PetCoach Comprehensive In-Store Dog Support System

My husband and I are fans of Shark Tank, and we happened to watch a vintage episode from November 2016 where Pupbox was pitched,  The company was offering a subscription box to puppy owners which followed the puppies with age-appropriate offerings through adulthood, when they switched to an adult dog version of the box.  The segment ends happily as Shark Robert Herjavec makes an offer that the owners accept.

As the owners mentioned the struggles that inspired the business, which involved figuring out what they should be buying for their own pet, it struck me that had they only purchased their dog from a responsible, AKC Breeder of Merit type of breeder, they would not have had so much trouble, as a dedicated dog breeder will follow and support their puppy buyers throughout the puppies’ lifetime and often beyond.

But Pupbox, and in turn, Petco realized that not every dog or puppy buyer is so lucky. People acquire dogs many ways including, from friends and family who no longer want the dog, from rescues and shelters that don’t have the staff to engage in long-term follow-up, as strays that wander into their lives, and from breeders whose motivation to engage with puppy buyers ends at the point of sale. Petco acquired Pupbox in November 2017,  about 5 months after they acquired Petcoach, an online consulting service which also provides the same type of support that comes with a responsibly bred puppy.

In July 2018, Petco announced a retail experiment, turning PetCoach into a retail store in San Marcos, California.  The concept provides a select group of high-quality products and services inside a PetCoach store. Products include high quality, curated food selection, including custom formulations from Petco’s partner Just Food For Dogs and also offers comprehensive online record keeping for dog services available in-store.

In today’s world where specialty retail is under attack from both online vendors and the expanding pet product set in mass retailers, this provides a service level that will be very hard to match.  The question is whether this concept will generate sufficient loyalty and in turn profit, to survive.


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Dog Whisperer debuts Cesar’s Way magazine

Cesar Millan, aka The Dog Whisperer
Cesar Millan - The Dog Whisperer

MediaPost reports that Cesar Millan, also known as The Dog Whisperer from his National Geographic television series of that name, launched a magazine titled Cesar’s Way with the first issue published on September 15, 2009.  Cesar’s Way will publish two issues in 2009 and go to a bi-monthly schedule in 2010.

This provides further proof of not only Mr Millan’s personal celebrity status, but the strength of the dog services industry in the face of the recession and weakness in the magazine sector generally.  The magazine will focus on the human-canine bond with stories about people and their dogs, including both celebrity and non-celebrity dog owners.  Stories about dog training and adapting to life with dogs will also be included in the magazine.

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Dog business franchises

Via a referral from the Pet Biz Helper on Twitter, I discovered an article on the Small Business Trends site regarding pet-related franchises.  The article quoted statistics from the American Pet Products Association regarding the strength and growth of the pet industry and then listed a number of “young” pet franchises. Most were in the pet care services area, including boarding/daycare, grooming, photography, food delivery and waste removal.  One I found particularly interesting was Interquest Detection Canines, which provides canine scent detection services to schools and other organizations.  It appears that one of the things you purchase from the franchisor are the trained dogs.

The realization that this industry is recession-resistant has attracted attention from enterprising business people who are offering these franchise opportunities. Most pet businesses sectors, with the exception of pet supply retailers, are dominated by small businesses. The success of some services, like grooming, can be highly dependent on an individual person’s skills and personality, which to me seem like they would be difficult to standardize in a franchise model.  Others, like pet food vending and waste removal, may benefit from the franchise approach. It will be interesting to watch this trend as it develops.

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Nanny 911 for Dogs

Jetta Rose and friend Mimi
Jetta Rose and friend Mimi

A friend of mine who pet sits forwarded a copy of a dog tips newsletter from Nanny 911 for dogs,  which is distributed to over 2800 subscribers weekly. The author is Victoria Rose, a positively oriented dog trainer who currently lives in the Portland, OR area with her Doberman Pinscher, Jetta.

The  Nanny 911 e-newsletter includes dog care and training tips drawn from Victoria’s vast experience, often using personal anecdotes to make her point.  As a former journalist, Victoria still has the writing urge despite her transition to a dog training career and and leverages this passion to educate dog owners far beyond her own circle of clients.  Her motivation is to help people and their dogs live more fulfilling lives.  Although she occasionally  mentions products by name in the newsletter the publication does not accept advertising.

Victoria finds that occasionally subscribers will reach out to become clients, either in-person or for telephone consultation if they live farther away, but the newsletter is not her primary marketing tool.   She finds that Craigslist is actually the most effective means of marketing her business.  In a bit of a twist,  she has been successful getting people who posted dogs for sale on Craigslist to change their mind by  training the person and the dog to better understand and fulfill each others’ needs.

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Celebrity Dog Marketing

Petfood Industry News published an article about the increasing use of celebrities in dog food and product marketing.  Rachel Ray collaborated with Dad’s to create a  pet food  line called Nutrish, Cesar Milan has a relationship with Petco, Martha Stewart and Purina and Ellen Degeneres’ relationship with Halo foods are all detailed in the discussion.  For manufacturers using celebrity endorsers, there is always a risk/reward analysis to be made. A popular celebrity will raise awareness, but they must be seen as credible endorsers – not quite as much an issue with pets than say a car brand, and the manufacturer always runs the risk of celebrity controversies which can damage their brand as well.  In the case of celebrities launching products under their own label, a manufacturer can benefit through the additional production, but relies on the celebrity to do effective marketing to support  demand.

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Affiliate Marketing comes to dog training

A new follower on Twitter looked like a dog person, so I followed back and then she sent me a direct message (DM) which is not uncommon.  She invited me to contact her for dog training advice, again not that uncommon, especially since  you’d have to dig through my Linkedin profile that I reference on Twitter to realize that I already know a great deal about the topic.  But I was surprised to find the link she provided was to “Secrets of Dog Training” written by an entirely different person.  Affliate marketing, gotta love it!

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