Humans come and go, but as the age-old sentiment goes, dogs will always be man’s best friend. Once a dog enters a person’s life and makes a home, that creature is there until the end of its days. They give love, comfort and companionship, so it’s only fair that the human parent(s) in its life provides the same, if not more. Amanda Dunnavant, the owner of Just Dogs Gourmet, bakes treats, cakes and more for dog owners to show how much they appreciate their furry family members.
Dunnavant started her journey over a decade ago when she was working for a gourmet dog treat franchise. The franchise eventually fell under, but Dunnavant wasn’t quite ready to give up her career.
“We decided to carry on as an independent store,” Dunnavant says. “I wasn’t going to bake everything at first — I was just going to be decorating treats and cakes, but the quality just wasn’t there. I couldn’t find treats that really had the kind of standards that I was used to, so I educated myself and got licensed in baking treats for dogs. It took a lot of trial and error, but I already had the background in doing a lot of baking.”
The treats and cakes Dunnavant bakes may often be shaped like bones, but the ingredients are nowhere near the processed grit that factory-made dog treats are typically made from. Dunnavant uses normal ingredients that are used in baked goods people eat — only with a few substitutions for dogs’ health and safety.
“[The ingredients] are a lot of the same things we use in human cookies, we just don’t add the processed components. [Just Dogs Gourmet] uses all-natural peanut butter, unsweetened applesauce, honey and carob which looks like chocolate and tastes like chocolate only that it’s safe for dogs to consume,” Dunnavant explains. “One of our most popular treats, a bacon treat, uses low-sodium bacon, so there’s not all the salt that the dogs don’t need.”
Dunnavant not only uses ingredients that are safe for humans to consume, but she also runs her kitchen with the same health rules she would if she were baking for humans.
“If you were to look in my kitchen without knowing what I was doing, you would think I was running a bakery for humans because I take all the same precautions. I use gloves, hairnets and anything else to keep the space sanitary,” Dunnavant says.
Dunnavant has owned her bakery since 2008, and for the past couple of years, she has been working from her home and selling her products online and through the Painted Tree Marketplace. The 10 years she and her bakery spent in a brick-and-mortar store helped her build her brand and make connections with her customers. Now, she bakes everything from her home for special orders and to keep her booth at the Painted Tree stocked with customer favorites.
“I keep the mini cupcakes, cupcakes and the little small cakes that have a ‘Happy Birthday,’ stocked all the time,” Dunnavant says. “I also keep our peanut butter-decorated treats that have a peanut butter base on hand, and the peanut butter yogurt. Peanut butter yogurt really has value to a dog, especially if you’re trying to train and you need something that they really, really respond to. A lot of people, when they’re house training, will use the yogurt treats because they’re high in value and a really good reinforcement tool.”
One of her best-sellers, the birthday cakes, takes dog birthday parties to the next level. Whether dog owners are planning last-minute or they have an entire themed party in mind for their best furry friend, Dunnavant is definitely a veteran of the trade who can provide an experience they won’t soon forget.
“If customers need to pick up something really quick, I have small birthday cakes they can pick up,” Dunnavant shares. “I also have bigger, bone-shaped or round cakes, but those are by special order. I need around two days’ notice for those, and I’ve done a lot of themed cakes like Wonder Woman, Hot Wheels and Top Gun. Some people have pretty elaborate parties, so I can always do something special for them.”
For smaller goods that she keeps stocked, Dunnavant enjoys making seasonally decorated treats and cookies. Fall is right around the fire hydrant, so she is currently selling treats shaped and decorated as pumpkins, candy corn, squirrels and pumpkin pie.
Through the shift in moving her business and the trials the pandemic brought to every small business owner, Dunnavant is appreciative of her customers that have kept her bakery going.
“I have a really loyal customer base that has stuck with me and sent people my way through referrals. These customers have been with me since 2008,” Dunnavant says. “Any new customers can always reach out to me if they have any questions.”
There does not need to be a specific reason to treat a dog to a gourmet snack, and Dunnavant’s bakery has everything to make a canine’s day special. Place an order on the Just Dogs Gourmet website or make a trip to the Painted Tree Marketplace for some goodies for your good boy or girl.
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