IT'S A DOG'S LIFE, AND IT'S TIME TO CASH IN ON TREND

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It may have been the ad for dogs who can't brush after every meal. Or perhaps the video for dogs I saw in an upscale pet store. Or the new Italian food for dogs. Or it could have been the articles I've read about dog health insurance, puppy psychotherapy and Prozac for canines.

But after a while it occurred to me that many dogs in the U.S. probably enjoy better nutrition and healthcare (including dental and mental hygiene) than millions of people in the world. Naturally, my reaction was the same as any other decent, self-respecting American: How could I cash in on this thing?

Market research and product development for dogs seemed to be a neglected niche. That's why I'm launching a new consulting firm, DogTrend$. This firm will sniff out every conceivable emerging dog-related trend or fad and help companies prepare products and services to exploit them. I envision a national Dog Marketing Conference, books, articles, a newsletter of course, and plenty of five-figure speaking honorariums where I could explain the latest Psycho-geo-dog-graphic data.

To provide a glimpse of what types of opportunities and profits are in store for the savvy dog marketer, I've listed a few of the emerging DogTrend$:

Dog fitness centers. As baby boomers pursue fitness they will insist their dogs stay healthy and fit, too. Therefore, I predict we will soon see dog fitness centers (e.g., SpaDog, GymDog, DogArobics).

Dog videogames. A very big trend. Interactive games that engage the dog's mind and help develop eye-paw coordination will be key (e.g., Mortal Dogfight, Hydrant Finder, Car Chase, CatFighter). This trend will include portable dog game systems (GameDog, Doggie-Genesis).

Virtual Reality for Dogs. Even bigger. Dog virtual reality systems will include full visual, audio and olfactory sensory experiences so dogs can bark, run, sniff, mark their territory (e.g., Super Hydrant Finder, Ultra Car Chase, Cat Chase, CatFighter II).

Fashion Magazines for Dogs. This is a true story: From my window at work on a brisk morning, I once saw three people in the course of 20 minutes, walking dachshunds, and each of them (the dogs, and possibly the people) was wearing the same style of dorky little green sweater. So the obvious next step is fashion magazines for dogs that offer a full range of styles for the discerning dog. (e.g., Dogmopolitan, Dogue, smELLE, DQ).

Self-Improvement for Dogs. Inevitably, some dog owners will realize that their pets are not reaching their fullest potential as individuals. Therefore, self-improvement books, videos, cassettes and movements will provide a way to help dogs more fully self-actualize (e.g., "Dogs Who Run With Women"; "I Smell OK, You Smell Like You Rolled in Something Really Interesting"; "Dogs Are From Venus, Cats Are From Mars").

Dog Software. Software for dogs will develop along with dog videos and dog computers. It's only a matter of time before bark-rec- ognition technology would join other dog software systems (e.g., Dog Operating System-or DOS for Dogs, MicroDog Doors, BarkPerfect).

Internet for Dogs. A national or international information network for dogs is inevitable. (aMongrel Online, CompuDog, Dogidgy)

Of course, these are just a few of the major trends. Others will follow: Dog retirement communities (Sunset Leisure Kennels), cable networks (DoggieVision), fast-food chains (BurgerDog), upscale department stores (BloomingDog's), movies ("The Last Action Dog") and so on.

The brave new world of precise dog marketing is brimming with opportunities to develop and market products for this vast, itching, whining, slobbering, flea-ridden market. House-trained phone operators are sitting up, begging for your call.

Mr. Reinemer writes from Arlington, Va.

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