Summer offers pet owners plenty of opportunities to enjoy outdoor activities with their four-footed friends—hiking, swimming, road trips or just taking leisurely walks about town. However, at the same time, summer is probably one of the more hazardous seasons for dogs, made even more so because many owners are simply unaware of all of the risks these pursuits can pose to their pets. In this respect, pet retailers serve an important purpose—to promote awareness of potential dangers and offer products designed to keep dogs safe and comfortable. It is an obligation that retailers should take seriously, say pet-safety product manufacturers.“Retailers should be more aggressive when it comes to summer safety for pets,” says Amber McCrocklin, president of Paws Aboard, LLC, a Tampa, Fla.-based manufacturer focused on active lifestyles. “Emergencies happen and all owners must be ready for this. Retailers can be proactive and get summer safety on their customers’ minds before the season begins.”
Assuming that pet owners are aware of all that could befall their dogs during the dog days of summer is a mistake, says Denice Pruett, president of Galisteo, N.M.-based Too Hot for Spot, LLC. Pruett, whose company makes a static-cling thermometer that alerts dog owners to temperatures inside vehicles, says that even after 15 years of working with a vet, she’s still amazed at how many dogs are left inside hot cars and succumb to hyperthermia.
“As much as we feel it’s out of the realm of possibility, it happens all the time,” she says. “People take their dogs with them to run errands, leave them in the car, and it doesn’t take but a few minutes for a car’s interior to heat up to 120 degrees.”
Gail Sanders-Luckman, CEO/founder of Kumfy Tailz, says that there isn’t enough awareness about the dangers of overheating in general. She is particularly concerned about owners who run with their dogs in the hot sun without cooling them down. Once a dog goes into heatstroke, it is tough—sometimes impossible—to bring them out of it, says Sanders-Luckman, whose Chicago-based company makes a dog harness that comes with a cooling gel pack. But the same problem can occur doing ordinary things like shopping, running errands or taking a leisurely stroll, she explains.
“This is why pet retailers need to make sure they have, in bold print somewhere in the store, that pet parents need to address body temperature,” Sanders-Luckman says. “More awareness on the part of retailers will lead to more awareness on the part of consumers.”
Then there’s water. Cooling as it may be, water—whether it’s in a swimming pool or the ocean—brings its own set of issues, says John Hatcher, president of EzyDog. His company, located in Sandpoint, Idaho, manufactures a line of rugged, outdoor-lifestyle products. The thing about dogs and swimming is that dogs don’t always know their limitations, he says. “It’s a misnomer that all dogs know how to swim,” says Hatcher. “Some learn faster than others, but some never learn to swim very well or don’t have the bodies built for it.”
Even for dogs that love to swim, danger can lurk—particularly where water conditions are rougher or unpredictable, says Susan Strible, director of marketing for Ruffwear, a Bend, Ore.-based company that makes performance dog gear. “Owners should be aware of fast-moving water and underwater obstacles that may be present,” she advises. “Know the waterways your dog is heading into.”
But controlled environments like pools or calm bodies of water like lakes or marinas are often no safer, says Lynne Peters, owner of Baton Rouge, La.-based HedzUPpets. According to Peters, over 5,000 dogs die annually in these environments, many by inadvertently falling in unnoticed, and she suspects the number may be far higher since these deaths often go unreported.
Creating endcaps containing a variety of summertime safety products
can spark sales and awareness. In-store demonstrations, videos,
mannequins, hang tags and attention-getting displays are additional
tactics that work.
“This is a silent killer, as the dog has no reasoning power,” says Peters, whose company makes a flotation collar. “He swims back to the place where he fell in and swims continuously until he’s exhausted and dies, usually in less than 20 minutes.”
There can never be too much awareness where it concerns pet safety, says Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, Inc. Located in Alliance, Ohio, the company makes a variety of products for pets.
“Pet specialty retailers can promote safety in their stores through displays with informative point-of-purchase and extensive training of their sales team,” she says. “If employees are more educated on the safety products they’re selling, they can inform the customers during the purchase transaction through casual conversation or during their sales pitch.”
Johanna Pizor, Coastal’s merchandising coordinator, recommends using signage spelling out the use and purpose of safety and travel products—for example, explaining the value of reflective collars and leashes, or how car harnesses can prevent injury to both dog and human. Keeping travel items like harnesses and related accessories together is another worthwhile strategy, she adds.
As for reflective products, their benefits are not always clearly realized when they are hanging on a wall display, Pizor says. “Stores should encourage customers to take a picture with flash from a long distance so they can experience how this product is going to keep their dog safe,” she adds.
Creating endcaps containing a variety of summertime safety products can be effective at sparking sales and awareness. In-store demonstrations, videos, mannequins, hang tags and attention-getting displays are additional tactics that work.
Help from Suppliers
Retailers should also utilize their manufacturers. For example, Hatcher says EzyDog helps retailers “tell the story” by providing them with videos, hang tags, informative display racks, and signage listing the features and benefits of their various products, as well as images showing the items in use.
Sanders-Luckman will supply retailers with a small mannequin they can use to display the harness, along with the educational video that plays on the Kumfy Tailz website. She also provides retailers with cards they can hand out to customers educating them about the importance of addressing body temperature.
Pruett offers a countertop display rack promoting Too Hot for Spot’s thermometer. HedzUPpets provides product literature and packaging that quickly helps customers recognize the product’s purpose. Paws Aboard offers retailers an inflatable dog that can be fitted with a life jacket, along with promotional and marketing material, photos and product videos, and display stands.
But don’t forget the most effective sales tool of all. “There’s never a substitute for personally interacting with someone to find out their specific situation,” Hatcher says. “This can lead to a dialogue that can bring awareness of some of these safety concerns.”