Chewing is an innate canine behavior that only differs in frequency, voracity and chew type from breed to breed. Chews help promote and maintain dental health while also acting as a source of behavior modification to soothe an anxious pup’s mind or redirect boredom-induced destruction.
Creating chews for dogs is a business built upon satisfying a natural instinct and, as consumers call for greater transparency surrounding the production of these products, manufacturers are working diligently to provide trustworthy goods through safe, ethical sourcing and wholesome, pure ingredients to keep dogs occupied, satisfied, healthy and happy.
“Chews address the natural inclination for dogs to gnaw that has been a feature of canine behavior for thousands of years,” says John Bosserman, sales and marketing manager for Wholesome Hide, Inc. “Even while roaming the wild, chewing on bones and hides served practical purposes of keeping a dog’s teeth and gums healthy for the hunt and reducing stress that was a natural part of the environment.”
Addressing canine dental hygiene is one of those essential practices that’s often overlooked, leading to tooth and gum issues that could result in negative health effects later in life. When these problems aren’t properly addressed, pet parents are ignoring a critical aspect of their animals’ well being.
“Harmful bacteria love to hide in [a dog’s teeth], so chewing can help prevent gum disease and tooth loss,” explains Dean Triandafellos, CEO of Roam Pets. “More importantly, chewing can be a great stress reliever for dogs. Especially in our current situation where pet parents are home more, this can put more stress on our furry friends. Occupying chews give your pet a chance to exercise natural chewing instincts.”
As with humans, dogs crave enrichment and they experience happiness, joy and the desire to have fun. Within that range of emotions comes stress and anxiety, which can be quelled with an appropriate chew. While all canines need to be given items to chew, the specific type of chew varies from pet to pet, which means that retailers need to ask targeted questions regarding the personalities of their customers’ dogs.
“There is not a universal chew for all dogs,” says Elena Kalogeropoulos, CEO of Chasing Our Tails. “Fortunately, there are many quality options from bones, antlers, bullies and various body parts. Pet parents have to ask questions to get proper chews for their pet. You have to consider size, age, chew temperament and any food allergies.”
Lindsay Tracy, vice president of business development for Redbarn, expands upon this point, explaining that dogs typically fall into three chewing categories—light chewers, who enjoy nibbling but typically aren’t in the habit of chewing heavily on items; moderate chewers, who identify preferred items and chew on them exclusively; and power chewers, who indiscriminately chew on all types of goods.
“To safely feed all of these pups, we need chews with various levels of durability to protect their teeth,” she continues. “For example, softer esophagus chews are ideal for light chewers, puppies and seniors, bully sticks are great for moderate chewers and filled bones can help protect your furniture when sharing a home with a power chewer.”
Year of the Dog
Prior to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the U.S., pets were already enjoying their high-ranking status as family members. The increase in working from home has only added to that, as dogs are experiencing a new world, much different to that which they have possibly known for years. After observing the daily routines of their pets, customers now have a better handle on their dogs’ needs and a newfound desire to keep the pup occupied and order maintained, especially in the home office.
“Pet parents are looking for their pets to be happily occupied,” says Kalogeropoulos. “With COVID-19, pets have become our new work-from-home co-workers. Consumers want to know that while they’re on an important conference call or Zoom meeting, the fur kids are happy and not chewing on a spreadsheet or their favorite pair of shoes.”
As members of the family, dogs continue to enjoy being part of their humans’ days, reinforcing their owners’ commitment to purchasing products of superior quality. Responsible sourcing is crucial for brands to forge relationships with potential customers and fortify connections with existing clientele. Manufacturers are aware that when it comes to creating a perfect chew, simplicity is key.
“We see a return to more familiar chews with a simple ingredient list and a stronger emphasis on domestic sourcing,” explains Bosserman. “Beef hide chews, made and sourced in the U.S., consist almost entirely of collagen and represent a safe, healthy, high-value product for dogs.”
Relaying a message of safety surrounding a chew product is crucial for retailers and the brands with whom they work. Pet parents often perform the same level of research for pet products as they would for their own goods, meaning that retailers must work with manufacturers in order to understand the brand’s message and relay that commitment to consumers.
“A chew that is free of harmful chemicals and will not injure the dog should be top on the list,” continues Bosserman. “While manufacturers make all sorts of safety and nutrition claims, dog owners should take the time to educate themselves on ingredients, read labels and use common sense in choosing a chew that doesn’t contain potentially harmful or non-nutritious ingredients.”
The return to traditional chew products is leading pet parents to consider other benefits that stem from their product choices. In addition to demanding chews made with ingredients that are responsibly-sourced from natural origins, consumers are continuing to value brands that prioritize environmental responsibility. For Triandafellos, this means examining the concerns of Millennial shoppers, who demand products that contribute to pet health but also promote a mission of healing the environment.
“Our focus groups show that pet parents want foods and treats that are free range, if possible, not fed by humans,” reveals Triandafellos. “Pet parents are also concerned with the environment and how the raising and processing of these proteins effect the environment.” PB