Gary Dahl, an advertising executive, created Pet Rock in 1975. They were smooth stones from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach and were marketed like live pets, in custom cardboard boxes, complete with straw and breathing holes. During the Christmas season of 1975, sales spiked during the fad’s six-month run. Dahl sold over 1 million Pet Rocks for $4 each and became a millionaire despite being discounted due to lower sales in February 1976.
Gary Dahl had the idea in a bar while listening to friends complaining about their pets; this gave him the idea for the perfect “pet”: a rock. Rocks don’t need to be fed, walked, bathed, groomed, or die. They don’t become sick or disobedient when they grow up. Dahl joked with his friends that they would make perfect pets. However, Dahl took his “pet” concept seriously and drafted an instruction manual for it. The rock was referred to as an actual pet through puns and gags throughout the manual.
Dahl stated in his booklet:
Your PET ROCK will be a devoted friend and companion for many years to come. Rocks enjoy a rather long-life span, so the two of you will never have to part –– at least not on your PET ROCK’s account. Once you have transcended the awkward training stage, your rock will mature into a faithful, obedient, loving pet with but one purpose in life –– to be at your side when you want it to and to go lie down when you don’t.
Dahl’s most significant expense was die-cutting and manufacturing of the boxes. Rocks cost only one cent apiece, and straws were nearly free. Dahl tacked the pet rock booklet onto a printing job for a client for the initial run of brochures. In the end, he had only to cut and trim a batch, which was almost free of charge to him. A 32-page official training manual titled The Care and Training of Your Pet Rock was included, with instructions on adequately raising and caring for one’s new Pet Rock (notably lacking instructions for feeding, bathing, and so on). As part of the instruction manual, there were gags, puns, jokes, and commands that could be taught to the new pet. The trainer usually had to help the dog roll over because “sit,” “stay,” and “stay” were all effortless.
Pet Rocks became available again on September 3, 2012. Rosebud Entertainment holds the trademark rights to Pet Rock in the United States.