It seems simple enough: find a dog treat that’s not only popular with the family pooch, but is also good for them.
But for husband-and-wife team Janette and Tony Buonaiuto, it wasn’t so easy.
“We have a 13-year-old, 4-pound Chihuahua, Kokonutz, who’s really picky, and a 5-year-old chihuahua, Axel, who’s a goofball,” Janette said. “We tried everything when it came to treats — they’d take one from you but then carry it off and drop it in what we wound up calling ‘The Treat Graveyard.’”
Tony — who said he was used to eating hot dogs while the dogs dined on steak — said their frustration led them to start offering the dogs bits of chicken. “Boiled, sautéed, baked, grilled,” Janette recounted. “They loved it, but you can’t go around carrying chicken with you for a treat.”
Her husband — a general contractor who’s co-founder of Danbury’s Neutocrete, a product that is sprayed on dirt crawlspaces and hardens to a cement-like substance to address mold, dry rot and other issues — hit upon the idea of dehydrating chicken breasts and slicing them ultra-thin.
The result — an easy-to-carry and, due to its brittle nature, easily broken into appropriate-sized portions — found favor not just with Kokonutz and Axel, but with friends’ and family members’ canine pals as well.
Thus did the Danbury couple launch Good Doggy Treats in Brookfield in 2016. Preparation, cooking and packaging is done at its warehouse space at 105 Grays Bridge Road, which today is staffed by nine employees. Transparent bags that retain the “homemade” touch by resembling Ziplocs each contain several slices weighing 5.5 ounces, with one slice branded with the Good Doggy logo; they sell for $10.
The best part, according to Tony, is that there are no additives, fillers or preservatives. Good Doggy Treats are made entirely of Grade A chicken breast, resulting in a product consisting of 83 percent of crude protein and just 4 percent of crude fat.
“But chicken isn’t the only ingredient. There’s also love,” Janette said, as Tony rolled his eyes in mock exasperation.
Much of the company’s growth was initially from Good Doggy’s presence at area fairs, flea markets and similar functions. More recently the company has begun selling its wares in a number of veterinary offices and local pet shops in Ridgefield, Redding and Newtown, as well as in Agway, Tractor Supply and Cabela’s.
Through friends and loyal customers, Good Doggy’s reach has also extended to Nashville and even a jewelry store in Boca Raton, Florida. “Pretty much every dog that’s tried it loves it,” Janette said.
Tony said he’s in the process of “winding down” his involvement with Neutocrete to focus on Good Doggy, which he sees as having nearly unlimited growth potential. Indeed, according to research firm Mintel, sales of pet treats have outpaced both dog and cat food in the U.S. over the last five years, with sales increasing by 29 percent between 2012-17 to reach $4.39 billion.
He further pointed to America’s ongoing love for dogs: according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, as of 2012, 36.5 percent of U.S. households owned a dog; those households on average owned 1.6 canines. In addition, Statista reports that the number of registered dogs in the country has increased from 68 million in 2000 to 89.7 million last year. Buonaiuto said that if estimates of unregistered dogs are correct, the total U.S. canine figure is probably around 120 million.
Good Doggy Chief Operating Officer Karl Schumacher said the company recorded a 67 percent increase in bags produced from January to June of this year. Sales have grown at about the same rate, he said, as the treats don’t have a long shelf life — and that the firm is on pace for 120 percent growth year-over-year. Tony Buonaiuto said the company has a target of producing 800 bags a week and could, with the hiring of another couple of people, ramp up to 1,000 bags a day after its distribution channel on Amazon.com launches within the next 60 days.
Tony said he expects to ultimately sell Good Doggy to a larger concern if everything goes right, possibly within three to five years.
In the meantime, he said, “It’s ‘120 million dogs, here we come!’”