One of the best aspects of being a pet shop owner is getting dogs in your store. As far as marketing for pet stores goes, it’s as good as gold: pet photos with your store and logo in the background are tailor-made for social media. However, oftentimes we run the risk of thinking about ourselves and not the dog, and ultimately we believe most pet store owners are in business to help pets. Pet stores can be doggie Disneyland, with the sights and smells and sounds completely overwhelming for our canine friends. But, it’s clear to us that not every dog thinks of pet stores as a paradise for one reason or another. We’ve put together some trainer-approved tips that our pet store owners can use to educate their staff.
Managing Dogs in Your Store
Some ground rules and principles to operate by:
All pets should be on a leash to ensure supervision by their owner.
All pets should be handled by an adult, or if pets are with children they should be supervised by an adult.
Use signs on the door that set the tone: “all dogs must be leashed.”
We believe these “should’s” and “should not’s” apply to most, if not all pet stores.
Pet store staff are not trainers, and shouldn’t be offering training or behavioral advice. As a pet store owner, you should cultivate positive partnerships with local dog trainers whose training ideologies and practices are those you agree with and believe in. Refer these trainers to customers in store! It will come back to benefit you.
Don’t assume every dog wants to be handled by a stranger! Decide which dogs to interact with.
Dogs will behave according to the manner in which we greet them. Be positive and relaxed, but not overblown. Doggie Disneyland is already a wild enough place without staff further instigating some excitable behaviors
If things get out of hand, it’s important to make sure the owner, manager, or other supervisory figure is close by to help staff members.
Help Owners and Dogs Be Successful
While you may not be a certified dog trainer and shouldn’t be giving out behavioral advice, you are a pet store owner and are certainly qualified to give advice on toys, equipment, and food.
Make sure your staff is providing the right kind of recommendations, with age-based toys and foods that fit the dog’s chewing level. For instance, an older dog with more brittle teeth generally doesn’t need a tough antler to chew on. Toys for mental stimulation are great for active dogs and owners that are looking to tire them out without overextending themselves.
Understand Canine Body Language
Last but certainly not least, ensure that your staff is educated on the basics of canine body language. We’ve put together some diagrams and characteristics to look for below.
Offensively threatening dogs will usually show one or more of the following characteristics: stiff posture and standing tall, hackles raised, tail straight up (it could even be wagging), ears forward, staring, teeth bared to varying degrees, barking and/or growling, and body shape oriented toward the perceived threat.
Fearful dogs show display some similar characteristics, albeit with some noticeable differences mixed in as well. A fearful or submissive dog will commonly have a crouched body posture, possibly even lying down and exposing the belly. The tail will often be tucked between the legs, with ears pushed back while avoiding eye contact and physical proximity with the perceived threat.
Defensively threatening dogs will typically be crouched or lower to the ground with hackles raised. Ears will be back or down with teeth bared, and growling and barking is not uncommon. The tail could be tucked, straight out, or down.
Lastly, playful dogs are a bit more difficult to describe simply due to the variety of happy, friendly behaviors we have seen exhibited over the years. Despite the diversity in characteristics, it is generally one of those things where “you’ll know it when you see it.” Playful dogs might be bowing in a “pouncing” stance with a wagging tail while exhibiting a mixture of different kinds of behavior, flipping back and forth between submisson, predation, or courtship.