What’s new for developing pups and seniors with special needs

By Cheryl Reeves for Pet Product News


With today’s pet owners focused on their dog’s health, comfort and happiness like never before, stocking great-quality products designed for the life stages where so many extra supplies are bought—puppyhood and senior—is a smart move. Beyond food, new puppy owners will want everything from chew toys and treats to training leads and carriers. And as senior dogs slow down, consumer demand is up for supplements, lifting harnesses, ramps and firmer orthopedic beds.


Recently, manufacturers have launched new products for both puppies and seniors that can help pet owners conveniently tend to their dogs’ age-specific requirements. Better yet, some of these products work well for both young and older dogs, which makes for a pretty powerful sales incentive.



Many still remember the trade show demo a few years ago of the then-new tough rubber Bionic toy in a blender, spinning around to display its durability. Most recently, Bionic Pet Products launched a line of softer solid rubber toys for puppies called Baby Bionic.


“This new line is a response to the consumer demand for a smaller, flexible and softer toy for teething puppies,” said Steve Luhrs, founder of the Ladera Ranch, Calif., company.


The toys’ colors are based on science indicating what colors are attractive to a developing puppy’s eyes, he said.


“We’ll be launching a new line designed for seniors late in 2015,” Luhrs said. “These will be soft like the Baby Bionic, but a larger toy.”


At Calhoun Pet Supply in Minneapolis, consumers want puppy toys that are free of stuffing, said Mike Liu, the store’s manager.


“Our top seller is [Ethical Products’] Skinneeez line, especially for puppies,” he said. “People want to keep their puppy occupied, but they don’t want ripped-out stuffing all over their home.”


Of course, teaching a puppy to walk well on a leash is another priority for puppy owners. The trend, retailers stated, is for gentle collars, harnesses and leads that don’t stress a pup, but that also discourage tugging.


“I refuse to sell choke collars, and today’s consumer wants to pamper their pets, not make them uncomfortable,” said Blake VonderHaar, the owner of Nola Bark Market in New Orleans. “They love harnesses because these don’t stress a puppy’s neck.”


Gordie Spater, co-founder of Salisbury, Mass.-based Kurgo Products, said his company recently launched a new walking harness called the Allagash that offers four fastening points that can be adjusted as a puppy grows.


“The harness features a D-ring on the padded chest plate to comfortably discourage a puppy from tugging,” Spater said.


With all of the exercise and mischief a pup can get into, pet owners also will want to make sure they have some grooming supplies on hand to keep their little bundle of joy clean.


Bobbi Panter, president of Bobbi Panter Pet Products in Chicago, said she recently updated her Baby Bebe Puppy Shampoo and Baby Bebe Puppy Spray labels to call out exactly what each natural ingredient does specifically for puppies.




Retailers reported sales of hip and joint supplements for seniors are on the rise. Indeed, according to Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts’ recent report, Pet Supplements in the U.S., Fifth Edition, pet supplement sales are expected to increase from $541 million in 2014 to exceed $697 million in 2019.


Greg Schnupp, owner of Pet’s General Store in Lakewood, Ohio, said his store’s sales growth in supplements for seniors is surging.


“People really want something that will prevent or ease joint pain,” he said. “Digestive supplements are also selling well.”


To help seniors get all the nutrients they need, Designing Health recently released a new superfood supplement product: The Missing Link Ultimate Canine Senior Health Formula.


“This new product targets the issues most commonly found in aging animals,” said Joy Collett, president of the Valencia, Calif., company. “Green-lipped mussel from New Zealand offers added joint mobility and increased pain relief as well as probiotics to aid in digestive processes.”


For older dogs that have injuries or need lifting, there are some new products on the market that come to the rescue.


Solvit Products in Arlington, Texas, recently expanded its CareLift Lifting Harness line to accommodate smaller dogs.


“We realized that it’s not just medium and large dogs that have mobility problems,” said Patrick Hoffman, the company’s president, in a statement announcing the new product in Spring, 2015. “The new small size CareLift for dogs weighing 7 to 35 pounds consists of front and rear sections that can be used either separately or together based upon an individual dog’s needs. The harness is designed to lift evenly from both the hips and the waist, reducing stress and making the dog more comfortable.”


Additionally, Solvit offers a new Tri-Scope Ramp that weighs only 14 pounds and is adjustable from 28 to 70 inches. The ramp features four rubber feet to keep it stable while in use.


A manufacturer of dog strollers, carriers and ramps, Gen7Pets introduced its multiple-use Roller-Carrier at this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. The carrier can be converted into a car seat, a backpack, a portable dog bed or roller carrier.


“Retailers should remember that sometimes a product can also be a great solution for the senior human who doesn’t have the strength to lift their dog,” said Dan Hawk, president of the Elverson, Pa., company. “Our new lightweight carrier has a smart platform designed to keep a dog from tipping over as the carrier is pulled from behind. It’s available in two sizes for medium and large dogs. The medium-sized carrier is also airline approved.”




With carriers, ramps or strollers, retailers should have a model set up and displayed, Hawk advised.


“For example, our Natural-Step Ramp with poly grass for a secure grip is appealing because of its safety features, stylish look and collapsible storage capability. Shoppers love to touch, test and feel,” he said. “They want to see how comfortable their dog will feel with the product, too.”


Kurgo’s Spater suggests retailers tap their local veterinarian and put together online or printed materials about caring for puppies and senior dogs.


“We’ve found success in creating things like a puppy handbook to provide customers with important information for raising a new puppy, along with education about products that might help them be effective,” he said. “When it comes to senior dogs, many customers appreciate information about aging dogs and how pet parents can continue to help their dog live an active lifestyle.”


Discounts also go a long way in helping to make the sale.


“Demos of products with a coupon always work for us,” Panter said. “Retailers can utilize the power of signage as well. Consumers want to quickly find out what problems the products are going to solve for them and their pets.”


This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of Pet Product News