Getting a puppy for the first time is an exciting, new adventure. Puppies are undoubtedly adorable, but require a certain level of care in order to thrive as they grow. Luckily innovative products exist and retailers are able to offer solutions to first time dog owners to help a dog live a long, healthy life.
Dr. Laura Catena, DVM, is a veterinary medical advisor to two pet supplement companies, and is a practitioner interested in leveraging emerging, holistic alternative animal medicine and nutrition, in combination with standard medical care. Dr. Catena stresses the importance of puppy-specific products to ensure optimal growth and health. When it comes to retailers, she recommends stores offer a range of products to puppy owners.
“A lot of times if [puppy] products are not there or easily available, owners might be misled into thinking that the puppy doesn’t require specific things and that they can use some of these products that are made for adult dogs,” she said. “I think it’s really important to have a good selection of puppy products and also to discuss with pet owners the importance of making sure they are giving their dog puppy-specific products.”
According to Dr. Catena, a “puppy kit” would benefit both retailer and puppy owner, and she recommends the kit include a carrier, bed with a machine washable cover, toys, grooming supplies and other necessities. For starters, she says puppy food is a must-have along with a properly sized crate, collar for identification, harness and leash. In addition, she stresses the importance of puppy food, but also recommends goat milk, such as Answers Fermented Goat’s Milk. Dr. Catena says goat milk can be mixed in with puppy food or it can be given on its own.
“Sometimes I notice with puppies, and even adult dogs, they can be a little finicky about what they want to eat,” she explained. “I think [goat’s milk is] a good way to ensure they are getting the vitamins and minerals. It’s a very healthy source, it contains everything a puppy needs. It’s a really good product; it’s wholesome, nutritious and I think the puppies like the taste of it so it’s easy to feed.”
Multiple categories beyond food have seen an increase in demand for products that aid in a puppy’s growth. Puppy products can be even more specific and have products that are specially made for certain breed sizes. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has identified higher minimum required levels of protein (including greater concentrations of specific amino acids), fat and certain minerals because it estimates that the energy needs of a puppy are double those of an adult dog of the same breed. It’s important for retailers and pet owners to know the nutritional requirements of puppies for different breeds. For example, over-supplementation of calcium for larger breed puppies can support excessively rapid growth, which can result in certain orthopedic disorders such as hip and elbow dysplasia.
Created in 1993, Vetdiet follows the latest scientific data to provide optimal natural nutrition for the healthy development of puppies. The company has teamed up with pet nutrition experts to offer innovative pet food products that optimize pet health by creating the perfect balance between science and nature. It is for this reason the company has formulated food for puppies including: Vetdiet All Breed Puppy Chicken and Rice Formula, Vetdiet Large Breed Puppy Chicken and Rice Formula and Vetdiet All Breed Puppy Chicken and Vegetables Wet Food Formula. Vetdiet puppy foods contain a blend of 25 natural antioxidants to help maintain a healthy immune system paired with real meat as the ingredient to help build strong muscles.
“We do not use additives or fillers such as artificial colors, flavors or dyes. We only use natural preservatives in our food,” explained Jade Dominique, vice president of sales for Vetdiet. “We ensure that we use highly digestible ingredients and use minimal processing to ensure our foods provide the best nutrition possible.”
Dominique went on to explain that the metabolic needs of puppies of different breed sizes vary, and Vietdiet puppy food “targets specific nutrients and functional ingredients to provide the best nutrition possible for your puppy based on their breed size.”
First-time puppy owners may not understand the different development life stages and how breeds affect the process. Vietdiet equips retailers with informational booklets that outline the ingredients, guaranteed analysis and all the benefits associated with each product. In addition, Vetdiet territory managers can set up training sessions with its nutrition team and retailers which can also be held through email and phone calls. The brand also has an online training platform for retailers that Dominique says is “easily accessible from any electronic device, is free of charge for retailers and makes it easy to learn about our products.
PureBites offers three training treats to assist puppy parents and ease the burden of training. The Mini-PureBites RAW Freeze Dried Trainers are made with only one ingredient and come in three flavors: Chicken Breast, Beef Liver and Lamb Liver.
The brand encourages retailers to challenge their customers to read the ingredient labels on pet food and treats. The company offers a selection of merchandising tools for stores to help spread the word including special promotional offers, floorstands, clipstrips, shelf talkers and samples.
“PureBites is constantly asking pet parents to ‘go ahead, turn the bag around and look at our ingredients,’” said PureBites senior marketing director Andrea Bourne. “[Since] 90 percent of all pet owners think that choosing the right snacks and treats will make a difference in the health of their dog, they just need to be given the tools and training to make those decisions.”
NPIC also offers a selection of puppy training treats and chews. Through strict food safety standards and continuous research and development, the company offers product solutions that will enrich the lives of both today’s and tomorrow’s pets. NPIC recently released its Puppy Training Treats to complement the existing line of puppy products.
“We know during that key teething phase that it’s also a critical training phase for both socializing your puppy as well as training,” explained Chinissa White, head of marketing and product development for NPIC.
Vetericyn’s ALL-IN PUPPY supplements are customized for a puppy’s developmental needs. The brand then paired quality ingredients “with a transport and delivery system that actively moves nutrients through the body and delivers them to the puppy’s cells so they get absorbed,” according to Geoff Hamby, director of marketing at Vetericyn.
Hamby notes that a puppy’s systems are what build the foundation for a lifetime, and ALL-IN PUPPY gives a puppy the vital system support it needs during the critical weaning period. The supplements target the system to ease the transition from mother’s milk to solid food. ALL-IN delivers the right nutrients, in just the right amount by targeting bones and tissue, gut health and immune system.
“ALL-IN also contains a milk-based protein that actively transports the ingredients and helps ‘unlock’ the cells so they get absorbed. No other supplement on the market has this technology,” said Hamby.
Vetericyn’s website prominently features a store locator feature and the company trains retailers on its products. The Vetericyn in-house design team creates eye-catching displays, shelf danglers, brochures and videos for store owners to use. The company’s nationwide support team does in-person and remote product trainings to ensure retail employees are up to date on Vetericyn product information.
NaturVet makes a daily puppy vitamin available in soft chews or tablets called VitaPet Puppy Daily Vitamins. This once a day supplement should be added to a dog’s diet and should not be used as a meal replacement. “It is difficult for [a puppy’s body] to digest traditional kibble diets and the dog may not be getting all the nutrients the food has to offer. Adding in NaturVet VitaPet Puppy daily helps ensure the puppy gets all needed nutrients to grow,” said Allison Dohanyos, senior graphic designer for NaturVet (name may be replaced).
In addition to supplements, NaturVet also has Potty Here Training Spray, which can be for indoor and outdoor use and acts as an attractant to help teach the puppy where to go to the bathroom. “Simply spray it on the designated area and lead your puppy to the spot. Potty Here’s smell will help the puppy know where it’s okay to potty. We recommend positive reinforcement during potty training,” said Dohanyos.
Products that are made specifically with life stages in mind are beneficial to the dog as well as the owner. Treat dispensers vary in degree of difficulty and as a toy that has the potential to keep a pup entertained for a decent amount of time, brands should take into consideration the puppy stage.
“Puppies may not have developed a strong drive at an early age so our puppy treat dispensers are rated on the easy end of the spectrum – not so difficult that a puppy gives up on getting the treats out,” said Adam Baker SodaPup CEO and founder.
Companies should also be taking into consideration the materials used to create their products. SodaPup uses a softer rubber compound that makes the material less rigid which allows puppies without fully developed jaws to chew with gratification. The softer material is also a soothing agent for the sensitive teeth and gums of teething puppies.
Retailers should be keeping enrichment toys on the shelves and educate customers on the benefits and reasoning behind the stores selections. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) estimates that the energy needs of a puppy are double those of an adult dog of the same breed. Enrichment toys can motivate a puppy, keep them engaged and out of trouble by putting their high energy into an activity that doesn’t require constant supervision.
Lickmats, for example, are a stimulating toy since dogs have a natural foraging instinct. Baker says SodaPup lickmats “tap into those instincts, making puppies work to get their food by licking it out of the texture of the mat.”
Puppy-specific chews can soothe sore gums and alleviate teething pain. Although puppies have sharp teeth, Benebone vice president of sales Bob Lee understands that they still need “a gentle introduction to chewing.”
Manufactured in the United States, Benebone chew bones are made without chemicals or artificial ingredients. The chew products are made with U.S.-sourced nylon infused flavorings such as bacon and maple wood. Lee said the puppy chews are “made to become softer as they are chewed, so they are a tad more forgiving. They may not feel softer to our touch, but they are gentler for puppy teeth.”
Having the appropriate toys can help deter your pup from chewing on your fingers and furniture, but other products are needed to assist in developing good behavior. Founded in 2014, Blue-9 was originally created and born out of a desire to make a commercially available dog training platform. From that desire, KLIMB was born.
According to the Blue-9 website, “the KLIMB is the world’s first professionally engineered dog training platform designed to help promote and grow the human canine bond.” The system uses an elevated deck to give dogs a platform to exercise, focus and learn the skills to curb unwanted behaviors. The KLIMB platform is adjustable so it can be used as a puppy grows.
“It helps with managing problem behaviors like jumping up on guests or begging at the dinner table. So by being able to reduce that friction that problem behaviors cause with puppies we can help develop that bond much earlier on,” explained Jamie Popper, business development manager for Blue-9.
Knowing the ins and outs of owning a puppy can be daunting. Brands should provide informative materials to retailers about its puppy-specific products so employees can pass on that knowledge to customers. Instead of forcing consumers to search the Internet, where they often are met with overwhelming sites, retailers should be available to ease a puppy parent’s mind and possibly create a devoted customer.