Give It a Dry
Pet owners may not realize the value of quality at-home drying products, so retailers should seize the opportunity to offer both information and a good selection of towels and dryers.
To succeed in the drying category, retailers need to first show pet owners why these products are so important. Aside from the notorious wet dog smell, there are a number of pitfalls to warn customers about if they don’t thoroughly dry their pets.
Besides not rinsing soap out completely, failing to dry pets is the bathing error most likely to cause skin and coat trouble. Unless you are in a very arid climate, moisture left in the coat and on the skin can create a perfect breeding ground for fungal, bacterial or yeast problems. Dogs with allergies are particularly prone to these issues, but fully drying after bathing is important for all dogs. Even if serious skin irritations don’t ensue, slightly damp skin can cause general itching, odor and discomfort for the dog. Even those with short, fine coats may need a bit more help than just towel drying can provide.
Retailers can help prevent these issues for their customers by explaining the proper procedure for drying pets and recommending the right products to carry it out. The ideal process is to towel dry as much as possible, followed by drying with what professional groomers refer to as a “force” or “high-velocity” dryer.
Carmen Fiordirosa, marketing director for CleanTools, Inc., believes that most pet owners don’t give much thought to purchasing items for drying their pets, thinking that a towel is a towel. However, drying could be better, faster and easier if they choose the right towel.
“Retailers can help consumers by understanding the products they sell, offering more than one kind that fits specific drying needs and then carrying over that education with retail signage,” Fiordirosa says. “Many retailers have DIY dog wash stations in their stores. What better way to sell a product than to have the drying products you carry in your store to be exclusively used in your DIY wash area?”
Fiordirosa also suggests using callouts that quickly identify the differentiators of products, with a checklist of easily identifiable attributes that would help consumers decide what to purchase. For example, retailers could highlight the features of The Absorber, from CleanTools, pointing out that the sponge-like towel attracts water, wrings easily and keeps working, eliminating the need for multiple towels. The callout might also note the towel’s portable size and that it’s machine washable.
Another manufacturer of pet drying towels, Ray-Pet, a division of Rayson Healthcare, has a different toweling product to offer. The company’s lightweight Wet Pet towel is made of biodegradable natural fibers and can also be wrung and re-used until the dog is dry. Groomers also like to use them for the folds in facial skin on breeds such as Pugs or Bulldogs and know them to be great for speeding drying on sporting breeds’ ears. Although marketed as disposable due to the light weight and reasonable price, I have a couple of Ray-Pet towels that have been in use for nearly a year, and they stand up well to laundering. Wendy Watts, vice president of administration for Ray-Pet, suggests retailers guide consumers by explaining the benefits of using the lighter weight, super absorbent Wet Pet Towel.
“They are easier to use versus a cotton towel and can eliminate the expense of having to wash and dry traditional cotton towels,” Watts says. “Storage is also an issue for retailers and groomers. Our towels won’t take up as much shelf space in the stores and at the groomer’s location.”
Once towels have been used to remove the majority of the water, a dryer should be used to fully dry the coat. One potential pitfall for consumers is to fall prey to the temptation to just use a human hairdryer on their pet. Dog’s skin is more sensitive than ours, and most human hairdryers run pretty hot, making it easy to dry out the coat and irritate or even burn the skin. Force, or high-velocity, dryers usually do not have heating elements, so they do not run that risk. They do become warm, because of the motor heat and even some from the friction of the air going through the hose, but only about 20 to 30 degrees above the ambient air temperature. It’s the powerful air movement that does most of the drying.
According to David Stern, vice president of marketing for Metro Dryers, too-hot human hairdryers dry hair or fur from the top down to the scalp, causing the coat to become brittle, while the super powerful airflow of high velocity dryers dries from the base of the follicle to the top of the hair or fur for quick and thorough drying. He advises retailers to educate consumers about the advantages of using these types of dryers, which may encourage those who balk at the cost.
“Yes, of course there is the initial investment of purchasing the dryer, but USA-made dog dryers will last 10 or more years with the amount of use it will see from the average pet owner,” Stern says “The benefits are huge. Pets will be thoroughly and safely dried in record time. No more damp dogs laying on carpeting and sofas and potentially becoming smelly because they weren’t dried properly.”
While Metro offers dozens of dryers to choose from, Stern suggests that consumers would benefit from a variable control dryer such as the Air Force Commander or Blaster, or the Master Blaster for large dogs with dense double coats. These dryers enable users to fine-tune air speed and noise level when drying pets, with settings ranging from whisper-quiet to about 75 decibels.
“This feature reduces unnecessary noise when grooming smaller, breeds and of course sensitive areas of the pet,” Stern says. “Less noise means less frightened pets and more efficient grooming. When you need more power, you just dial it up to maximum.”
B-Air, another popular dryer manufacturer, also offers a variety of high-velocity dryers. Some, like their Fidomax 1, are intended specifically for home use, rather than professional groomers. The two-speed Fidomax 1 has excellent instructions on introducing the dog to the dryer and how to use it for maximum effect. It includes four different nozzle shapes to accommodate every coat type. The slot nozzle is for long-coated pets to prevent knotting while drying, the cone is used for the deepest drying and is great on very thick-coated dogs, the brush nozzle is designed for de-shedding the coat and the airflow nozzle allows more airflow for drying small dogs, cats and sensitive areas such as ears and face.
B-Air points out that since dogs do not trust anyone as much as their owner, being dried by them can reduce the dog’s stress. It’s certainly a good idea for pet owners to learn to bathe and dry their animals at home, as even the most complacent pet may eventually become too old to handle a grooming salon environment.
Whether they have bathed them, gotten caught in the rain or gone for a swim, pet owners have plenty of potential reasons for needing to dry their pets at home. Retailers can help customers achieve a thoroughly dried coat every time by providing the best possible choices in towels and dryers and sharing their knowledge on how to use them effectively. PB
Carol Visser has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming at her small salon in rural Maine.