Does your dog have bad breath?
If so, this episode of The Dog Show about dental hygiene for dogs, featuring Andrea Huspeni, is a must-listen.
Andrea is the founder of This Dog’s Life, a resource for dog parents showcasing a curated collection of the best dog brands from around the world, while also providing advice and a community for dog parents.
When she isn’t working, Andrea enjoys being outside with her amazing dogs, exploring New York City, and cooking.
In the interview, we discuss why dental hygiene is important for dogs and how you can improve your dog’s dental hygiene and get rid of bad breath with the Bye, Bye Dog Breath Dental Kit.
Find out more about This Dog’s Life here:
Will: This episode of “The Dog Show” features Andrea Huspeni. Andrea is the founder of “This Dog’s Life,” a resource for dog parents showcasing a curated collection of the best dog brands from around the world, while also providing advice and a community for dog parents. When she isn’t working, Andrea enjoys being outside with her amazing dogs, exploring New York City, and cooking. In the interview, we discuss why dental hygiene is important for dogs and how you can improve your dog’s dental hygiene and get rid of bad breath with the Bye, Bye Dog Breath dental kit. Andrea, welcome to “The Dog Show” today. Thank you very much for coming on.
Andrea: Thank you so much for having me.
Will: It’s a pleasure having you come on the show. So you’ve got quite a long history with different types of dogs. At the moment you have a dog called Milo, which is a bulldog mix. Do you wanna start by telling me a bit more about Milo?
Andrea: Sure. So he’s like a bully mix. Some people, I’ve not done his DNA yet, but some people will be like, he could be like a Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, but he’s like the blockhead type of dog and he’s great, but he’s 55 pounds of like muscle. So before him I’ve always had smaller dogs. I had a third…you know, grew up with smaller dogs. Lola, my previous dog was 30, 35 pounds, another dog I had was Bentley and he was 8 pounds. So going from like a small dog to like 55-pound dog of like muscle took a little bit of adjusting for me, but I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot with him in terms of like being a better…actually being a better dog owner. I think the bigger the dog you have, the bigger your responsibility is. And, you know, when I had a long-haired Chihuahua mix, if you did anything wrong, you just pick them up or you scoop them up and then you’re like, “Okay, get on your way.” But you weren’t really teaching him or training him to be a great dog. You were just like, you know, getting rid of the problem, but with like a bigger dog, you have to work on training a little bit more. And so he’s great. He likes to go on his 20-minute to 30-minute walk every day and then he just sleeps all day. So he’s like this couch potato, he thinks he’s five pounds, loves to snuggle all the time with me. And, you know, he’s a really, really good dog. He does have some things, you know, like I think it’s like…he doesn’t love designer dogs, like the Labradoodles as much. I think he’s like, “I’m a mutt from the street.” But he’s a great dog.
Will: It’s a good point you make about the different size of dogs because my French bulldog is like 15 pounds. So if she does something which I don’t like on the lead or something like that and like there’s a dangerous situation with other dogs, you can kind of just pick them up and that’s the end of it. But when they’re a bigger dog, which can actually pull a bit away, especially a bullying mix, you know, 55 pounds is hard to control, I imagine.
Andrea: Well, and you think about it. Like I always… Like I have put myself in the eyes now of thinking about different things when I walk him. So when I used to have my 8-pound dog, get all like his chest get, you know, big and he’s like kind of macho dog and he would walk up to a dog or pull on the leash or like kind of be a little bit of trouble on the leash. You know, a lot of people would think that’s funny or they’d laugh or whatever, but now if like a bigger dog does it, you know, it’s like your dog is out of control. So now I look at like little smaller dogs in my neighborhood and I kind of put a visualization, like what if this was a big dog? What if this was a German shepherd, or Rottweiler or a bully mix? I’m like, “Would I think that’s okay? Would I think that is, you know, acceptable?” And so that’s sort of why he has taught me to be a better dog parent, is because you just can’t get away with it. You can’t get away with it. So we have to work much harder on our training and much harder on manners with him. So he’s definitely taught me a lot.
Will: Yeah. Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. It makes you more aware because I’m the same. I look at some other big dogs and I’m almost happy that I’m not the one having to wrestle them, when I’m on the leash, you know what I mean? But yeah, it would make you really aware of needing to train them and be disciplined and all that kind of stuff.
Andrea: Yeah. Yeah. I never thought about that before him and now it’s like… Yeah. It’s just a bigger responsibility for you. So I mean, it helps because before, and I still kind of am like a helicopter mom where I’m like smother Milo where I’m like, “You do not need any training. You can live off treats or whatever you want.” But you need to give him boundaries. You need to give him like, “Okay, we got to train before, you know, you eat. You gotta do this, and this, and this.” And so I think it helps him too, because I actually think dogs, you know, definitely like to be on a schedule or a routine and it forces me to do that.
Will: So like myself and many other people that are working in the dog space, you’ve got an interesting story of, you know, coming from regular industry into the dog space, which is like so much fun and enjoyable. How did that play out? What was that story?
Andrea: Always, always, always been a dog lover. This was not my first attempt to a dog business, but I’ve always been a dog lover. So before this, I was at “Entrepreneur Magazine” which is a publication that, you know, obviously interviews founders and entrepreneurs from all walks of life. And I was…started out as a writer and then went to journalist and then the special projects director. But as I moved up, you know, I had less time to write. And so I started “This Dog’s Life” as a dog blog for actually New York dog parents, just helping them with like dog-friendly restaurants where you can go with your dog, what you can do with your dog just as a way, like I said, as like a side hustler or just maybe a creative outlet while I was working full time. And I really, really enjoyed it, but that’s how it started, as a blog.
And then I was just around interviewing entrepreneurs and founders and learning about startups. I was like…I got so inspired by them. I mean, I love the idea of people’s challenging the status quo, trying to do their own thing, and so I just like kind of took the leap. And when I took the leap, that’s when I was like I can’t just have it be a blog site for New York because not only had to evolve to be more for the general dog parent population, but I wanted to have it be the foundation for something bigger, including an e-commerce component to it. So that’s when I launched the store.
Will: Okay. And what made you start with… Because you started with a dental product, how did you land on that product as the thing to start with?
Andrea: It was a couple of things, but I had just spoken about my dog, Bentley, who he was definitely my soul dog. He was my dog that I had as an adult and he was everything to me. And he lived till he was 16, but when he started to get older, you know, as dogs do, like things start to happen to their body and their health. And, you know, he was getting arthritis and he was, you know, getting blind, you know, he couldn’t see. He had lots and lots of issues, but he also had really, really bad breath, and by that time, I couldn’t take him to the vet to get a dental cleaning because he was too old, and going under would have been not…it would’ve been more risky for him and he just would not accept brushing his teeth. And so, you know, watching him eat and chewing, and it was just not enjoyable. Treats were not enjoyable for him, nothing was enjoyable for him. And so it was really hard for me to watch that I felt very guilty about it. I was like, you know, I could have probably prevented this. And now like in his last years of his life, he’s not enjoying it as much as he fully could.
And so, you know, he was kind of the inspiration. So when he passed and I was like, “I wanna start, you know, go into the store.” I wanted to do wellness products. And so I started looking around for dental. I was like really, really interested in dental because of the experience I had with Bentley. And I was seeing like there wasn’t a lot of innovation in this space in some areas and then there was also ingredients that I just didn’t really find to be amazing. So there might’ve been like a product that could help with plaque or could help with tartar, but maybe it’s a raw, some [Inaudible 00:09:11] for your dog to ingest. And so that was kind of like where I’m like, “I really want to get behind a brand that creates wellness products that use natural ingredients to help the health issue.” And so dental was definitely my first one. I don’t think it would be a lot of people, if they went into the wellness areas first, supplement, a lot more people focus on like joint pain, or CBD is a really big one, but I really wanted to do dental first. And I’m glad I did. And, you know, besides…you know, the story of Bentley as I had been doing my research, I realized that dental health, it’s the number one health issue for dogs, which I didn’t know.
By age three, I think 85% of dogs have it in some way. And the big reason is no one wants to brush their dog’s teeth or they do teeth, you know, they do cleanings or they don’t do cleanings, which are all very, very important things to do. But yeah, it’s like if 85% of dogs are having it by age 3, like dental disease, and it gets progressively worse, you know, it’s like 9, 10 years, this dog’s going where, you know, they’re not gonna say, “My teeth hurt or my mouth hurts,” but they could be having pain for a majority of their life. And so I really looked to provide a preventative solution.
Will: Okay. So what you described about Bentley having bad breath, I guess that was the symptom, the obvious symptom from our perspective, because you can smell that, but you also mentioned that he had like trouble eating. So I imagine he had sore gums and things like that as well. So that was all like, I guess then that resulted in dental-based issues, which all came from the hygiene of his mouth. Is that right?
Andrea: Yes. Yes, yes. Exactly. Yeah. Those are symptoms, but, you know, dental disease…you know, like I said, it’s a dental disease. So the biggest one is periodontal disease, which is like gingivitis disease and, you know, that takes place in four stages and bad breath is like one of the first symptoms, but, you know, then it can lead to gingivitis and if that’s not treated, you know, this bad bacteria can get into a dog’s gum and it can not only, you know, get that foul breath, but it could eventually go into the bloodstream and cause bigger issues like kidney disease or affecting kidneys, the liver, and even the heart. So it can be deadly. And I actually think one of my parents’ dogs passed away. We don’t know for sure, but I have a feeling passed away because they didn’t do good dental care with her and her liver shut down because of it.
Will: Yeah. I imagine a lot of dog owners aware of that kind knock-on effect, they’d probably think of, you know, you have bad dental hygiene, bad health, maybe they’ll lose a tooth or something like that. You know, like that’s bad, but like they probably don’t think about those like serious health issues which could result from bad dental hygiene.
Andrea: Yeah. That’s why I’m like one of those people that like become like obsessed with it because I’m like this impacts like a dog’s entire body and yeah, it is so much more than a loose tooth or a tooth that, you know, just comes out. It’s like a huge, huge issue. And so, you know, for me and for “This Dog’s Life,” I’m like, “Can we do small steps throughout a dog…or small actions throughout a dog’s day to help with preventative care?” I do think brushing your dog’s teeth is the gold standard, but 99% of people don’t do it. And I also am really like anything you do at home, you know, does not replace going to the vet, you know? So you still need to get cleanings. You still need to do that. So, but people love the products, like we’re already sold a lot of it. Again, I keep selling out of it, which is a little bit stressful because, people, like, if they don’t get it sent to them… I have two products, I have a dental stick and a dental powder and the dental powder sells out all the time, and so they get like not happy once it’s sold out. So they definitely love it. So that makes me really, really happy, is when I hear stories from customers about like how much it’s impacted and helped their dog.
Will: So explain to me how they both work. So the dental stick sounds pretty self-explanatory, it sounds like a chew that the dog would have. The powder, it’s not something I’ve heard of before.
Andrea: Sure. And yeah, it’s interesting. Yup. Dental stick’s super self-explanatory, it’s just more focused on a holistic approach. And so it doesn’t just like scrape…it uses a mechanical abrasion to help with the combating of tartar, but it also has ingredients to support healthy gums, freshened breath, and like work on balancing the bacteria in the dog’s mouth. The powder, which I was actually surprised it sells much more than the sticks. And I was like, there’s no… I was thinking, to your point of what you just said, was like, “I’ve never heard of this powder.” I was thinking it was gonna be take more education to educate people on how it works, but it doesn’t. And so basically, it’s a powder that you sprinkle on your dog’s food and it works best with harder food, but some people will use it on wet food. And when your dog is chewing the food, they’re producing saliva and the saliva activates with the ingredients at the powder such as like the zinc or the natural zeolites, and that acts as like a little bit of a micro abrasion to start scrubbing the teeth and acting like a cleaner.
Will: Oh, wow. So I guess… Is that something that the owners are using every meal the dog has or how often are they using that?
Andrea: Yeah. We get it… I mean, I think some people will use it once a day just in the morning and some people use it for every meal. So I think it kind of depends on their preference and how long they want it to last.
Will: That sounds to me like an easy thing to add into the routine. Like we always, for example, like we spray fish oil on our dog’s food when she eats as well. So like just adding another thing which is gonna help with the hygiene, would be a simple addition. But I guess to choose as well. So with the sticks, are they edible sticks, or are they kind of… The dog, because that’s the one I’m imagining in my head, the one that you give the dog and they chew on it for a while and then like big bubble thing.
Andrea: So, yup. I was just like, “I don’t know where I have one.” But, yeah. No. Yup. It’s like a, you know, a 2.5-inch stick and like… It’s not like a bone where they chew on it. It’s more like a, you know, like a chip treat. Like they can finish it in like under a minute. Like it’s like a treat like that way. But if they definitely need to be dogs that chew it. You can’t… Like sometime people will, you know, be like, my dog inhales, like doesn’t swallow it. And I’m like… Or just swallows and doesn’t chew and I’m like, “Unfortunately…” Our customer service person will be like, “Unfortunately, like this product might not be suitable for your dog because your dog actually does need to chew on it”. But, yeah, they’re great. And they’re like, you know, soft enough so you can break it. So if you have a smaller dog, people will break it down or, you know, they’ll just use it in replacement of a tree. So they’re getting like a benefit versus just giving their dog a treat, and yeah, they love it too.
Will: That’s what we do. We use it as a treat-based thing, as a reward, but our dog loves chewing out of it as well and you get the benefit from all that kind of stuff. So you’ve got the Bye, Bye Dog Breath dental kit. Does that come with the powder and the chews or?
Andrea: Mm-hmm. Yup. So my goal is always to have, you know, have the kit like where they can chew…you know, if they want, like they’ll set the treats and then the powder and then they get like a discount for bundling them together. But as we grow that line, I also wanna let people be able to customize, you know, maybe the sticks don’t work or maybe they don’t like the powder, here’s like another option for you. And as we continue to grow beyond dental, I like the idea of kitting or bundling just to give people the opportunity to kind of customize what their dog needs or like what the solution they need for their dog based on like what health condition they’re looking to target.
Will: Well, thanks for sharing those tips about dog dental hygiene. It’s a hugely important topic, even though it’s not something that…it’s not something people might talk about all the time, but I think it’s important for dog owners to know more about. But “This Dog’s Life” is about much more than just dental hygiene. So tell me a bit more about your curated collection of dog products.
Andrea: Sure. So I started with dog dental. Like that was just like we’re gonna launch with this and I, you know, “This Dog’s Life”, in terms of our in-house products will do supplements. We wanna do wellness products. Because like I said, like I think that there’s a lot of innovation that can happen in this space. I think there’s a lot of customers being more educated or like what goes into a dog product. You know, they’re reading labels more, they’re looking for more transparency and more credibility, which I applaud and I really think that that’s really important. So I think there’s a shift happening, not in just the wellness space, but also like dog food. It’s huge in the U.S. especially. But what I started to do is that, you know, I was like, this is our mission, you know, these are ethos, you know, we’re looking for the best of the best. And so when I did that, I got featured in a big department store here. And so did other dog brands that really fit the same values that we had. And I was like looking. I’m like, “I love this product and I love this product.” I’m like, “I would never have found this product if we hadn’t been all featured together.”
And so I was like, you know, “Why don’t we elevate these other brands?” And these other brands create products that we’re not necessarily gonna create, like dog beds and not, you know, like dog beds that have orthopedic support or that, you know, have some sort of other benefit to it than just being a dog bed or why don’t we have callers or like slow-feeder dog bowls that are created ethically. So we started to look for brands and like, look at all these brands and realizing that their only outlet for selling is on their website. So it’s more of the same kind of direct-to-consumer approach. So it’s like can we bring them all together and create like a marketplace? I always say it’s like the Williams-Sonoma of the dog world. Can we create this marketplace for more premium brands, brands that will last longer, stand the test of time? And so that has been really, really fun because you get to meet all these artisans or all these founders that are like, so, so passionate about what they do and, you know, it’s an easy sell then because there’s just nothing better than selling a product that you believe in and that you know not only a lot of love went into it, but it’s just like a very high-quality product. So it’s not gonna go bad. and, you know, you’re not gonna have to get a…replace your dog bed every year or the collar’s not gonna rip, it’s gonna be like…it might be a little bit more of an investment upfront, but it will last longer. And so I get excited about that.
Will: Well, it sounds like a fun process for you to meet those founders and kind of curate those products, but it’s also a great place for people to go if they’re kind of looking for high-quality dog products as well.
Andrea: Yeah. Like high quality and like things you just don’t see in the like big-box retailers. It just doesn’t make sense for me. They’re more [Inaudible 00:20:42]. And I’m not talking…when I say premium, it’s not like…like I’m not gonna sell like…we’re not gonna sell like a $750 dog bag. There are $750 dog bags out there that gets sold a lot, but it’s just like, you know, I think a premium is just going out a step. I’m still making it attainable for people. I think is pretty important for that. I think a lot more people are thinking of their dogs as part of their family, they’re spending money on them, and they really, really want the best for them. And so they want the best for them because they wanna spoil them, but they also wanna feel not guilty. And I wanna make that attainable for a lot of dog parents, not just a few.
Will: Andrea, thanks so much for coming on the show today. I’ve really enjoyed having the chat, learning about your story, and then your business. Where’s the best place for people to go to find out more about “This Dog’s Life?”
Andrea: So you can go to www.shop.thisdogslife.co for the store. And if you want to go to read up about dog news or get inspired, you can go to thisdogslife.co. And thank you so much for having me. I really, really, really appreciate. It was a lot of fun.
Will: Oh, perfect. I’ll share those links and I’ll share your socials and everything like that so everyone can check out “This Dog’s Life” and see what you’re doing.
Andrea: Thank you.
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