Dog owners want to participate in summer outdoor activities, and retailers and manufacturers are helping pups stay safe.
After a long winter’s nap, or a long winter of frolicking in the snow, dogs and their humans are ready for some walking, hiking and swimming, not to mention road trips. Some of these fun activities do pose some risks though. Fortunately, manufacturers have developed products to keep the dogs safe on land, water and in a vehicle.
“Pets are like our children; we love and care for them and want to protect them as much as possible,” says Erica Brock, business development assistant for Envision, Inc., in Wichita, Kan. The company makes the PetNV line of reflective dog collars, leashes and companion belts. “Owners will be more than willing to purchase a product that will keep their dog safe and alive.”
Brock notes that when the weather gets warm, people are more likely to walk their dogs early in the morning or after dusk when it is dark outside, which puts them at risk of being hit by a vehicle.
“The driver is unable to see a dark-clothed pedestrian or a pet crossing the road from more than 164 feet away, yet will need 328 feet to safely stop,” Brock says. “Our PetNV products will make that same pet or pedestrian visible from 446 feet away, giving the driver ample time to safely stop.”
She adds that the PetNV line uses U.S. military-quality prismatic reflective material, which is able to reflect light up to 1,500 times brighter than white fabric, even in wet conditions.
Style is also important in safety-related products, says Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, Inc., in Alliance, Ohio. “Consumers are looking for new and fashionable products that are also safe,” she says. The company conducted consumer research and determined that consumers want reflective properties built into the product with reflective stitching and patterns. Coastal Pet responded with Lazer Brite reflective leashes, collars and mesh harnesses.
The Lazer Brite collection features the same reflective material used by safety professionals and is visible from up to 600 feet. The Lazer Brite items maximize reflectivity for nighttime safety and have fashionable patterns on brightly colored nylon.
“To be safe, you must be seen,” Thomas says. She adds that retailers should merchandise the products by featuring them in lighting that showcases their reflectivity. Another way to bring attention to these products is to build displays centered on a theme, such as solutions for nighttime walking.
Displays are essential because dog owners sometimes do not know exactly what type of products they need when they want to take their loved ones hiking or running. For example, they might not realize they need to protect their dogs from heat exhaustion, says Jennifer Cao, designer and vice president for ZippyPaws in Chino, Calif. To offer this type of protection, the company introduced the ZippyPaws Cooling Vest, which contains cooling polymer crystals. The human can soak the vest in a stream or other water source for five minutes, and the vest absorbs water that evaporates throughout the day to keep the dog cool. ZippyPaws provides fliers and other materials to the stores so retailers can learn more about the product.
“We do recommend these for people who take their dogs for long hikes with little or no shade,” Cao says. “Dogs tend to have higher body temperature. They are panting, having fun but they are hot.”
The ZippyPaws Cooling Vest doubles as a safety vest because it features bright colors, so the dog can be seen while hiking, camping or hunting. ZippyPaws recently redesigned the vest with a different cut to cover more of the dog’s body. The large size now has a chest strap to fit the dog better. Also, the vest now comes in blue, in addition to the already available orange.
Cao says the safety category is growing. “The category is not going away,” she says. “The trend is people are having kids later and taking their dogs everywhere.”
Everywhere includes the water, as people bring their dogs onto boats and into the surf. These water adventures can be fun but sometimes dangerous. “Whether it is running water, rivers, falling out of boats or just pushing the swimming limits, additional support makes these activities much safer,” says Katie Wood, sales and marketing coordinator for EzyDog. The Sandpoint, Idaho-based company makes dog floatation devices (DFDs) and other items for outdoor activities.
Wood says EzyDog uses 50 percent more floatation in its DFDs, compared to many of the other products on the market. “Our life vests, while they look great, are geared for function much more than the many available fashion life vests.”
The EzyDog Doggy Floatation Vest features an ergonomic grab handle, which the human can use to help the dog in and out of the water. The vest is designed to be quick and easy to put on, has a D-ring to attach a leash, and is also reflective for nighttime safety.
Wood says retailers can succeed in the category if they merchandise the life vests by color. Also, EzyDog supplies videos and banners to explain the product. “This will allow the consumer to make an informed decision,” she says. “Maintaining adequate stock levels in full size runs will allow customers to make an immediate purchase.”
Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and even dogs that can swim get tired or panicky, says Chauncey Wunder, vice president of sales and marketing for Fido Pet Products in Indianapolis. If a dog that is not wearing a life jacket slips from a boat into the water, the dog will not automatically be able to swim back to the boat. Even if the pup can swim, it is difficult for the dog to climb into the boat. Sometimes the human jumps into the water to help, creating an even more dramatic scenario.
“Imagine you don’t have a life jacket, that’s dangerous for the human as well because the dog is climbing on you,” says Wunder.
Fido Pet Products offers the PAWS Aboard Doggie Boat Ladder, which attaches to the boat ladder and reaches deep into the water so the dog can walk up the steps and into the boat. “They have a way of getting out of the water,” Wunder says. “It keeps them calmer so they are not freaking out.”
To help educate dog owners and retailers about the product, which folds in half for easy storage, Fido Pet Products posted videos on its website and on its Facebook page showing dogs using the PAWS Aboard Doggie Boat Ladder. The company also makes PAWS Aboard Pet Life Jackets that provide buoyancy, with bright colors and reflective strips to make the dog visible in the water.
There is also the FidoRido booster seat and restraint system to keep the dog safe in the car. “People don’t understand there are laws in place in five states that make free roaming in the car illegal,” she says. “You see dogs on drivers’ laps, in passenger seats. FidoRido makes it safe for you and the dog.”
Safety is critical when traveling by car. “For your pet’s safety and yours, you should restrain your dog while driving in the car,” says Gordie Spater, co-owner of Kurgo, based in Salisbury, Mass. “Unrestrained dogs can get into the front seat or into cargo and cause distracted driving accidents. Dogs can also fly through the window or hit human passengers and injure them. You buckle up your kids, so you should buckle up your dog.”
Kurgo recently introduced the Impact Harness, a car safety harness crash-tested for dogs up to 130 pounds. It has a continuous loop of webbing and all-metal buckles similar to the ones used by mountain climbers. “This makes it stronger and able to keep your pet safe in the case of a short stop or accident,” Spater says.
Retailers can generate interest in these products by emphasizing the summer adventure theme. Solution-oriented merchandising works well, such as showing products that can help with summer travel and road trips to remind consumers they need gear. Visual cues can help too. “Providing stuffed dogs wearing harnesses gives customers an idea of how the harness works, and they can touch and feel the quality,” Spater says.