A couple years ago, I interviewed Joe Markham for Dog Park Wisdom. In the 1970s, his German Shepherd Fritz picked up the tooth-destroying habit of chewing rocks. Markham, who had no aspirations to become a pet toy entrepreneur, searched far and wide for an alternative but Fritz either ignored store-bought playthings or ripped them up. One day, Markham grabbed a snubber—a rubber, beehive-shaped Volkswagen part—from a workbench in his parents’ garage and tossed it for Fritz. The dog was immediately captivated and unable to destroy the bouncy object. The rest is history. That snubber became the model for the Kong. Although, economic success wasn’t instant, Markham traveled a long and difficult road to design and bring Kongs to market, today he’s probably sold more than 50 million of them.
Markham is not the only innovative guardian out there. Many dog toys, gear and other products have been developed by regular folks with a challenge, like dogs eating too quickly, bored at home alone, or pulling on the leash. Unlike Markham, new innovators won’t have to go it alone. PetSmart wants to harness their powers of invention with a contest. The nation’s largest pet retailer has teamed up with innovation portal EdisonNation to host a “Live Product Search” for innovative ideas for interactive pet toys and products that help keep a variety of companion animals entertained, from dogs and cats to ferrets and parrots, and fish, geckos and hamsters, too.
“We specifically hope to discover interactive pet toys and products that help keep house pets of all ages, shapes and sizes entertained by their pet parents or while they are temporarily away,” said Bruce Richardson, PetSmart spokesman. “There’s a huge demand for products that will keep pets happy, occupied and distracted from possibly more destructive behavior.” PetSmart’s Live Product Search asks participants to think beyond ordinary litter boxes, treats or leashes, and to think of products that improve the lives of pets and pet parents.
Submit your idea online. The contest runs through July 9. Individuals whose products are selected for development by PetSmart will receive a $2,500 advance and a percentage of future product sales for up to 20 years. The fee to enter is $25 per idea, which covers Edison Nation’s screening process.