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We are decades removed from the era when pet parents literally threw a dog a bone in the backyard or let them eat just any kibble. No, we are in the age of modern pet parents who tirelessly research food, nutrition, and how they can give their dog the best of the best. Giving your pup home-cooked food sounds like a great option, but how do you get started?
Toronto-based pet food company Dog Child is remastering what it means to give our pets a home-cooked meal. By launching simple easy-to-make meals using upcycled ingredients, Dog Child empowers pet parents to cook nutrient-rich meals at home (at a fraction of the price of the store-bought versions). The biggest spoiler of all? Most of what you’ll need is already in your fridge. Dog Child has enlisted a team of experts, including veterinarians and nutritionists, in order to develop healthy, delicious, and nutritionally-balanced formulas to make the process of home-cooked meals easier, faster, and safer.
Aside from the fact that cooking for your pet at home rarely comes with an endorsement from a veterinarian, many DIY recipes lack essential nutrients that pets need. “The goal was to empower dog parents to cook for their pets with the peace of mind that their wellbeing is covered, and they are truly giving their pets the best,” CEO and founder Nicole Marchand says. Below, she shares the process behind Dog Child’s recipe development, their focus on sustainability, and their philosophy of doing their best for our dogs.
How did you first come up with the concept behind Dog Child?
So, I had an extremely picky eater as a dog. I literally would sit there and have five different things out for her and was constantly struggling getting her to eat, and she was getting older. At the same time, I saw these ads for these fresh food delivery services, like The Farmer’s Dog in the U.S. (there are different ones here in Canada). I went online, ordered one, and was really turned off. I was concerned with all the bulky packaging and the plastic; it was filling up so much of my freezer. I served it to her, and she kind of liked it, but didn’t really, and it just wasn’t really worth the cost and effort. So, I looked at the side of the ingredients, and I was like, Why don't I just start cooking for her?
That was really where the idea was born to help a parent be able to cook for their dog so they can give them fresh whole foods, just like we eat, but do it in a simple way, where you can find all the ingredients at your local grocery store. It’s not going to take you, like, hours and hours of meal prep a week. You can really do everything in less than 15 minutes.
It can be hard to find time to cook even for ourselves. What about the ritual and routine of cooking keeps people coming back to Dog Child?
Like I said, we wanted to make it simple. Our first product line is what we call our meal mixes, so those are organic freeze-dried fruits and vegetables along with an essential nutrient mix with probiotics, prebiotics, all sorts of goodness for gut health. It takes you less than 15 minutes per week to cook for your dog. All the pet parent has to do is buy their own ground protein, whether that’s beef, lamb, turkey, or chicken.
You cook that up, you add in a scoop of our meal mix with water and oil, and you have fresh food for your dog for the week. All of our recipes allow you to add in up to 10 percent of extra ingredients that you have around the home. Not only are you reducing food waste, you’re giving your dog nutritious, healthy food.
Do you find that the time you put into preparing your dog’s food helps you bond with them?
When you just see how happy they are when they’re licking it up, and you just see that joy in their eyes, I think that’s really the bonding. It doesn’t have to be 100 percent home cooking, but even if you just start to incorporate a little bit of home cooking, it really can go a long way in your dog’s health, happiness, and longevity.
I know Dog Child uses upcycled recipes and recyclable packaging. What about sustainability was important to you in adding a new product to the market?
It was just really important to me, as a consumer getting frustrated with all of the bulky packaging and having boxes and plastic everywhere. When we set out to create these products, we wanted to do small-size packaging. Our products are shelf-stable so you can buy them [and] keep them in your cupboard; they don’t necessarily have to go in the fridge or freezer until you cook them.
When I walk down the treat aisle of a lot of pet stores, there are a lot of things where I’m like, I can simply make that. A sweet-potato chew is, like, one of the simplest things that you can make at home. An apple chew or banana can be made at a fraction of the cost. So, it was just really important to me as a parent and a consumer who tries to shop sustainably to incorporate that into all of our products.
What was top of mind when creating different recipes?
When I cook for myself or my family, I generally go to two websites to look for recipes, and I can find them easily. Whether that’s a dessert, a salad, or veggie burgers, I always go to two different sites. So, I wanted to create a destination where, if you’re thinking of cooking for your dog, Dog Child is the go-to site.
I wanted to be all-encompassing with all different recipes, including meals and snacks. I did want there to be a focus on using upcycled ingredients and giving pet parents simple ideas to create snacks for their dog that are also healthy. We do have a lot of plant-forward and plant-based items in that, and that was important to me as well.
What’s next for Dog Child?
We’re looking at launching some products that both pet parents and their dogs can share together. On our website, we have what we call “shareables,” which means that you can eat it and your dog and you’ll both enjoy it. So, we’re going to continue producing those shareable recipes and put out more full meals that you can split up.
Just as we need variety, a lot of people are realizing dogs don’t love to eat the same thing every day. So, we want to just continue to add in more ideas and more recipes so you can expand your dog’s taste buds. We get so much enjoyment from food — trying a new restaurant, trying a new ingredient, so we truly believe our dogs deserve that same excitement from food that we all derive.
Is cat food on the horizon?
That is the number-one question that we get on the website. Eventually. There is so much we can do with dogs right now, so that will be a couple years out, but I’m not going to say no.
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Avery is an editor at The Wildest. She has written for numerous publications, including Refinery29, BuzzFeed, and V Magazine. She lives in Brooklyn, New York with her fiancé and cat, Chicken, and has high hopes that one of them will let her adopt a dog.