|Article Author: Angie McKaig|
DogToys.com gives us the scoop on how to find the best toy for your dog by Angie McKaig
Dog toys. Odds are, if you have a puppy or two roaming around your home, you've got at least a few dog toys lying around. My own dog, Merry, gets so spoiled for her birthday and other major holidays that there are days when I fear my floor will be permanently overtaken by toys! (In truth, that's likely already happened.)
I have to admit, I'm often one of the worst offenders when it comes to buying toys. I'm always on the lookout for something new, something different, something that will delight and entertain for hours. Pug owners will understand when I say it's not solely for her pleasure that I do this; it's often so I can find a few moments of peace while she's otherwise entertained.
With this in mind, I decided to approach Jill Gizzio, owner of DogToys.com, to learn a little more about the industry and find out just what's out there in the world of dog toys.
pp: What made you decide to start DogToys.com?
jg: When I turned 40, I adopted my first dog, Brownie a Jack Russell Terrier (now Parson Russell). She was adorable, funny and turned everything she saw into a "toy". I began buying her toys and treats at PetSmart to the tune of $40 every two weeks... expensive. I decided there had to be a less expensive alternative and thought perhaps I could do it myself.
pp: What makes a really great dog toy?
jg: It depends on the dog. We forget that dogs are observant, curious, and intelligent. They are also silly, simple, and easy to please. Some dogs love interactive dog toys that makes noise (talks) while others like toys they can chew on. Some dogs like snuggly "babies" to sleep with and carry around the house. A ball is hands down the universal favorite as long as it is appropriately sized for play (too small is a choking hazard, too big is no fun).
pp: Your site has toy suggestions broken down in many ways, including by breed. How do you determine which toys would work for which breed? What kind of research is involved?
jg: In 1997, I went to the AOL dog message boards and asked dog parents what was their dog's favorite toy - and why did they think it was a favorite. I, having no prior knowledge of dogs, needed a basis for categorizing my toys. The data I gathered went into selecting toys by breed.
Recently, (in 2001) I figured out a mathematical formula and filed for a patent for assigning each dog breed a number (1 through 9) based on their weight + an "exercise factor". This breed number can then be applied to pet products (also using 1 through 9) to show a consumer what items are appropriate for their breed of dog.
A chart will be available in pet store aisles for the customer to reference their dog's breed number.
pp: What sort of trends have you seen over the past two years for dog toys?
jg: Sadly, the pet industry does not foster inventors and their ideas as other industries do. Often when a newcomer introduces a fun and popular item to the pet-product buying public, their idea/product is quickly copied by established companies with better distribution and more money.
This leaves the "little guy" with either an expensive law suit to pursue or their walking papers. I believe the pet industry should reward innovation by acquiring the rights to manufacture and distribute these great new products. In doing so, they afford the inventor the money needed to continue to create new products.
pp: Do you know of any new or exciting dog toys on the horizon you'd like to share with our readers?
jg: I'm big on small companies that march to their own tune. As I stated above, to be creative and survive in the pet industry is a feat worth applauding. I love Fat Cat Inc.'s line of toys. They manufacture all original designs for dogs and cats too. Another very clever and durable dog toy is the Humunga Tongue.
Lastly, for puppies there is a new line of teethers that are meant to be frozen then given to your pup to soothe their gums, called Ruff-Puppy Teethers.
pp: What would you like to see in toys that hasn't really been developed yet?
jg: I would like to see more toys manufactured in sizes, rather than one size fits all. Hopefully, my patent will change the way toys (and other pet products) are made, marketed, and sold. Offering Dog Breed recommendations on product packaging will show everyone from the consumer to the retailer to the manufacturer that a 6 pound dog has very different needs than a 120 pound dog.
pp: What's your most popular toy?
jg: So far, 2004's most popular toy is Sun Pet's Fetch & Flash Dog Toy which used to come in the color red only. It now comes in 4 colors and customers will usually buy at least 2 different colors.
pp: What is your dog Brownie's personal favorite toy?
jg: It's a toy we no longer carry, Mr. Broccoli, shaped like a head of broccoli. The beauty of the toy was that after she tore it apart (5 minutes), I would cut off the 6 little green pompoms (florets on top) and she would play with those. I have put the last Mr. Broccoli away for when Brownie is very old and frail. I hope to spark the puppy in her by letting her have her favorite toy one more time.
pp: Tell us a little about your Donate-a-Toy program.
jg: Our toy donation program has taken many forms over the past seven years. A few years ago, we hit on a win-win scenario whereby our DogToys.com customer receives a discount on their order if they donate a toy. It helps us bring in many more donations than we alone could afford to give. To date we've donated over 10,000 toys.
We ship the toys to dog rescues and also to animal shelters. Our only requirement is that the toys can not be used for raffle or resale They must be shared with the pets waiting to be adopted. Our goal is to bring a little joy to those precious souls waiting for a home.
pp: What's the most rewarding part of running DogToys.com?
jg: The silliness of it all. I know of no other business where you and your customers can swap stories and share pet nick names and call it business. You should see what inventors send us for possible inclusion on DogToys.com web site (like the Frisbee shaped like cow dung).
It is really the people who tell me they can have a dog in their life now that brings me the most satisfaction.
pp: What plans do you have for the future of DogToys.com?
jg: We've expanded from DogToys.com to CatToys.com. Future plans include shaping the web sites to sell products using my Patent Pending Breed numbering system. Shopping online can be confusing and the breed numbering system leaves no doubt in the consumer's mind as to what items are appropriate for their dog. The patent also applies to cats... so watch for the cat version on CatToys.com.
pp: Tell us a little about your dog Brownie.
jg: The toilet brush is Brownie's favorite toy. She loves to fly around the house with it and then roll on the bristles (we dog parents have no shame). Who knows, someday we might commission a toilet brush toy for dogs!