Dog Calming Aids & Behavior Modification
Retailers can recommend these soothing products that keep pets content and comfortable.
According to the ASPCA’s National Rehoming Survey, pet problems are the most common reason that owners rehome their pet, accounting for 47 percent of rehomed dogs and 42 percent of rehomed cats. This included things like health problems or growing larger than expected, but most are defined as problematic behaviors or aggressive behaviors.
With this in mind retailers should find a few good trainers and work with them on a co-referral. People attending classes need equipment and general dog supplies, and people seeking help with behavior problems may need training classes or a consultation. The easier training is, the less likely a pet owner will throw in the towel and surrender their pet to the nearest shelter. In addition to keeping those trainers’ business cards handy, retailers can offer products that distract and keep pets busy, items that make training easier, innovations that help calm pets, and supplements and aids that can be administered to relieve anxiety.
Motivational training is replacing coercive training for many people, and Starmark Pet Products offers items to make it easy. According to Keith Benson, training & behavior specialist and president/COO of Starmark Academy, Starmark Animal Behavior Center and Starmark Pet Products, based in Hutto, Texas, good behavior starts with a healthy dose of exercise.
“A healthy dog normally has energy to spare, and daily exercise, play and even training sessions help dispel some of that energy into something good for him,” says Benson. “Behaviors like chewing, digging and excessive barking can arise from lack of sufficient activity.”
Starmark offers a number of toys that can be useful in solving problems such as destructiveness or hyperactivity, Chew Ball or Bob-A-Lot being two of the treat dispensing types. Other toys encourage chewing—a favorite canine activity.
“It’s important to remember that dogs need to be taught what is expected of them and what behaviors are not acceptable,” says Benson. “Establishing a clear, effective means of communication is essential in maintaining a lifelong relationship with your dog, and training with consistency and patience is key in creating that.”
Starmark sells the Quicker Clicker for training. It uses the sound of a click that becomes associated with a reward to mark a wanted behavior. It can be clipped to a pocket or treat pouch for hands-free use, and Starmark offers a free online training guide and video to help pet owners through the process. The company also offers training solution guides to help pet owners with leash pulling or jumping up, too.
Sometimes a pet owner might need to help a dog understand what behavior they want them to stop. To this end, Canine Innovations, based in Mt. Clemens, Mich., created the Pet Convincer, a simple hand-held device made in the USA that when triggered by a person emits a blast of air and a noise only the dog can hear. This distracts the dog and stops the unwanted behavior, offering the owner the opportunity to praise the behavior that they do want.
“At a time when countless dogs are being surrendered to animal shelters due to financial problems and/or behavior problems, this tool could be a priceless way to save a dog currently considered ‘unfixable,’” said Gerald Deren, former vice president of business development.
With the extension of the family unit to include pets for so many people comes the desire to use popular human remedies for their beloved companions and in many cases this works.
Sue Kemp, assistant manager at Worldly Pets, a retail pet store in Marblehead, Mass., says that the most common behavioral issues that her customers report are separation anxiety, excessive barking and stress due to noise—mostly thunder and fireworks. Worldly Pets has had success addressing these issues with flower essences, carries a line by cat expert Jackson Galaxy that has answers for most common problems.
“My most prominent success story is with a Mastiff mix who had separation anxiety so severe that the owner was afraid that she would be forced to leave her condo and the dog would severely injure himself or escape through a destroyed door or window,” says Kemp. “After trying massage, acupuncture and other solutions, they eventually got the problem under control with a combination of the [Jackson Galaxy] essences Pet Calm and Stress Stopper.”
There’s a lot of interest in this type of “cause no harm” approaches and products on the part of both retailers and pet owners, according to Susan Goldstein, co-founder of Earth Animal based in Westport, Conn. There are always prescription drugs available to help with behavioral issues, but Goldstein believes that they do not heal, but rather just stop symptoms.
“Flower essences and homeopathics work, as do herbals, and they have no side effects. They do heal,” says Goldstein. “Flower essence is derived from plants; it’s an energy balance product.”
Goldstein has been working with flower essences since the 1980s and says that creating emotional balance in animals aids healing. Earth Animal’s Organic Herbal Remedies target many issues, but its product Calm Down is a natural, herbal tranquilizer that can be used to treat anxiety and is especially good for rescued animals. It’s also good for aggression, jealousy and previous emotional or physical abuse. She recommends that retailers sell it at the register during summer months because of fireworks, thunder and traveling, which can be stressful for pets.
Cannabidiol, or CBD oil, is another crossover from human supplements. Its increasing use among humans—for helping delay the onset of geriatric confusion and discomfort to soothing anxiety—has lent itself to increasing sales in the pet retail arena.
Nicoll Vincent, owner of For K-9s & Felines in Westfield, Mass., looked into CBD oil carefully before choosing to offer it in her retail store. CBD is one of over 60 compounds called cannabinoids. Unlike others—such as THC—CBD does not produce a high.
“It’s not weed for dogs. There’s no psychoactive effect whatsoever,” says Vincent. “But because it is new and there are a lot of companies opening up, you have to be very careful. It’s not regulated.” It’s important to be sure that pet CBD does not contain any THC, which dogs and cats do not metabolize as humans do.
Diamond CBD which makes MediPets CBDs offers variations on delivery methods to accommodate different pets, both cats and dogs. The company agree that testing is important, so all of its products go through rigorous lab testing to ensure no synthetics or illegal substances are included, and it uses only quality industrial hemp. Adam Mizrahi, marketing director of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based MediPets, explains why the company tests its products so rigorously and uses the ingredients it does.
“It is important to us that we use natural, organic hemp because we understand how important a pet is to someone—that they are not just a companion, but a member of the family,” says Mizrahi. “That’s why we make sure that only the best, all-natural ingredients go into all of our products.”
Cannabidiol has the benefits that people associate with medical marijuana, without the high that comes with that drug. CBDs can be used for a number of issues, from dementia to pain management to seizures, but anxiety issues are a major cause of its use.
Dave Merrell, founder of the Healthy Hemp Pet Company, based in Salt Lake City, had a dog with hip problems that led him to look for products that would help. He couldn’t find any that had full disclosure on ingredients or accurate instructions for dosage, so he decided to create it himself. His first product had 2 mg per biscuit and that was noted on the package.
“We use certified-organic hemp and chemical-free extraction,” says Merrell. With options like CannaDrops in either salmon or coconut oil, the original CannaNatural biscuits, a spray, a balm and a grind, Healthy Hemp has a way to deliver CBDs that cats and dogs will appreciate.
There are still more innovative products to offer customers for anxiety, whether chronic or acute. For example, H & C Animal Health makes Feliway Classic, a popular remedy available in a diffuser or a spray. The scent mimics the comforting pheromones released when a cat rubs its face on people or furniture to mark it. That pheromone tells the cat it’s a safe place or person. Adaptil Calm is for dogs and mimics the calming pheromone that mother dogs emit when birthing puppies to help them feel safe.
“Loud noises, visitors, being home alone and trips to the vet or groomer may cause a dog to feel anxious, resulting in unwanted stress-related behaviors,” say Jules Smith, assistant brand manager for Parker, Colo.-based H & C Animal Health. “Using Adaptil Calm can help relieve the fear and anxiety a dog feels, reducing stress-related behaviors”.
The ThunderShirt is fairly well known for alleviating anxiety. Available in sizes to fit any dog or cat, it’s held on with hook and loop fasteners. It applies gentle, constant pressure—like swaddling an infant—which has a dramatic calming effect. Initially marketed for dogs afraid of thunder, it’s been used successfully for separation anxiety, travel, trips to the vet and more.
“Over 80 percent of dog and cat-owning families experience anxiety and fear problems,” says Phil Blizzard, CEO and founder of Durham, N.C.-based Thunderworks. “While no single solution works for every pet, we at ThunderWorks have worked over the past nine years to develop a full product line of drug-free and natural products that can be tried separately or combined to boost the overall calming powers.”
Pet retailers should be open-minded when deciding which calming aids to stock. Pet parents will appreciate the knowledge and willingness to work with them to find the right solution to a distressing and all too common problem. Work to become the No. 1 resource for customers, and gain their loyalty and repeat business.
“It’s important for retailers to participate in educating pet families about their options,” says Blizzard. “The most important message?... ‘Try something!’ Our solutions are safe and backed by money-back guarantees. There really is nothing to lose and a lot to gain.” PB