Dog Grooming Products

As consumers seek safer products for their pets, manufacturers are focusing on creating all-natural grooming solutions.




What most pet owners mean when they look for all-natural, organic or holistic items is simple: they want healthy, safe, effective products for their pets. There’s been so much information tossed around in the media and on the internet about harmful ingredients, people have become frightened of purchasing a product containing chemicals—but  everything has chemicals. They aren’t inherently bad—water, H2O, is a chemical.

Retail staffers often get asked difficult questions such as, “Is this all natural?”, “Is this shampoo gluten-free?” or, “Does this grooming spray have anything made with GMOs in it?” These are tough to answer, as all-natural doesn't have an exact definition. Gluten is only relevant if it is being eaten, so its presence or absence in shampoo shouldn't matter. It would be difficult to identify whether GMOs were used at any time in the processing of ingredients in a given product, as they are pretty pervasive these days. Consumers can mistakenly identify an ingredient as bad without looking at what percentage is present or what its purpose is.


“Retailing more wholesome ingredients in pet grooming products is a noble effort, as long as safety, effectiveness and truthfulness are maintained,” says Dave Campanella, sales and marketing director for Best Shot Pet Products based in Frankfort, Ky. “Natural grooming products typically convey safety and effectiveness by calling out less concerning or controversial ingredients.”


A common question about shampoos is whether they contain sulfates such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and its milder relative, sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). These have been used in human cosmetics for many years, as well as in the pharmaceutical industry. SLS is an ingredient that helps tablets dissolve, while SLES is a common emulsifier. They clean extremely well, which makes them popular to use in shampoo, but they have gotten a bad reputation. In high concentration, they can be drying or irritating to skin, but they are rarely used in such a way. Many manufacturers of natural products choose not to use them, favoring alternatives with less controversy surrounding them.


What’s important is for retailers to know what is in a product, whether it contains ingredients generally thought to be harmful, and what the ingredients are meant to do. Customers will be reassured by the knowledge, whether something sounds like a chemical or a natural ingredient.


Some product lines have been developed in response to pet owners’ search for ingredients they are comfortable with. Beth Sommers, president and chief merchandising officer for Pura Naturals Pet, says a dog with allergies spurred the beginning of her company. “I’m big on reading labels, and when I had difficulty finding natural and organic products, I created Pura Naturals Pet,” she says.


The Ardsley, N.Y.-based company is ingredient focused, working with certified organic and all-natural ingredients that often have a dual purpose. For instance, its Nose Rescue not only moisturizes dry or cracked noses, it also provides a natural SPF 17 rating. The company’s shampoos are designed to both moisturize and aid in de-shedding. Better yet, Pura Naturals Pet is all about providing knowledge about their products to retailers. Ingredients are listed on the website and attractive sell sheets that explain the technology and benefits.


“As more people adopt a healthy lifestyle, they seek products that are safe and effective,” says Sommers. “You don’t need products that are laden with toxic chemicals and preservatives that can be harmful to your pets, family and the environment. More retailers are carving out sections to promote natural products as customers look for healthier options.”


Opie & Dixie was also started based on a pet owner’s needs. Debbie Guardian, president and founder of the San Francisco-based company, had begun using more natural and organic products for herself, but was unable to find certified organic products for her two rescued mixed breeds, Opal (Opie) and Dixie. So, in 2008, she developed her own line of all-natural, chemical-free skin care treatments and grooming products for dogs and cats. Certified organic ingredients are listed on the website, and the benefits of each are explained, making it easy for retailers to help customers understand why a product works.


“Our brand has an authentic home-grown quality,” says Guardian. “It’s as far removed from mass market as you can imagine, and we are true to our eco-friendly beliefs in every way. Not only are our ingredients Leaping Bunny certified cruelty-free and free of sulfates, parabens, synthetics and chemicals, our written materials are printed with soy-based ink on 50 percent post-consumer recycled paper and our packaging is fully-eco-friendly as well, from our containers to our labels.”


Longview, Texas-based Bio-Groom based its shampoo formulas on a more natural, gentle foundation long before natural became a selling point. Peggy Smith, media and marketing expert for Bio-Groom, believes the company’s natural ingredients stand apart.


“Our naturally pure cleansing ingredients are from regrowable sources such as coconut, corn or palm kernel oils,” says Smith. “To complement our naturally based shampoo, we select ‘natural’ additives of the highest quality or grade, recognized to moisturize and condition skin and coat, such as aloe vera, camomile, lanolin and others.”


The company uses a non-animal testing procedure, done by an outside laboratory, to determine the exact mildness of each shampoo, and results indicate they are exceptionally non-irritating.


“Bio-Groom’s Herbal Groom is a perfect example of a natural product,” adds Smith. “Herbal Groom is tearless and contains protein, lanolin, natural cleansers, aloe vera, chamomile, rosemary, lemongrass, hops, yarrow, matricaria and balm mint.”


Another early entry into the natural grooming products category was Cosmos Corporation’s Wentzville, Mo.-based Tropiclean, which boasts a number of grooming products that emphasize both a natural aspect and addressing specific issues for consumers.


“Pet parents will seek out healthy products that improve and enrich the lives of their pets,” says James Brandly, content writer and public relations manager for Cosmos Corporation. “Almost all pet parents that purchase grooming products buy shampoo, and the majority purchase shampoo with specific needs, like de-shedding, odor control and itch relief. When stocking natural products in the grooming category, keep brands together, and make sure the products answer your consumer’s needs.”


While shampoos may be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of natural grooming products, there are a number of others that are important to stock in the natural section. Opie & Dixie offers Organic Healing Paw Balm, also great for nicks, scrapes or cuts; Organic Ear Wash with peppermint, spearmint, lemon eucalyptus, tea tree and organic rosemary; and Organic Rosehips Dry Shampoo that also doubles as a brushing aid.


Angels’ Eyes offers an all-natural remedy for tear stains that works in part by boosting the immune system. With ingredients like cranberry powder, Oregon grape root, marshmallow root and colostrum powder, it is 100 percent natural. This is one of the product components—along with tear stain wipes and whitening shampoo—in their Tear Stain Starter Kit. Soft chews and powdered supplements are both available for tear stain control as well. Angels’ Eyes also provides natural remedies for dry noses, dry or cracked paw pads, and a skin and coat supplement.


Most manufacturers are happy to help retailers better understand the benefits of their products and in the natural category, it’s vital to be able to describe to customers what a product includes and what function each ingredient provides. Being able to reassure customers as to both the safety and effectiveness of purchases will help drive further sales. Although customers may be looking for a natural, gentle and safe grooming product for their pet, they also want to know that it will work on their particular issue. Natural and organic products are as solution driven as anything else in the store, and most customers seeking natural items mainly want to know if it’s safe, gentle and effective. PB


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