Put Your Pooch to Work: How to Find Fido a Job as a Dog Toy Tester

I love my roommate, even though she spends the whole day eating and sleeping. She never helps out with the rent, washes dishes or picks up after herself, and she expects me to take her out and entertain her every day.

My guess is that you, fellow pet parent, think this sounds all too familiar. If your pooch is a mooch, keep reading to find out how to your playful companion could help earn her keep.

The average household spends just over $500 on their pets during the year, reports U.S. News and World Report. “That’s more than the average household spent on alcohol, men’s clothing, or landline telephones.”

While necessities like vet bills, food and boarding likely make up the bulk of these costs, the average dog owner spends $45 per year on toys. You might not be able to offset the cost of food or medical treatments, but you can help Fido become a more fiscally responsible family member by targeting his entertainment budget: sign your dog up to become a pet toy tester.

What is Pet Toy Testing?

Whether your dog is a chewer, tugger, chaser or cuddler, you’ve likely spent your fair share of time in the toy section of your favorite pet store trying to decide what to take home to your furry friend. But who decides which toys pets are sure to fall in love with? Well, the answer may be you!

Like any product-based company, pet stores are concerned with market research as well as the safety and durability of the new toys they’re trying to introduce. Though pet parents can help out by taste-testing pet food, the work of toy testing lies in the paws of the pets themselves. Just as companies need children to test toys like LEGO and strider bikes, pet businesses need animals to let them know which toys are good options, and which are duds.

How to Get Started as a Pet Toy Tester

Finding a toy testing job for your dog can be a challenge. Here are some great resources to keep you from barking up the wrong tree:

VIP Products has a new Dog Toy Tester Program that works like a “toy of the month club.” “Our toy testers are able to purchase any of our over 400 products for up to 50% off the retail price,” explains administrative assistant Dawn Heller. “They set up an account on our website, choose how frequently they would like to receive new toys, and add the toys they would like to receive to their wish list. The toys automatically ship to them at the interval of their choosing. Once received, the testers have the opportunity to provide feedback on the toys.”

GoDogger works much the same way, offering a 25-35% discount and a bonus coupon for uploading a picture or video of your dog playing with the toy.

Bionic Pet Products and Tough Dog Tested are two other companies that offer the chance for your dog to be selected as part of their toy testing pack. Kyjen, in addition to its toy testing program, also has regular prizes and giveaways.

A more indirect approach to having your dog work as a product tester is to sign up with market research companies such as 20|20 Panel, Focuscope, Inc., MindSwarms, Mediabarn Research and Shugoll Research. Many include questions about pet ownership in their questionnaires to see which studies you qualify for. I spoke with one such research group here in Nashville, but the specifics of which pet-related products are tested are part of the client’s privacy policy.

How Much Money Can You Make or Save?

This depends entirely on the compensation offered by the company. As is the case with other market research or test subject jobs, some will let you keep the product as your “payment.” Others, whether or not they allow you to keep the product, may offer separate financial compensation, while some companies simply offer a discount on the toys you test.

However, if your dog eventually becomes bored with the toy, why not refurbish and resell it? That’s what Janet Huey has been doing for more than 17 years! She finds used pet toys at thrift stores and garage sales and cleans them up, then sells them directly to pet owners.

Are There Any Safety Concerns?

While the idea of scoring free or discounted toys for your furry companion sounds like a great gig, you might have some concerns about testing products that have not yet been approved.

The Humane Society has a special article that explains how to how to pick safe dog toys. The great advice on how to keep your dog safe during playtime includes the following:

  • Discard toys that start to break into pieces or are torn.
  • Take note of any toy that contains a “squeaker” buried in its center. Your dog may feel that he must find and destroy the source of the squeaking, and he could ingest it. Supervise your dog’s play with squeaky toys.
  • Toys should be appropriate for your dog’s size. Balls and other toys that are too small can easily be swallowed or become lodged in your dog’s throat.

As a pet parent myself, I would suggest monitoring your dog’s playtime with any new toy, especially those that are being tested for safety and durability. And keep an eye out for broken or worn-out parts that may present a choking hazard.

Your Turn: Would you put your dog to work as a pet toy tester?

Leah Thayer is a Nashville-based writer and teacher. Her pint-sized writing buddy is a white and brown chihuahua named Chiquis.