International in Coppell, Texas.
The company is seeing success with its Snack-DuO, a dual-chamber pet hydration bottle that holds kibble and water in the same cylinder. The product can also help promote interaction between dog and owner because they a break together and relax during an activity.
Dexas also offers the Collapsible KlipScoop, which is a combination food scoop, collapsible measuring cup, and a sturdy bag clip built into the handle. “You never have to search for your pet’s food scoop, nor does it have to lay inside the bag with the food,” says Logan. “We certainly believe that the pet travel items category is going to continue to expand now that we are all in firm agreement that dogs are people, too.”