How to Help your Customers Pick the Best Dog Treat for their Dog
Dog “chew bars” are becoming insanely popular in the independent pet retailer space, and for good reason! Customers love being able to bring their dogs to their local pet supply store, have them sniff the available selection of chews, and pick out their favorite!
Do you know how to help that customer out when they ask you for suggestions?
Part of being a great salesperson is being able to ask your customer a series of questions in order to figure out what they need the most!
Whenever a customer asks you for advice on anything, a solid open ended question is “What kind of dog do you have?” From there, just listen to your customer - you will soon collect all sorts of pertinent information, such as how big the dog is, if they’re a heavy chewer, if they’re more picky, if they have a sensitive stomach, and potentially much more. The more you know about the individual customer, the more likely you will pick a dog chew that would suit their needs perfectly!
"I need something REALLY durable"
A whole deer antler, a moose antler (sourced from the base of the antler, rather than the "paddle"), or a weight bearing bone (such as marrow bones sourced from the femur) will be the hardest, toughest chew available.
*** Be sure to pick an appropriate-sized chew based on the weight of your dog. For example, a powerful 90-lb dog can easily break a small deer antler sized for a 15lb dog.
Deer antlers are harder than elk antlers, because deer antlers will have a higher ratio of hard outer layer compared to the softer marrow core. Moose antlers sourced from the “paddle” will be the softest antler option (see Figure 1A), but moose antlers sourced from the base (see Figure 2B) will be extremely dense, because this structure has to support the weight of the entire antler.
Figure1A: flat pieces of moose antler, like this one, are cut from the "paddle"
Figure 1B: this moose antler piece is cut from the base of the antler. Notice how dense the marrow is, compared to the marrow of an elk (see Figure 1C)
Figure 1C: a split elk antler: notice the marrow core, and how the bony trabeculae contains larger “air pockets” compared to the split moose antler. This marrow will be much softer compared to the moose marrow.
Many customers prefer split elk antlers (see Figure 1C), because the nutritious marrow is exposed and most dogs prefer to chew on the marrow rather than the outlying structure. Split antlers will NOT be as durable as a whole antler, and dogs with extremely powerful jaws can easily crack a split antler into two.
Bones are another durable, long-lasting chew option. The weight bearing bones (such as marrow bones, shin bones, and knuckles) are much denser and harder than flat bones (such as ribs and shoulder blades). Certain flat bones, such as the rib, are more likely to split into multiple sharp pieces, regardless of it being raw or roasted.
Our 12” jumbo and 12” super jumbo bully sticks are thicker and denser compared to bully sticks that can be found in big box pet stores, and while they’re not as durable as a bone or antler, they can still stand up to aggressive chewing from large breeds such as Labrador retrievers and German shepherds.
These 12" jumbo odor free bully sticks are a great recommendation for "power chewers"!
The fine print: As you pick harder, denser chews, the risk of tooth fractures increases. Some dogs have very strong teeth and will never suffer from a fracture, other dogs may sustain a broken tooth the first time you give them a bone.
Figure 2A: this 1 year old Australian Koolie has a barely perceptible crown fracture, caused by a frozen raw beef marrow bone.
If the dog in question already has dental fractures - do NOT offer them extremely dense chews such as bones or antlers. The dog in Figure 2A has an uncomplicated crown fracture of the upper fourth premolar. The upper fourth premolar is the most common tooth fracture seen in dogs, so this particular dog would not be a good candidate for extremely hard chews such as bones and antlers, as it may exacerbate the existing fracture.
“I have an 8 week old puppy” or “My older dog doesn’t really have any teeth”
A young puppy’s deciduous teeth are brittle and could break if you give them something extremely hard like an antler. Puppies should only be offered chews that are softer than their teeth. When a puppy has about 3 inches of the chew remaining, we recommend “trading” with your puppy - offer a small tasty treat in exchange for the chew - and discard the remainder of the chew, which may be a choking hazard for such a young pup. Chews that are safe for puppies are often appropriate for dogs with missing teeth.
- Cow ears are a softer, flexible chew that is easily digestible for most dogs and puppies. There is almost no odor while being chewed, and very little grease and residue, compared to a chew like a pig ear.
- Gullet sticks and gullet strips are a very palatable treat with a pliable texture. The wide, flat strip is less likely to get gulped down and swallowed whole, compared to a chew that has a long narrow straight shape.
- Lamb lung wafers are best used as high-value training treats, but the soft texture makes it an easy chew for young puppies and dogs with dental problems.
“My dog is really picky and usually doesn’t like treats”
Picky dogs, who are in good health and within an ideal weight range, are not easily motivated by food, unless it is exceptionally palatable. (Please note: if you have a dog who is normally a voracious eater and suddenly loses their appetite, contact your veterinarian. The sudden behavioral change may be due to an underlying illness.) Picky dogs often have a history of exposure to delicious “people food” or other treats, and comparatively, a dry dog food or a dog biscuit will be much blander.
Often, the higher the meat content, the more attractive the food will be to a dog. Dog food and treats that contain a lot of filler or binder ingredients such as wheat flour or potato starch will not taste as good as a food or treat consisting primarily of meat. Most dogs will also prefer foods that have a higher fat content. Many, many years ago, dogs were primarily scavengers, rather than pets, and had to rely on their street smarts to acquire different food sources and it wasn’t a guarantee that they would get to eat that day. Dogs crave fat, because it’s very high in energy, compared to carbohydrates and protein.
Some picky dogs will be more attracted to smellier treats, like tremenda sticks and gullet strips, and turn their nose up at odorless treats, like cow ears and antlers. While experts aren’t completely certain why many dogs have an affinity for eating and rolling around in disgusting things, one hypothesis is that if a dog is covered in a scent, they can return to their pack members and communicate with them about their “discovery”.
- Tremenda sticks - tremenda sticks are made of 100% beef bladder. The bladder is the organ that stores urine, so while there is a lot of odor associated with this product, dogs absolutely love chewing our tremenda sticks! Tremenda sticks aren’t nearly as dense as our bully sticks, so very large, enthusiastic dogs may be able to gulp down large pieces of this chew.
- Steer sticks - most dogs consider steer sticks to be more palatable than a bully stick, and it’s probably due to the fact that steer sticks are significantly higher in fat content. Steer sticks aren’t as dense as a bully stick, they have more of a “crunchy” texture.
- Gullet sticks, gullet strips, and chewy bulls - made of 100% beef esophagus, these chews also have a fair bit of odor, but that’s probably why dogs love them so much! Gullet sticks have the most pliable texture out of all of our chews.
- Lamb lungs - ours are formed into dehydrated “wafers”, and they can easily be broken into smaller pieces. Like the baso bar, this is a popular training treat, often recommended by professional dog trainers!
- Trachea - the “waxy” substance surrounding the rings of the trachea is made of fat. Even the pickiest of dogs will find the trachea irresistible, due to the high fat content. The trachea is a tubular structure, so you could even stuff it with something else your dog would enjoy, such as canned dog food, or even canned shredded chicken or salmon, and freeze it, so that it takes a bit more time to work through.
- Pig ears - most dogs can’t resist pig ears, and this is most likely to do with the high fat content!
“My dog has a sensitive stomach”
Loose stools and excessive flatulence are common signs of stomach sensitivity. While the occasional upset stomach isn’t usually a cause for concern, symptoms such as chronic diarrhea, vomiting or weight loss should be seen by a veterinarian. Diseases such as giardiasis and inflammatory bowel disease share some similar symptoms as an upset stomach, so it’s important to rule out any potentially harmful diseases with your veterinarian.
For dogs with sensitive stomachs, offer treats that are low in fat - fat requires more work for the body to digest, compared to proteins and carbohydrates. Dog food or treats that are excessively high in protein can often cause loose stools. You could also offer a 6” long chew rather than a 12” chew - their body will have less to “process”.
- The beef backstrap is made of 100% beef muscle tissue. It’s low in fat and usually easily digestible.
- Our odor free bully sticks are tolerated well even with dogs with sensitive tummies, due to the level of care that goes into producing each piece. READ MORE (our blog about bully sticks)
- Our beef tendons are low in fat and are another treat that feeds well for the majority of dogs.
- Our lamb lung wafers (made with 100% lamb lung), are easily digestible, compared to a lamb-flavored treat that contains fillers such as potatoes, rice flour, and vegetable glycerin.
We do have a 100% guarantee on all of our dog treats and chews. If any of your customers returns a dog chew (because it either made them sick or they didn’t want to eat it), we will happily give you store credit for the wholesale purchase price of the item.
WHY DID MY DOG VOMIT AFTER EATING THAT TREAT?
Is your dog a gulper? Does it look like your dog is swallowing large 3”+ pieces of the treat or chew whole? If a dog doesn’t thoroughly chew a treat, and swallows parts of it whole, the large solid piece may irritate the stomach lining, causing the dog to forcefully expel the contents of their stomach. Please keep an eye on your dog while they are eating any sort of treat or chew, and remove the treat if they appear to be swallowing large pieces whole.
There are an enormous amount of dog treats and chews on the market today. The more you know about the properties and benefits of each treat, the more equipped you will be to answer your customer’s questions and help them pick the perfect chew for their dog!