I announced last week that I am no longer purchasing any of my pet supplies from companies who choose to sell shock, prong, or choke collars. If you want to read more of my reasons, and a fairly lively blog comment discussion, you can refer back to the original post here.
The problem with activist blogging is that we exist in a bubble. The people who read our blogs regularly are already above-average dog people, and it’s hard to get through to the general public. Everyone who has a dog has to shop, though, at least a little. Changing how people shop and what stores offer is our chance to reach people who aren’t savvy or interested enough to spend their leisure hours reading dog blogs. As bloggers we have tremendous power to shape the decisions that pet stores make, which in turn affects the decisions of people who would never dream of reading a dog blog. This is why Lara of My Rubicon Days and I teamed up to create our #forcefreeshopping campaign.
It’s time to think a little harder about our shopping habits and our promotions. Whose products do you choose to review? Whose website do you link to on Pinterest? When a retailer asks for your feedback, what do you say?
We need to use our market influence to influence the market. Almost all of us are committed to positive animal training with our own dogs. If you want the world to have fewer choke chains, prong collars, and electric shocks, help get those things out of stores by refusing to frequent or support places where they are sold.
Ethical shopping is hard. To make it easier for you to transition away from your current retailers, I’ve put together a list for you.
One of the easiest things to do if you already know what your like is to buy your food, toys, collars, and treats, directly from the manufacturer. Most, although not all, food, treat, and toy companies host e-commerce on their own site. Etsy is filled with custom collars, beds, and dog toys. There are some really lovely companies out there right now making dog products.
It’s a littler harder to find one-stop shopping. People who carry everything tend to carry . . . everything. Sometimes you need to buy a leash AND a toy AND a bag of treats, and you don’t want to pay shipping three times. I’m going to hit some high points here, but look out for some more in-depth discussions over the coming weeks.
My new first stop is SitStay.com. They have a great variety of treats that are made in the USA, and they sell all my favorite brands of toys. They don’t sell an enormous range of foods, choosing instead to focus on a few good-quality brands, but they will let you buy individual cans of dog food. If you have an allergy dog or a picky eater, you know how important that is. I spoke to their CEO on the phone while I was developing this campaign, and she is really looking to do some good things with the company in the future. If there’s something you wish they would carry, consider asking.
If you’re looking for a high-end boutique experience, look no further than Olive Green Dog. They sell some of Silas’s best treats and foods, but they also feature really lovely small, independent toy, leash, and collar companies. If your dog is a tornado of destruction you might want to look elsewhere, but if you love to stand out from the crowd this is your shop.
DoggieFood.com is the Switzerland of dog training. They sell no training equipment of any kind, clickers or shock collars or anything in between. They do have the biggest variety of food I’ve ever seen on one website. If you need something really specific, they probably have it.
And there are dozens more really awesome places that I just don’t have room to feature here. (Best name ever? Beowoof Provisions for Pets.) Lara and I have put together a great Pinterest board of online shops that choose not to sell aversive training equipment. We tried to feature a good mix of all-in-one places and some specialized retailers of things like beds or collars. There is some adorable stuff over there–making that board almost ruined my budget.
Let’s be honest, though. Not buying is not enough.
I’m thrilled to give you alternative places to shop. That’s the much less important side of this struggle. You may not have the guts to tell your neighbors to stop letting their kids walk Fido on a choke chain (I know I wouldn’t), but you need to give your local store a chance. Tell them why you’re taking your regular business elsewhere, and what they can do to regain it. While you’re at it, tell your favorite online shop why you’re canceling your auto shipment.
Here are some tips for writing a good letter:
–Be brief and to the point. Two paragraphs should be adequate.
–Point out how long you’ve been a customer. If you’re in their customer database, make sure to remind them of how to look you up.
–Tell them concretely where else you’ll be shopping. It’s very persuasive to know that your nemesis across town is getting your business.
–Stick to the facts. If you want help with those, go over to read Lara’s post for today. She has links to the newest and most relevant studies.
–Keep the emphasis on the inventory, not the owner. The owners of my local pet store have done great things in my community; we just don’t see eye to eye about their current store inventory. You want there to be room for a conversation. To that end:
–Don’t rant and rave, in your letter on their social media profile. Feelings run high about animal welfare, but extremism is more often alienating than persuasive.
It’s not my place to get aversive training equipment completely out of the market. I don’t use it, and never would, but heavy-handed market regulation makes me ethically uncomfortable. In my vision for the future, the only people who sell aversive training equipment are people who know what they’re doing. Otherwise? An average dog doesn’t belong in a prong, choke, or shock collar, which means that prong, choke, or shock collars don’t belong in the average store. Help us make that a reality.
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