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Danielle Sobel wants you to treat your dog’s wellness like you treat your own. After struggling with persistent health issues at a young age, Sobel decided to take her health into her own hands, doing independent research into holistic medicine. Eventually, she imparted her self-driven expertise in the wellness space through her company Juice Society, which promoted healthy food and lifestyle choices. More recently, the entrepreneur has thrown herself into a new venture for a different species with a similar mission: Dandy Pets, a line of personalized supplements for dogs. We caught up with Sobel to get the download on Dandy’s custom remedies to common ailments.
* The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
How would you explain Dandy to someone who isn’t familiar with the brand?
Dandy is really the only personalized product for pet parents and their dogs on the market today. When we say personalized, I mean very personalized. We have 32,000 different combinations of our supplement treats, which is our first product for your dog based on their needs. Our team of vets have brought together their expertise with science-backed ingredients and created an algorithm that basically looks at your dog, their breed, age, lifestyle, and diet and created a pack of four unique supplement treats for their daily vitamin routine.
Basically, our whole goal is to make it easier for pet parents to take care of their pets. I mean, I’m a dog mom to three dogs and they all have very different issues. I was getting really frustrated trying to figure out what to give my dog, which I think is definitely a common thread between pet parents in general. Especially if your dog is suffering from anything like anxiety, allergies, or digestive issues. The goal overall is just to continue to make it fun, approachable, and easy for pet parents to take care of their pet and live a longer, healthier, happier life.
What did you feel was missing from the pet care space that inspired you to create Dandy?
My one dog, Zoey, in particular was suffering really bad from allergies and I had just moved to Austin and I spent a ton of money at the vet, like any other pet parent would do, just trying to figure out like “What is going on with her? How can I resolve this? Is it food? Is it environmental?” I changed her food, who even knows how many times at this point. We did shots, creams — the whole thing, and nothing was working.
I personally suffered from some health stuff my whole life growing up and I changed my diet and added in supplements and herbs, which helped me resolve the issues that I had. I was looking at my dogs and was like, I feel like I can do this with you, too. So I started giving them things like turmeric, coconut oil, and CBD: everything that I knew that would team inflammation, which I feel is the core of any sort of chronic condition, especially allergies, anxiety, and digestion.
It started working and I was like “Great. I can buy them supplements.” I got so frustrated and overwhelmed, quite frankly, by all the brands that were out there. I was just finding them on Chewy and Amazon, but there was nothing that I felt that I really trusted. I wasn’t sure if it was the right thing for my dogs and I wanted to get multiple things to help them with not only their allergies or anxiety, but with Zoey, in particular, she had also torn her ACL at the time at daycare because she’s a senior pup. So, I was looking for mobility help. My other dog, Lyla, has anxiety issues and Emma has a bunch of digestive problems. I wanted a multitude of things and I didn’t find anything that was personalized, didn’t find anything that resonated with me as a consumer. And so I thought, why not try to solve this on my own?
How have your dogs (and their specific needs) played a role in the products you’ve formulated?
I would say Zoey, in particular, was my number one catalyst because I spent so much time with her at the vet going back and forth and allergies are really visible. They’re really red, they’re itchy, they’re chewing at their paws; they’re a very visible and consistent issue. And for her, I was like I have to figure this out. I was watching her suffer and she was up all night chewing at her paws until they were bleeding. They were definitely the catalyst and continue to be.
They’re my number one taste testers anytime we’re trying to update formulation or do new flavors. We’re coming out with a couple of new products next year. They’re like my go-to girls, because one of them will eat everything. Zoey is kind of picky, and then I have Lyla, who is like the pickiest dog in the entire world and will barely eat chicken out of my hand. So, they’re kind of like the perfect trio.
You have a test focus group, that’s awesome! Obviously the pandemic has been an interesting time for dog and pet ownership in general and a lot of people opted to get pets during this time. How do you think having a dog has enriched your life during quarantine?
This past year has been really difficult on a personal level, and obviously Covid and quarantine have been crazy in general, but the dogs have really kept me grounded. I think during a time when a lot of people felt really lonely because they’re stuck in their house or not being able to travel or see their family or anything, dogs provided this level of comfort. I think they bring a lot of joy into the in-between moments and kind of allow you to step outside thinking about the future and what’s going to happen and this and that.
Dogs just live in the moment and remind you to take a deep breath and just enjoy the small things. I’ve created a lot of daily habits now with the dogs. We have daily walks and we sit outside all together in the morning in the sunshine and I have coffee and read and they’re just lounging. We definitely have our routines now. Obviously, as a solo girl with three dogs it’s a lot of dogs, but they honestly bring me so much joy and friendship and companionship. They’ve been lifesavers, especially over this past year.
You mentioned you’re in Austin. Are you currently living there?
Yeah, just like everyone else. Now I’m like maybe we should go somewhere new. It’s funny, when I think about moving, I literally think “Where have my dogs not lived yet that they would want to live?” I was in LA most of last year with them and they really loved LA. So now I’m like maybe we should go to Miami for six months and let them live by the beach. Two of my dogs are a little bit older now, like 10 and 11, so I’m like they’d probably love to be living by the beach for a year. I’m planning my life and where I’m moving around where I think my dogs would want to be.
Do you have a favorite dog-friendly spot in Austin?
Only one of my three dogs really loves the water, like lakes and oceans and what not. My dog, Emma, and I definitely get out the most together. She comes with me on my morning runs and she really loves this one area of town called Red Bud Trail. She loves to go swimming there and run around with all of the dogs. It’s awesome. I try to really incorporate them into my day to day so if I go grab coffee, I’ll usually bring one of them with me, but other than that we’re going on a lot of nature walks and runs.
Austin is probably the most dog friendly city I’ve ever been in. We’re also the largest no-kill city in the country. Actually, Dandy partners with Austin Pets Alive, which is the shelter/ national program called American Pets Alive to help other shelters become no-kill. But yeah, they were the leaders in no-kill and helping other shelters develop programs to be able to save 98 or 99% of the dogs that come through.
How do you come up with the unique shapes for Dandy’s supplements?
There’s actually two reasons: One is to help people identify which treat is in their pack. That’s to help identify when a dog doesn’t like one of the treats, it will help us sort of break down which one they don’t like. It’s part identification, but the reason I came up with it is because — do you remember Flintstone Gummies or Vitamins as a kid? When I was creating this, I was like I really want this to be fun and playful. Dogs, for many people, are like their children. I literally call my dogs my daughters. It’s definitely really cute and it also makes it easier for the pet parents to figure out like “Oh my dog really loves this one” or “They’re not so crazy about this one.”
What was the process that you went through in terms of researching the ingredients that go into the supplements?
I was obviously very well versed in supplements on the human side from my previous business and what I mentioned before around my own health. That said, once I started looking into the pet space, I was like I need to consult vets. I built out a vet advisory team and consulted with them, as well as our manufacturer, on making sure that not only were the ingredients the highest quality, but that they’re ingredients that vets were already prescribing or giving to their patients at the clinic and that we were dosing it properly to make sure there were enough of the active ingredients to work. We definitely consulted with three different vets on our team, as well as the food scientist, and team that we work with — our sort of co-manufacturer — to make sure that all the ingredients are the best quality, but also work for the dog.
What is inspiring you right now?
Supporting shelters and rescues in general is a big part of what we try to do. Obviously, I’m very obsessed with rescuing as many dogs as possible. I’m capped at three right now, but hopefully at some point I can have more. Because all my dogs have come from fairly, for lack of a better term, shitty situations, where they were set to be euthanized or found on the street or whatever, it’s just something that’s really important to me and weighs really heavy on me. So, we work with shelters and rescues all of the time. This month, for every purchase we’re actually donating $10 to Wags and Walks, a rescue based in LA. They have a bunch of amazing dogs for adoption right now.
You seem to travel a lot with your pups. What travel tips can you give fellow pet parents?
I think across the board, recognize that your dog is probably going to be a little bit anxious during their travels. I’ll give them Chill Pills, one of our treats which has calming ingredients. My dog Lyla gets especially nervous in the car. I don’t know where she thinks we’re going; I’ve only taken her really great places.
Also, just make sure that you have everything (this is more for a really long car ride) in reaching distance, whether it’s water, a collar, food for them, so that you don’t have to go back and dig through things. I definitely made the mistake where I packed everything so tight into the trunk and we were half way through and I was like “Oh my god. I have to unpack the entire truck now just to get them their water bowl.” Those are some tips that I learned along the way, but I think traveling with your dog is awesome.
What’s next for Dandy?
We’re coming out with some new products and our goal is to continue to make it easier and more fun for pet parents to take care of their dogs, be able to give them things to supplement their lifestyle, and just be proactive and preventative with their wellness. We all do that. We have teammates who workout, take supplements, or eat right — whatever it is we are doing proactively because we know it’s good for us in the long term. I think looking at your dog’s health and recognizing that they’re an individual helps pet parents figure out what their specific dog needs.
Our goal is to be able to serve all pet parents across the board and be that go-to place for a dog mom or dad when they’re looking for not only personalization but also vet-backed, science-backed ingredients. We’ll be running some clinical trials on our products next year so we’re really committed to making sure that we’re developing the highest quality products that actually work for your dog that will contribute to a better quality of life across the board.
Selfishly, I hope there’s a cat version soon.
We get that request so much. We definitely have our eye on it. The amount of emails we get asking “Can I give this to my cat?” I don’t recommend it.
The designer on playing with patterns, punching up home decor for dogs, and that time Harry Styles sported a Dusen Dusen sweater on SNL.
“I think the relationship between a woman and her animal companion can build out a character a lot — they’re more like witches’ familiars than pets.”
Avery is a writer and producer. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. When she’s not at her computer, you can find her reading, practicing her Greek on Duolingo, and delving into the Sex and the City discourse. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her husband and their cat, Chicken, who rules with an iron fist.