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Petco and PetSmart are two of the biggest pet supplies retailers in the U.S. They are incredibly similar, but there are some differences that could affect who you shop with. Let’s talk about Petco and PetSmart and give you the info you need to decide who you’re going to choose as your pet store. 

Quick History of PetSmart and Petco

Petco got its start in 1965 in San Diego, California, as a mail-order veterinary supply business. In 1980, the very first Petco store opened in Tigard, Oregon. Petco has since grown exponentially to become a well-known pet store and an advocate for animal health and wellness.

Since 1999, Petco has helped over 4,000 animal organizations with over $300 million invested!

PetSmart was created in 1987 in Phoenix, Arizona. In the 1980s, the pet store industry was relatively young. PetSmart quickly became a trailblazer in the pet world.

Like Petco, PetSmart is an industry leader in all things animal health and wellness. Since 1994, PetSmart has donated $500 million to other organizations that help pets and their owners!

Petco Store
Petsmart store

Petco vs. PetSmart: Which is better?

The ultimate question: Which is a better pet store?

There are so many factors to consider, and even still, one person’s answer may differ from another. And PetSmart and Petco know very well that they are similar competitors-they don’t make it easy for us to decide.

But to get started, let’s learn a little bit more about what they both offer!

PetSmart has over 1,600 stores throughout the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico. Petco has 1,500 locations in the US, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Both offer similar services in addition to similar merchandise. Services, for example, include grooming salons and professional dog training.

Both have similar shipping options.

PetSmart offers free same-day delivery from your local store to most areas, curbside and in-store pickup, and auto-ship. They also offer free delivery from their online stores for any purchase over $49.

Petco offers free same-day delivery from home to store, curbside and in-store pickup, free delivery on any order over $49, and auto-ship.

One point of difference in shipping is that Petco will deliver live fish!

Both Petco and PetSmart have online pharmacies for your pets’ prescription needs.

Both also sell fish as well as other animals like birds, mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, and more. Petco sells both tropical and freshwater fish, and PetSmart focuses on just freshwater fish.

Something important they both wholeheartedly agree on is that no pet store should sell cats and dogs. They both refuse to do so, and instead, help rehome cats and dogs by partnering with local shelters. 

Be sure to read our new eye-opening post, Is Pet Insurance Worth It: 5 shocking facts you need to know... You might be in for a shock!

Petco

Rewards programs

PetSmart has a free loyalty program that is now called PetSmart Treats. It is free to sign up and only requires a phone number. You earn points for every $1 spent in stores and online. You can redeem these points online and in-store at checkout for discounts on products and services.

With PetSmart Treats, you can get member-only offers like special discounts, advanced notice of upcoming deals, and reminders about in-store events.

Petco also has a rewards program. It is called Pals Rewards. As a Pals Rewards member, you’ll receive 1 point for every 1 dollar spent, other rewards with purchases, and special member-only offers.

Pals rewards members also get personalized care reminders, like reminders about grooming appointments.

In rewards, they are both similar in how they work and what they offer.

Store brands

Both stores also promote their own brands. For example, Petco has its own brand that it sells called WholeHearted, a type of dog food.

PetSmart doesn’t have an official PetSmart brand of food, but they exclusively partner with Authority, Great choice, Simply Nourish, and more.

Adoption programs

Both PetSmart and Petco are proud proponents of adopting from shelters. Oftentimes, both stores have a dedicated area where local shelter cats can stay. 

Here, the shelter cats are “on display,” so to speak, and people can look for a cat who needs a home.

At PetSmart, for example, there are Everyday Adoption Centers in most stores.

Petco has a similar setup with their Petco Love Program.

With both stores, there is usually a rotation for the cats at these adoption centers. Say a shelter brings six cats to live at PetSmart or Petco for the week, and only three get adopted via the adoption application process, the other three will be taken back to the shelter or their foster homes. Another batch of cats needing homes will then be brought in. This way, every cat gets its time to shine!

Over the past twenty years, Petco’s adoption programs have helped 6.5 million pets find loving owners! And PetSmart, over a period of twenty-eight years, has helped more than 9.5 million cats, dogs, and even small pets find their forever homes!

I say they both deserve props for this.

Petco vs. PetSmart: Who is cheaper?

Let’s jump right into one of the hottest topics for consumers. Who has cheaper stuff?

Petco and PetSmart are relatively similar in their product pricing. They are the two leading retailers and pet-related service providers in the U.S. To remain competitive with one another, they keep their prices pretty comparable.

Check out this table that compares the prices of some of the same products sold at both companies…

*Sale items and other prices may have changed since.

  Petco PetSmart
Kong Classic Medium $11.99 $13.99
Chuckit! Ultra Squeaker Ball Dog Toy  $8.99 $9.99
Milk Bone Original (7lb.) $14.99 $14.99
Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Dog Food $68.99 (*On Sale 59.98) $63.99 (*On Sale 59.99)
Aspen Snake Bedding (24 qts.) $27.99 $29.99
PetStages Dogwood Calming Chew Dog Toy $21.99 $21.99
Nerf Dog Tennis Ball Blaster Dog Toy $29.99 $28.99
Petco Pet Greens Live Catnip (8 oz.) $8.99 $7.99

Based on this sampling, both companies’ price points are relatively close to one another. Some products are exactly the same, while others have a discrepancy of anywhere from $1-$5.

An interesting trend you might also notice is that when one company has an item on sale, the other company jumps on the bandwagon and reduces their product to a sale price that is just one penny more or less than the other’s sale price.

Their research on each other’s prices is top-notch! I imagine each store has its own spies in trench coats and hats. 

When determining where to shop, your best bet is to look for ads and look up prices online before shopping to see where you might find the best deal for the products you are looking for.

Both companies offer price matching, so if you come prepared, you are guaranteed to get the best deal no matter where you go. 

Petco vs PetSmart vs Chewy

So how does the popular online retailer Chewy compare to PetSmart and Petco?

Well, since Chewy is an online retailer, it does not sell live animals as PetSmart and Petco do. However, it does have some advantages, like carrying items for farm animals like cows and horses.

Beyond this, it’s quite similar to PetSmart and Petco and also has comparable prices.

PetSmart vs. Petco: Grooming services and prices

One of the most popular services these retailers offer is their grooming salons. Both PetSmart and Petco have their own grooming academies where they train grooming hopefuls in the art of dog grooming.

PetSmart even trains its groomers in cat grooming!

Some groomers from both stores have even won awards for grooming competitions.

Both offer similar dog grooming services with options, varying from a simple bath, to get your dog smelling good, to elite packages of haircuts and stylings.

Both places offer various add-on packages or services that can be added a la carte.

PetSmart offers more services in its basic bath package than Petco does.

Petco baths include:

  • Shampoo
  • Ear cleaning
  • Blow-dry
  • 15-minute brush out
  • Nail trim
  • Gland expression

While PetSmart baths consist of all the same services as Petco and also include:

  • Scissoring the dog’s feet
  • Shaving the paw pads
  • Sanitary trim (shaving/trimming around potty areas)

PetSmart also has a wider range of add-on products and services. Petco’s most premium add on is the Essentials Plus Package for $23, which includes:

  • Upgraded premium shampoo,
  • Conditioner
  • Teeth brushing
  • Paw balm
  • Nail buffing

PetSmart offers all the same add-on services as well. But you can also get more variety at PetSmart.

For example, a really popular add-on at PetSmart is the CHI package for $21, which includes the CHI moisturizing shampoo and Oatmeal condition along with a spritz of CHI’s detangling cologne spritz.

Or you could get The HEMPZ package which consists of HEMPZ shampoo and conditioner for dogs. There’s also a Coconut Spaw package for $30. With this, your dogs will get dry skin relief with: 

  • Coconut oil infused shampoo
  • Conditioner
  • Nail grinding
  • Teeth brushing and fresh breath spray
  • Coconut cologne

PetSmart grooming certainly costs less than Petco grooming, and you get more for your money if you are just getting your dog a bath.

You’ll also have more choices for extra or added services.

Check out the table below to see how their prices compare for two popular breeds.

Note that Petco charges an additional “materials fee” of $4.99 to their services, while PetSmart does not. This fee has been calculated in the prices in the chart below.

  Petco PetSmart
Bath and Brush Bichon Frise $43.99 $33.00
Bath and Haircut Bichon Frise $62.99 $56.00
Nail Grind Add-On (all breeds) $12.00 $15.00
Bath and Brush Golden Retriever $54.99 $43.00
Bath and Haircut Golden Retriever $84.99 $73.00
De-shedding Bath (Furminator Shampoo& Condition) Golden Retriever $84.99 $73.00
Upgraded Shampoo (all breeds) $8.00 $10.00

PetSmart vs. Petco: Dog Training

PetSmart and Petco both also offer training services. They both use only positive reinforcement training styles. Much like it sounds, positive reinforcement is a rewards-based approach to dog training.

Both places also offer private lessons as well as group classes. And both offer varying packages based on the dog’s training level and needs. Check out the chart below. You’ll find that training class prices are relatively similar, with PetSmart typically being $10 (and in one case $30) cheaper for comparable classes.

You should also see our in-depth article comparing both PetSmart and Petco’s dog training classes.

dog training outside of Petsmart
Petco/PetSmart Training Class Petco PetSmart
Puppy 1
Puppy Training
(Both 6 weeks)
$149 $139
Adult Level 1
Beginner
(Both 6 weeks)
$149 $139
Adult Level 2
Intermediate
(Both 6 weeks)
$149 $139
Stress Less Training- Anxiety Class
(3 weeks)
N/A $139
Therapy Dog Training
(6 weeks)
N/A $139
Adult Dog Essentials Package
Fundamental Package
(Both pick 2-6 week classes)
$249 $219

Petco vs. PetSmart: Boarding and daycare

PetSmart has the PetsHotel in some of its stores. At PetSmart PetsHotel, pet parents can board their pets with around-the-clock care where they will receive playtime and exercise in a safe and comfortable environment.

Your dog will get a private room, or if you have two or more dogs, you can get them a suite! Cats stay in the kitty cottages, in a separate area from the dogs with their own room or adjoining rooms for multiple cats.

While Petco does not have in-house pet boarding or daycare, they did recently make an exciting new announcement. In February of 2022, Petco announced a new partnership with Rover, a marketplace for pet care.

With Rover, Petco can help pet parents find qualified pet sitters and dog walkers who can provide boarding, house sitting, doggy daycare, and quick-drop in visits for potty breaks.

Petco vs. PetSmart: Who treats animals better?

Though there always seems to be controversy surrounding pet stores that sell live animals, PetSmart and Petco both treat their animals quite well. Both companies make it a priority to hire people who genuinely care about the well-being of animals.

Petco is passionate about ensuring the health of the animals in their care. One local Petco had a little parakeet lovingly named Chicken that all the other birds were picking on! To protect Chicken and keep his feathers from being plucked out by the mean birds, they temporarily put him in his very own private bird suite until he was healed and could maybe go find some nicer friends!

This same Petco also had two new bird arrivals: A Sun Conure and a Green Cheeked Conure. Again, both birds had their own private suites. Most interestingly, both had big “not for sale” signs by them!

The employees wanted to monitor the birds and learn more about their personalities before allowing them to be sold. They do genuinely care about their animals.

Similarly, PetSmart is passionate about the health and happiness of the animals in their care. For example, upon receiving new animals, and in the case of animals being returned, they all are kept in a quiet but comfortable isolation room for three days to ensure their health.

Additionally, PetSmart stores have a separate quarantine room for any animals that may be ill or hurt while in their care. Any sick or hurt animal is always immediately taken to a veterinarian. For example, hamsters, mice, guinea pigs, etc., are usually taken to the in-store veterinarian hospital PetSmart partners with Banfield.

If an animal like a turtle, tortoise, snake, etc. becomes ill or hurt, they are taken to the closest exotic animal vet. Upon return from the veterinarian, specially trained employees are responsible for checking on the health of these animals and administering any medication or special care prescribed by the vet until the animal is back to full health.

PetSmart vs. Petco: Pet health insurance

Petco partners with an insurance company to provide pet insurance to owners. If owners are Pet Pals members, they may be able to save 5% on their deductible.

Petco’s insurance works as a reimbursement, meaning that you pay the vet bill first, then submit the information to the pet insurance, which will then (if covered) pay you back what you spent (usually subtracting the deductible).

However, there are some downsides, such as no coverage for pre-existing conditions, no coverage for prescription pet food when it is used beyond the resolution of symptoms for prevention or general health, and other such limitations.

Be sure to read our article Is Pet Insurance Worth It? 5 Shocking Facts You Need to Know…

PetSmart does not currently offer a typical insurance plan. Instead, through their partnership with Banfield, they offer wellness plans. With a wellness plan, you pay a monthly fee, giving you access to discounts on preventative services like vaccinations and physical exams.  

For example, for a monthly fee, your pet will get two physical exams a year, yearly vaccinations, screenings, unlimited office visits, and a 10% discount on any other service or product from Banfield. This program is purely for prevention and will not help pay for emergency treatments or advanced testing.

In Conclusion

So, which is the better pet store, PetSmart or Petco? The moment of truth… drumroll please…. The best pet store is… the one that works best for you!

Every pet parent is different, and every pet has different needs! If you are the proud owner of two Golden Retrievers, who need de-shedding baths every few months, PetSmart may just be your go-to since grooming is cheaper.

Or maybe you are a saltwater fish tank enthusiast, so Petco is the place to be. So, what do you say? PetSmart or Petco-who’s your favorite?