Small businesses are the backbone of communities, and locally owned pet stores
are no different. Mom and pop dog stores may not have endless aisles of products
and marketing materials like the big chain stores, but what they lack in volume
they often make up for with their unique selection of products, discounts, and
rewards programs — not to mention, a staff of knowledgeable dog lovers who can
answer questions and point you toward the best products for your pup.
Truly Unique Products
Walk into any big pet store, and you'll be overwhelmed by the amount of products
for sale. Tens of thousands of shiny dog toys, leashes, collars, treats, and
freshly-shipped pallets of dog food line every available inch of store space
not already taken up by promos and displays. But you may be surprised to learn
that many products sold at big box stores are owned by only a small handful of
Independent pet stores often work with small and local suppliers to source
products you wont find anywhere else. In example, Dog Supplies Outlet
in Las Vegas offers homemade treats from local brands like Pooches Munchies,
as well as hard-to-find & specialty dog food like Sojos, Acana, Wellness, and
Fromm. Most small pet stores today can order anything that the big chains have,
and some offer convenient delivery options straight to your doorstep.
Because of the inherently smaller size of local stores, their staff are often
knowledgeable, well-trained, and very involved in the dog community. If you're
new to being a dog owner or you aren't sure what kind of food your dog needs,
head to your local pet store and ask! Pet store employees meet a huge
variety of customers and dogs everyday, so they have a lot of real-world experience
when it comes to determining which product, food, or service is a good fit for
you and your dog. Most independent stores also have much more generous return
policie than their big-box cousins. Once, I returned some treats that were damaged
and the store not only gave me new ones, they let me keep the damaged ones for free.
The dog industry is small and very connected. If you want to get recommendations
for good dog trainers, groomers, and more specialized services (like GPS-tracked
dog hiking!) your local pet store should be your first stop. Stores have
bulletins and business cards on display from businesses they and their staff
have used themselves, so you can know you're getting a trusted recommendation.
Many stores also have events on the weekend with cool dog-related organizations
and rescues. There's tonnes of new opportunities to volunteer, reccomendations on
local dog parks, and even people to practice training with.
Reward Programs & Repeat Discounts
My last order from Dog Supplies Outlet was $1.92 and I walked home with more
than $300 worth of merchandise. How? Dog Supplies Outlet has a points program
that rewards me for shopping there, and these points accumulate— often high
enough to make you want to splurge! If you're a multi-dog household, reward
programs are a must and many small pet stores offer them, as a competitive edge
to the big chains.
Finding a store with a rewards program that actually matches up to your
expectations is another matter, and we recommend shopping around. Some
independent stores also offer rewards programs that benefit local rescues or
charities, so a percentage of your purchase can go toward an important cause. Be
sure to ask about this before you check out, as many stores will have to supply
a special code or set you up with an account to make sure your purchases are
being tracked effectively.
Taking Your Dog
By far, the best part of shopping for your dog is bringing your dog with you.
Dogs love to socialize, and local pet stores are often the perfect enviornment
to practice new commands or just expose your dog to new experiences. Take it
slow and remember that your dog will be under a lot of sensory pressure the
moment he walks through the door. Dogs have a far more sophisticated sense of
smell than we do, and the smell of all the toys, and the fading smells of other
dogs can be very distracting. Even the best trained dogs can struggle to pay
attention to you at the store —and that's OK
As with anything, having a good experience with your dog at the pet store is
about setting expectations, and practice. Don't expect perfect obedience from a
young, inexperienced dog. Get him used to exploring the pet store on a leash and
not dragging you down the aisles while you build to more difficult things.
Every dog is different, and while practicing your training in a pet store can
be great for some, it can be a nightmare for others. Reactive dogs, and dogs who
lunge on leashes can be extremely stressful to take into a pet store, due to the
blind turns around aisles where another dog or person could be waiting to trigger
your dogs bad behavior. For these dogs, we recommend starting your training at
home and working your way up to public visits. For puppies, pet stores can be a
nice controlled socialization experience, with the opportunity to bump into lots
of new smells, textures, and shapes.
For us, socializing our puppies out at pet stores, or other dog-friendly stores
like Home Depot & Bass Pro is an essential part of training. Not only does it
desensitize our puppies to the real world while they're young, it gives them a
sense of confidence around new people and situations that makes them extremely
easygoing when they're older. Local stores typically aren't high pressure sales
environments either, so training & socializing your new puppy without always
walking out with a new toy is OK, too.