If only dogs were more like cats—at least when it comes to housebreaking. For most felines, this is a relatively easy process. Throw a litter box down, dump the cat or kitten in it once, and the job is pretty much done. Not so with our canine buddies; the process of housebreaking can stretch on week after discouraging week, dampening the enthusiasm of even the most ardent dog lover.
Of course, housebreaking is not strictly limited to puppies or dogs new to the household; the need to train dogs to eliminate appropriately—or to accommodate them when they cannot manage this—may arise at any time for a variety of reasons, such as when a dog is recovering from surgery or is developing an incontinence problem.
Contributing to the housebreaking challenge is the fact that people are spending more time away from home, resulting in dogs spending the majority of their time inside, says Chad Elmore, category manager for Radio Systems Corporation, a Knoxville, Tenn.-based company that offers a variety of electronic pet training, behavioral and lifestyle solutions under the PetSafe brand.
“As pets spend more time inside, that increases the need for indoor waste-management solutions,” he says. “In addition, there’s a trend toward urbanization, particularly among baby boomers and millennials, which means smaller yards and less access to outdoors—again, driving the need for more indoor solutions.”
Consequently, says Elmore, there seems to be no end in sight to the demand for waste management products. “Walk into any pet specialty retailer or the pet aisle at your favorite store, and the shelf will be dominated with pee pads, pet potties and an ever-increasing supply of cleaning aids,” he says. “As more and more pets are spending time in the home, the need for these solutions continues to grow.”
The need for housetraining products is not going away—not as long as people have pets—making this an excellent category for pet specialty retailers, says Linda Jangula, owner of Jalyn Enterprise, LLC. Located in Lavon, Texas, the company does business as Wiki Wags, manufacturing fully disposable male dog diaper wraps.
The strong sales potential is also driven by manufacturers that are constantly on the lookout for ways to make housetraining a more appealing prospect for dog owners. For example, Wiki Wags has recently launched a line of Super-Wik Piddle Pads, which is designed to help wick away urine from the edge of the pad, improving sanitation and minimizing cleanup.
When it comes to product development, many companies are taking their cues from pet owners themselves. TFH/Four Paws—a Neptune City, N.J., manufacturer of products for dogs and cats, including Wee-Wee Housebreaking Pads—reaches out to pet owners to find out how to improve products. Mark Johnson, executive vice president, says the company’s research revealed that dog owners wanted more color options for pee pads than just white, which can seem somewhat sterile. In response, TFH/Four Paws has released a line of décor pads designed to fit into the home environment. Not surprisingly, there’s also a demand for better odor control, prompting Four Paws to develop an odor-trapping technology for its pads.
Cheryl Pedersen, owner of Poochie-Pets, says she constantly seeks feedback from consumers and retailers.
“Clients are constantly submitting fabric design requests, color requests and so on,” says Pedersen, whose Simsbury, Conn.-based company makes PoochieBells, a dog potty training and communication doorbell, comprised of bells fastened along a hanging fabric strap. “[As a result of these] requests for decorative choices, we offer our retailers updated patterns and fabrics throughout the year to keep the selection fresh and encourage repeat sales.”
Many manufacturers also offer ancillary waste-management/housetraining products, again creating more sales opportunities for pet specialty retailers. Four Paws has odor and stain removers, for example, as well as pad holders and other category-relevant goods.
Richell USA, the Grand Prairie, Texas-based manufacturer of PAW TRAX Doggy Pads, designed the PAW TRAX Training Tray to hold its pads securely in place, and PetSafe makes a variety of cleaners and training sprays/scents to complement its products.
Meanwhile, containment products are another component of the housetraining category that retailers need to be able to tap into. According to Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for Muncie, Ind.-based MidWest Homes for Pets, crates can “significantly aid the housebreaking process by teaching dogs a schedule and helping them avoid accidents.”
The company makes a variety of containment products for dogs and other animals, including wire training crates, as well as crate beds and mats. Whitehead suggests sparking add-on sales by displaying the crates with these items and others, such as puppy kits.
Still, while having a well-organized and balance assortment is crucial, strong merchandising is also essential. Whitehead says displaying a crate assembled and open for the consumers and their pets to explore will typically result in sales increases. She acknowledges, however, that space can sometimes be an issue for retailers. In response, MidWest has developed full-color packaging with “silent salesman features on each carton,” she says. Additionally, the company provides a variety of POS materials, including size/breed charts and puppy guides.
“We also offer our 545 Retail Display, which allows retailers to stock a full array of cartons while showcasing an assembled crate,” she adds. “The display is on wheels, so it is easy to move for cleaning or for new planograms.”
Poochie-Pets has developed Pooch University (PU) to arm retailers with bi-monthly merchandising pointers and advice on educating store staff. The company also has a two-sided countertop door-spinner display fixture that explains the concept at a glance, says Pedersen. She recommends placing this display in high-traffic areas, by the register and in the training-solution area. If the door-spinner isn’t an option, retailers could consider hanging the product on a peg wall, and keep the assortment full. “No one wants to buy the last product,” she cautions.
Because discerning the differences between doggie pads can be challenging, Richell provides retailers with test comparisons of other similar products, says Kristin Butler, marketing coordinator for the company. “We want our buyers to know exactly how our product compares to others on the market,” she explains.
Four Paws has created packaging that enables retailers to display in front or in side facings, depending on their space requirements. The company’s Pads On A Roll product containing 50 standard-sized pads was also designed to take up less shelf space and “optimize real estate in the retail environment,” says Johnson.
Despite the abundant and ever-present demand for these kinds of products, however, this can be a challenging category for retailers, says Elmore. Retailers need to know which products work in which situation and to put together an assortment that meets a variety of needs.
“Each pet is a little different, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution,” he explains. “It’s important to offer a variety of solutions so as not to alienate any consumers. Retailers should not only provide solutions that address housetraining, but that also offer effective cleanup options as well.
“To effectively merchandise these products, retailers need to provide the complete solution; customers should not have to guess where to find their pads, and [buying] refills should be seamless,” Elmore adds. “Finding the right mix of POS displays and aisle education helps tremendously as well. Housetraining is a messy business. Finding the right solution on the shelf shouldn’t be.”
ON THE SHELF: Housetraining Essentials
MidWest Homes for Pets (midwesthomes4pets.com) The LifeStages A.C.E crate is available in a single- or double-door design. The crates feature the MAXLock Door System, which enhances security by providing multiple lock points around the door’s perimeter. A locking handle enables the door to easily open and close with one motion and without kneeling or bending. A divider can be used to adjust the size of the crate’s living area while puppies grow into their adult-sized home. This also keeps the pet from eliminating in one end of the crate and sleeping in the other.
PetSafe (petsafe.net) The Train n Praise Potty Training System consists of a special replaceable pee pad with a moisture sensor that, when urinated on, sends a signal to the included treat dispenser, which positively rewards the behavior with treats or kibble. The robust pad is designed with six layers of absorbent technology. The system works for all sizes and ages of dogs. A training guide is included.
Poochie-Pets (poochiebells.com) PoochieBells Dog Potty Training Doorbell is a handcrafted dog doorbell that loops onto any door handle or hook. Two sets of custom-made jingle bells—with tightly closed openings and inscribed paw prints on each—are strategically placed along a hanging strap, enabling dogs of any size, age or breed to signal when they need to go outside and owners to communicate when it’s potty time. They are available in a variety of materials and patterns, and training instructions are provided.
Richell USA (richellusa.com) PAW TRAX Doggy Pads are designed to withstand lots of moisture, dry quickly, control odor and protect surfaces. The pad’s quick-drying quilted surface keeps liquid from spreading on contact. The second layer consists of an absorbent sheet that blocks excess moisture, keeping it from seeping up to the pad’s surface. The third layer includes an absorbent material that works as a gel, providing odor control. The final layer is a plastic sheet that protects floors from any kind of leakage.
TFH/Four Paws (fourpaws.com) Wee-Wee Housebreaking Pads are specially treated and absorbent, with a five-ply composition and an attractant dogs are drawn to. A plastic lining on each pad prevents damage to floors, rugs and carpeting. The versatile pads can be used for training or as an everyday alternative to the outdoors when dogs of any size are housebound. In 2014, the company will introduce Pads On A Roll, featuring 50 perforated pads in a decorative box for easy dispensing and storage, as well as several other products.
Wiki Wags (wikiwags.com) The Disposable Male Dog Wraps offer four waist sizes ranging from six inches up to 32 inches. They wrap around the dog’s waist without going around the tail or between the legs. Each absorbent wrap has a seven-inch logo strip on one end with two Magic Tabs on the opposite end that affix anywhere onto the logo strip and can be repositioned as often as needed. The custom design prevents slipping or spinning on the dog’s waist and keeps urine from spraying out from under or leaking through the wrap.