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Homemade, all-natural dog treats business niche for New Havenite

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Makes: Homemade all-natural dog treats
Owner: Tracy Degitz, owner
Contact: 749-6549
Other: and

Monday, July 29, 2013 - 12:01 am

New Haven resident Tracy Degitz has always been a careful supermarket shopper and attempts to choose the healthiest foods available for her family. She reads the labels, and if she finds something she can’t pronounce or if it has all kinds of preservatives and dyes, she puts it back on the shelf.

Since Zoey, a Chihuahua/mini-Dachshund mix belonging to her daughter Chelsea Roush, came into their family last year, she has been doing the same thing when picking out doggie treats through her Dawg-e-Bag business.

“She wouldn’t eat the commercially produced treats,” Degitz said of Zoey, “and when I examined the labels it was easy to see why. They have ingredients that are simply not good for dogs like sugar, salt, onion extract, dyes, propylene glycol, (whatever that is), beef fat and meat byproducts. And with the preservatives you never know if they’ve been on the shelf a week or several months.”

Degitz decided to make her own dog treats. She researched what Zoey could or could not eat and started experimenting. Zoey really went for peanut butter. So, Degitz’s first treat was a mix of peanut butter in dough made of unbleached whole wheat flour, rolled oats and a touch of unsweetened applesauce. She cut the dough with a cookie cutter and baked them in her oven.

“Zoey gobbled them up,” she said, “so I gave some to friends and neighbors to see if their dogs might like them, too. They did and their pet parents suggested I should try selling my treats.”

So in June 2012, working with her taste-tester, Zoey, she started Dawg-e-Bag homemade baked dog treats featuring fresh, natural and organic, human-grade ingredients with no sugar or salt.

Dawg-e-Bag offers pet parents healthy, great tasting treat options. All the treats have dog related names like “Poochers” which is the basic peanut butter mix, “Barkers” with beef broth flavoring and “Chow Chows,” which are flavored with chicken broth. Then there’s “Snips Ahoy” made with peanut butter and carob chips, “Cheese Sits” with cheese flavoring and “Ruffles” made with sweet potato chips. Perhaps the most unusual one is “Flea Fighter” that helps keep fleas away. It’s a chicken-flavored biscuit with garlic powder and brewer’s yeast, both of which are natural flea repellants.

Since turning her kitchen into a doggie bakery, Degitz has added peanut butter-flavored doughnuts with all-natural yogurt frosting formulated specifically for dogs, “Pup Cakes” with peanut butter, banana and frosting; “Milk Studs,” a little candy bar with peanut butter and carob; and “Frosted Paws,” doggie ice cream.

“Pet parents buy the Frosted Paws so their dog can have cake and ice cream at their birthday parties just like humans,” Degitz said. “Dogs can also celebrate their birthdays with my ‘Zoey Pooch Hooch’ doggie beer. Of course it has no alcohol and no carbonation, but it does come in a beer bottle and is great on hot days poured over crushed ice.

She also tries to accommodate dogs with special dietary needs.

For those with allergies, she makes a special “Poochers” mix with peanut butter that is gluten-free because it’s made without wheat flour. Treats come in all sorts of shapes from fire hydrants, dog houses, bones, and paws to puppies, hearts, baseballs and tennis balls. She’ll even personalize them with the dog’s name.

Dawg-e-Bag debuted in April at the Pet Expo at Fort Wayne’s Memorial Coliseum where Degitz’s products generated a great deal of interest. Now, she sets up a booth at all but one of the local farmers markets throughout Fort Wayne and New Haven.

“I like that format very much because I can talk with prospective customers face to face, give samples, answer questions and take orders, which goes along with my motto of ‘Buy fresh…buy often.’ I’m presently sending treats across the country from Internet orders.

Zoey isn’t the only taste tester in the family.

“I often taste the various treats myself,” Degitz said. “I personally like the Milk Studs and the Snips Ahoy,” she added.

“My hope for the future is to open a small doggie bakery where pet parents can bring their dogs in to sample fresh-baked treats.”