French Bulldogs are known for having a broad range of moods, quirks, noises, and one of the most unique personalities of any dog breed.
For Gabrielle Schillinger, the French Bulldog personality has inspired the designs of her dog apparel brand, Lil Homie Apparel.
Lil Homie Apparel is a lifestyle dog brand that donates a portion of its proceeds to dog shelters and rescue organizations.
In the interview, we discuss the many different sides of the French Bulldog personality that have inspired the creative designs of Lil Homie Apparel.
Find out more about Gabrielle’s business here:
Will: This episode of “The Dog Show” features Gabrielle Schillinger. Gabrielle is the co-founder of “Lil Homie Apparel” a lifestyle dog brand that donates a portion of its proceeds to dog shelters and rescue organizations. Gabrielle is also the proud owner of a chihuahua named Chip and a French Bulldog named Donny. In the interview, we discuss the many different sides of the French Bulldog personality that have inspired the creative designs of “Lil Homie Apparel.” Gabrielle Thanks so much for coming on “The Dog Show” today.
Gabrielle: Thanks, Will. I’m so excited to just spend time talking solely about dogs. It’s like a dream.
Will: Yeah, well, that’s kind of what the show is all about. And that’s what I’ve dedicated my life to. So I’m happy that you’re feeling the same. I wanna start by hearing a little bit about your dog. So you’ve got Chip the Chihuahua and Donny, the Frenchie. Do you wanna tell me a bit more about them and their personalities?
Gabrielle: Of course. So Chip, the Chihuahua, and Donny the Frenchie, we’ve actually coined them as being the odd couple. They are quintessential Chihuahua and French Bulldogs. So Chip’s a bit older than Donny. We joke that he’s an old man. He is pushing nine and a half and Donny’s a younger pup. He’s about four. And true to a chihuahua breed, I would say Chip is like as territorial and as protective as they come. And true to a French Bulldog breed, I swear we could give Donny to a stranger and he would happily go live a life. So they have super funny, quirky personalities that often result in us, kind of being in a state of conflict. They both want and gravitate towards very different things, but they bring a lot of joy and entertainment to our lives.
Will: How do they get along together?
Gabrielle: It’s funny. So I have to say when Chip and Donny first met each other, Chip hated French Bulldogs. Like a Frenchie and a smush-face pup, he was like, “Absolutely not. Take me the other direction.” And he was forced to coexist with Donny, and after a few months, the two of them, they are best buds like they wrestle together they cuddle together. If one of them leaves the home for some reason without the other one, the other one sits by the front door. So as much as they are an odd couple, they’ve really become best friends.
Will: That’s cool. Yeah, I’m not sure if Donny’s the same, but my experience with French Bulldogs…so I have a French Bulldog Frankie is they’re pretty annoying, to be honest, like towards other dogs, I mean. Like they won’t leave them alone. They wanna play all the time, especially when they’re puppies. So I can imagine that there would have made some tension there to start with.
Gabrielle: That’s so funny, you call them annoying. I would have to agree. When we met Donny, he was about six months old. And, to your point, it was just like non- stop pestering. And Chip being an older pup and being a rescue dog, he just didn’t have patience for it. So Donny learned quickly how to kind of navigate, and I’d have to say Chip controls the house. So Chip sets the tone for whether or not we’re playing whether or not we’re happy, mad, protective, so it’s a funny dynamic. Tell me a little bit about Frankie. What color is your Frenchie?
Will: Frankie is brindle. So she’s predominantly like a black looking color but she has some strokes of kind of tiger through there. And she’s four years old now, she’s…you know, I love everything about Frankie actually up to now as you can describe her. But when I say annoying, I guess she’s…I say that in an endearing way. I mean, she just wants attention all the time from everyone that’s around. Like we go to the dog park and she’ll run to every other owner in the park and try to get them to pet her, you know?
Gabrielle: I do know that a little all too well. Donny, actually, his nickname is Donny FOMO because he has a complete fear of missing out on anything, whether it’s like a human playing, another dog playing. I don’t know if Frankie is the same way. And has she spent much time like in a home with other dogs or does she sort of live that independent life?
Will: No, she’s quite independent, but she’s very reliant on my wife and I. I guess, whenever we’re doing anything she needs to be there. Like we will literally walk into the other room and she’ll get up from a bed and walk in and sit in that room. So we have beds around the house now. So she feels comfortable everywhere she goes. She spent a lot of time with children when she was young. And so she’s really good with children and she loves being around children, but less so with dogs. So we’ve had to socialize them more when we get the opportunity, but we don’t have any other dogs at home. So it’s been hard sometimes. But…
Gabrielle: Yeah, it’s interesting you bring up children. You know, Chip, he has not been good around children. So from what I know, I rescued him when he was about four, four, and a half. And I believe he came from a home with small children, so I have no idea what happened in his past life. Donny, on the other hand though, mentioning in a constant state of conflict, we live in a pretty busy neighborhood. And there’s a couple of daycares or schools around. So when we’re walking the dogs, Donny is obsessed with children. I swear he thinks they’re like another form of creature that he was destined to play with. And so, especially during this time of quarantine and lockdown, there hasn’t been a lot of interaction and Donny’s really been feeling it.
So, one day there was a group of kids outside, and I swear he planted himself as French Bulldogs often do, refusing to move and locked eyes with a couple of the kids and would not leave until they gave him some sort of interaction or playtime. And it’s just so funny because they’re just such sweet-natured dogs. Like I never thought about a Frenchie, before I met Donny. And now it’s hard to imagine not having that type of personality around every day.
Will: Yeah, I find…and I’m not sure if it’s the same with all Frenchies but Frankie’s very protective of children as well. Like my nephews, if she hears them crying in the other room or so… When she was younger, she used to go to my nephew’s room, who she could hear crying, and like sit outside the room just to make sure that we’re doing okay. That was so cute, but…
Gabrielle: It is so cute. It’s like a little nanny that you have at home.
Will: Yeah, yeah. Cool. So would you say you have a favorite breed? It sounds like you just love dogs in general, but…
Gabrielle: I do. I am definitely that person that will stop mid-sentence if I see a dog across the street. I stop. I stare. I like make up stories about it. I am, for sure a dog lover, all breeds. That said, I have a really soft spot for Australian shepherds. Aussies are… I don’t know what it is. I think they’re beautiful. I think they’re smart. I think they’re lovable. They’re super loyal. And I did have one at one point growing up, so that one just sits with me. What about you? Do you have a favorite outside of Frenchies? Or is it safe to say Frenchies inevitably is it for you?
Will: Yeah, I think it’s hard to go past Frenchies for me. I do love all dogs, but, yeah, French Bulldogs have a special place in my heart. But it’s funny you say Australian shepherds because…and I don’t know 100% if this is the truth. I was reading something about Australian shepherds. They’re not actually from Australia. I think they’re from somewhere else.
Gabrielle: I didn’t know that.
Will: Yeah. They’re just…I forget. They just called Australian Shepherds. There’s some weird fact out there. I don’t wanna guaranteed it on the interview right now. But, yeah, for some reason I think they’re actually not from Australia. Anyway, that’s…
Gabrielle: No. That’s interesting. Now I’m definitely going to go down the rabbit hole of Google and try to figure out where Australian shepherds are derived from.
Will: Yeah. Okay, so what made you… I mean, obviously, it’s probably gonna be a straightforward answer, but what made you get into a dog apparel brand. So you’ve got a couple of apparel brands. One of them is called Lil Homie Apparel, which is all about predominantly Frenchies actually, but there’s…you know, it’s a dog apparel brand which is doing some great stuff with shelters and you’ve also got some cool products. So what made you get into this industry?
Gabrielle: Sure. It does seem pretty straightforward. We love dogs. We obviously, love Frenchies, why not create an apparel brand. But at the end of the day, for me, personally, I have a huge passion for animals and dogs. Mike, our other co-founder, my other half, he’s very much into fitness and very much into his Lil Homie Donny. So for us when we’re not at our day jobs, we’re really hanging out with our two pups. We’re at the gym, we’re doing some sort of physical exercise, and we’re just hanging out in streetwear and loungewear. So at the end of the day, like why not create a brand that brings a little bit of joy and fun to your life? Frenchies have so much personality, so it was really natural for us to start with French Bulldog logos, French Bulldog taglines. I have to say it definitely created a bit of conflict at home seeing is I have a chihuahua and Mike has a French Bulldog. But I’m still holding strong that one day we will get those Chihuahua taglines. French Bulldogs are just so easy. Like they’re fun and they give you a lot of material to work with.
Will: Yeah, that’s the one thing that really drew me to your brand is the… Because for those people that don’t know, you’ve got this range of quirky French Bulldog logos, which are used on all of your apparel and your bags and all that kind of stuff. But each of them has a bit of a story. It’s almost like the many faces or the many personalities of a French Bulldog. That’s the way I interpreted it. And it just resonated with me as a French Bulldog owner, because, like, my Frenchie, Frankie has like thousands of different personalities that come out, you know, all in one day. You know, she’s happy, she’s sad, she’s cute. Just it’s crazy to think. But I wanna hear some of the background story of some of the personalities that you’re portraying in these Logos.
Gabrielle: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we could talk about those forever. To your point. French Bulldogs have so many personalities and so many facial expressions alone. I swear, I must have like thousands of photos of just things that Donny is doing on a daily basis. So actually one of the logos I have on today, it’s our boss mode. “I’ll stand here.”
Will: Yeah, stand out.
Gabrielle: So, boss mode, it’s a Frenchie with sunglasses looking a little bit too cool for everyone. And Boss Mode. I put that on to motivate myself to work today. But I would have to say the one that we’ve seen a lot of interest and success with is our King Homie. So King Homie, which I also say Queen homey, has a crown on and the tagline is “Have it my way.” So, Frankie, I’m sure has her moments where it’s Frankie’s way or it’s the highway. Is that a fair statement? She’s pretty stubborn?
Will: Yeah, absolutely. She kind of rules the roost, I guess, is another way to put it.
Gabrielle: Yeah, that is another way to put it. So essentially, French Bulldog with a crown. They’re very much treated like royalty. They oftentimes, with the right look, the right facial expression, the right begging, get what they want. And so King Homie, Queen Homie, whatever you wanna call it, that’s a really fun one. But I have to say, Mike, the other brain behind this operation, he…I have to give him a lot of credit. These logos and these taglines are super funny. And one day he just sat down kind of locked himself in a room and went to work. And I think it’s because, for him, he’s only ever had French Bulldogs. And so he’s only ever known that personality or those many personalities. So for him, it was natural. Like every day we’re finding ourselves entertained by Donny and the things that Donny does. That’s our French Bulldog, Donny.
And so King Homie was natural. Also Chillin Homie. Chillin Homie makes sense, like, I’m sure on a daily basis you see Frankie, and she’s in some crazy pose. Just like chilling on the couch chilling on one of her 18 beds in the house, chilling on a bone, like resting in some crazy position. But I’d have to ask you like any of the logos stand out for you which one sums up Frankie?
Will: Well, I think I was gonna mention Chillin Homie, but I also I love like the kind of almost the split personality of the Frenchie so you go Chillin Homie and then I know you’ve got a few sporty ones in there like Barkman and Air Homie and that kind of stuff. That really epitomizes Frankie for me because like one minute she’s like, passed out like lying in the sun or lying on one of their beds and like she looks like she’s never going to move again. And then the mere mention or tiny movement towards the door or something like that, and she’s up and she’s ready to go and she’s so energetic. And I think that’s one thing that people that have never been around French Bulldogs probably don’t know, is they’re crazy, like the energy levels are really high. Even if they might be for short bursts, they’re really energetic dogs. So I think those ones for me really, really resonate.
Gabrielle: I love that you mentioned Barkman and Air Homie. Those are really like near and dear to our hearts. So I work in the beauty industry, and obviously, side job of mine is Lil Homie and also like volunteering with a lot of dog rescues and shelters. Mike, he’s always worked in sports. So basketball and sports is a big passion of his. So being able to combine those two worlds has been really fun. And, you’re right, like Donny, I would say, around in between like 8:00 and 9:00 p.m our time, he gets what we call the Zoomies.
So I’m sure you’re quite familiar with the Zoomies. And it’s actually quite funny because Chip is terrified of the Zoomies, so he will hide under a barstool, he’ll hide under any surface he can find just to escape that crazy burst of French Bulldog energy. So it’s super fun to see them but I don’t know. I’m thinking I’m getting inspired. Maybe they’ll be…you know, you just mentioned Frankie in a position that looks like she may never get out of it again. I often find Donny in positions and I say, “Oh, it’s dead Donny. We have dead Donny today. ” Which is a little bit morbid, but also I know he’s going to wake up. So I don’t know. We may be on a second round of logos here after this conversation.
Will: Yeah, I think that’s probably that lazy side of the French Bulldogs maybe, just the session which is missing out.
Gabrielle: I think you’re right. I’d have to call out the Namaste and the Yoga Frenchie as well. So I’m a big yogi myself, and both of the dogs have become big yogis, but I think most French Bulldog owners could agree that outside of like the one or two downward dog poses that they might do every morning when they wake up, for the most part, the pups are a fan of like a restorative or a yin yoga class. So all about the relaxation, “Let me just lay down on the mat while mom gets to work and does whatever she does. I’m just gonna lay here and make it as awkward and inconvenient as possible for her.”
Will: It’s funny you said that because with the lockdown situation my wife’s been doing yoga classes like via Zoom and stuff like that in our living room. And all she wants is for Frankie to be next to her and do like a yoga pose or something so like creates this environment. But all Frankie wants to do is just get in the way and go on the mat and try and play with toys and all sorts of stuff like that. So it’s quite funny.
Gabrielle: It is so funny. I actually made… I didn’t make. I encouraged Mike to practice a certain yoga pose. He’s not a yogi by any means. And because it’s so rare that he will do yoga or be on a yoga mat, when that happened, Donny immediately thought it was playtime, so like full-on went into wrestle mode. So like climbing on him like tackling, rolling over, doing anything he could to get that affection and attention that you were talking about earlier.
Will: Yeah, it’s interesting actually, that’s… I’m probably a little bit rougher with Frankie than what Michelle is, my wife. sometimes she does like to play those rougher games where she will kind of nip at you and obviously, never like bites or anything like that. But I think I do crave a bit of that sometimes, and she’ll push the barriers as long as far as you let them go, right?
Gabrielle: Yeah, they will. And they’re so strong. So you really do have to be mindful of it. I don’t even think half the time they know what they’re capable of doing.
Will: Yeah. Actually, speaking of, I got…I’m not sure if this is a strength thing, but their heads are so hard. Like she runs into things and just doesn’t even notice it.
Gabrielle: It’s so true. We were actually just driving a really long road trip over the weekend. We were driving from Florida, all the way back up to New Jersey. And I didn’t realize Donny had hit his head on the car door. So as we were going to close it, he jerked out of the way and his head was obviously, right there. And so we were joking. He was obviously, okay. We checked first. But we were joking. We were like, “How thick is that head that you can kind of get smacked with a car door and it’s like nothing has happened?” So they’re super resilient, super resilient.
Will: Yeah, one day we were out walking and Frankie tried to take a sharp turn. And there was this guy working in his front yard, putting pavers around this kind of small… Like it wasn’t a fence but it was like a small raised thing with pavers. And she knocked one of the pavers off the corner like running with her head and knocked the paver right off the corner. And like this is like a sandstone paver which is like quite a heavy thing that just slid straight off to the ground. And she just kept on going like…
Gabrielle: Oh, my goodness.
Will: I was like, “Oh my God, if that happened to me, I’d probably be going to an emergency room or something.”
Gabrielle: It’s so true. How much does Frankie weigh?
Will: She’s quite a small Frenchie. She’s only around about 10 kilos sometimes a little bit below 10. Yeah.
Will: Yeah. How about Donny?
Gabrielle: She is quite small Donny is the opposite. We say that Donny is a super-sized Frenchie. If you do any quick google search on, you know, average size of a French Bulldog, it’s always pretty standard. Donny is a good 36 pounds. And I mean, he’s long, he’s thick. He’s like, just a little tank. So most people will stop us and they’ll actually ask, like, “What kind of dog is that?” And when I say French Bulldog, they’re like, “Is he a purebred?” I’m like, “He is he just never stopped growing.” He’s huge.
Will: That’s a fair point, actually. So I said 10 kilograms. That was just default. I imagine that’s 20 odd pounds. 20 maybe 25 around about ish.
Gabrielle: Yeah, exactly. So Donny is roughly 10, 11 pounds larger, so quite a bit bigger which granted, he’s a male and Frankie’s a female, but he is just a big boy.
Will: Yeah. One thing I love about your brand, which is…I mean, I guess I’ve been in this kind of online French Bulldog space for quite a while now. And one thing I know, I’ve noticed out there is there’s a lot of kind of throwaway brands, which have printed T-shirts and things like that, and you order them and they come and they’re pretty low quality. Like the printing isn’t good quality. It kind of it’s either ironed-on or something and it’s falling off or it just doesn’t look like it did on the website. And one thing I think I love with your brand is like the quality is, you know, really, really up there. So like it’s almost surprising when you get the products in the mail that it’s the beautiful design actually pops out of the T-shirts and all the other things as well. So that’s something that you’re doing differently. Yeah.
Gabrielle: Thank you. Well, I really appreciate you calling that out. And it was really important for us that we didn’t compromise quality while also offering like affordable pricing. You’re right. We see so many brands that are popping up. I mean, just take a quick scroll on Instagram and look at Fitness brands or lifestyle brands, you know, dog T-shirts and you see such a wide range. And what I will say about Lil Homie is it may take a little bit longer for you to receive your product, yet it’s because we are using high-quality printing. And we don’t have, you know, a printer in our garage that we’re just quickly ironing on or screen printing.
So we wanna make sure that the quality of the T-shirt is soft, it’s durable. I’ve tested machine washing and many different types of washers and dryers to make sure that printing stays after multiple wears. And I’d have to say that the biggest feedback we’ve received… We’re a fairly new brand. So the best and most consistent feedback we’ve received is that A, they love the packaging and B, they love the quality. And that makes me so happy. We spent probably a good year sourcing fabrics and just styles that we thought would work and really represent what we stand for which is quality, affordability, and then also like donating and giving back.
Will: Yeah, so that’s good leading. And that would have been my next question. So 10% of your proceeds go to dog shelters and rescue organizations. That’s a close thing to my heart. Also The Dog Book Company, we donate money from every sale to the same cause, obviously, different organizations. But what is it about rescue organization and shelters…? Like why does that have a special place in your heart and why did you choose those…I guess that path for the business?
Gabrielle: Of course. That was actually a non-negotiable for me. So when Mike and I talked about starting a company for me, first and foremost, we had to align that a portion of proceeds would be donated back. You know, we’ve been very fortunate in our careers and I’m fortunate enough to even have this opportunity to start a company, and to be able to donate back to something that is so near and dear, absolutely to my heart. I’ve only ever had rescue dogs. And I’ve sort of been blessed with them a blended family of a purebred that was purchased from a reputable breeder with my rescue pup. And for me, there are so many dogs that need homes. I mean, I can speak to the U.S. in particular, but every year there is around 7.6 million companion animals, which that includes dogs and cats, that are surrendered or entered into shelters every single year. And out of that, it’s roughly like 3.9 million of those animals are dogs. So almost 4 million dogs just in the United States alone, don’t have homes.
And what’s really surprising that I think a lot of people don’t realize is a lot of these dogs are entered into shelters because their owner surrendered. And that can happen for a lot of reasons. It can be someone who has a French Bulldog, and maybe they lose a job, they lose a family member, maybe they can no longer care for health issues that their dog has developed. And so they’re left with no choice but to surrender them. It can also be because, you know, people haven’t taken the proper care to make sure that their dog is safe inside or safe outside in the backyard. And so dogs end up roaming the streets, and no owner claims them.
So for me, I’ve seen the blessing and the happiness and the joy that can come to a life, both for the dog and for the human that rescues that dog. So I’m a firm believer in the saying or the question, “Who rescued who?” So, for me, I think there’s so much joy that comes from rescuing an animal and giving them a second chance. And I’m just so thrilled that we’re able to offer this and able to give back because shelters have brought a lot of joy and love to my life. And so I’m happy that we can kind of spread that joy and love.
Will: Yeah, and it’s… One of the saddest parts I think, is there’s so many dogs which are euthanized, which don’t need to be from…they can’t be placed in a home and, and it costs shelters a lot of money to, I guess, rehome the dog. They need to be vaccinated, they need to have all their health checks, and all that kind of stuff as well. So, yeah, they need money, and they’re all charity-based organizations.
Gabrielle: It’s so true. And you bring up a good point, Will. You know, it’s really sad to think about the dogs that aren’t able to find homes, the dogs that aren’t able to get that second chance. Unfortunately, it’s I think, roughly like 2.7 million dogs are euthanized or killed every single year in the United States, and it’s just simply because shelters are too full, or there’s not enough adoptable homes for them to go into. And so, to your point, being able to support financially shelters and, and a lot of like smaller rescue organizations that are doing tremendous work, yet don’t have the backing of, you know, save what the Humane Society might have, this is a great way for us to support some of those smaller local shelters.
Will: Yeah, great. So you’re obviously, dedicated to a great cause you got some cool products which are high quality and they also, you know, epitomize the many personalities of the French Bulldog. Where can listeners find out more about Lil Homie Apparel and everything you’re doing?
Gabrielle: We are on Instagram and Facebook. So the handle is @lilhomieshop. It’s L-I-L H-O-M-I-E shop. And then we also have our website which is lilhomieapparel.com. And message us, ask questions, engage with us. We want to hear About your Frenchies, send us photos. We love everything that has to do with dogs. And if you have ideas for taglines, things you wanna see, other dog breeds that you may wanna see, I know this is a Frenchie community, so that may be a little bit of a stretch, but we’re open to lots of ideas as we’re trying to grow.
Will: That’s great. So I’ll make sure I put a link to the Facebook and the Instagram page as well as “Lil Homie Apparel” in the show notes for the show. So, Gabrielle, thanks so much for coming on “The Dog Show” today. It was actually really, really enjoyable speaking with you.
Gabrielle: Thanks, Will. You too. I loved being on “The Dog Show.” So any time I’d love to come back and chat dogs and hear all about what Frankie’s been up to.
Will: Well, it’s enjoyable, isn’t it? It’s not work, so…
Gabrielle: It’s not. All right, thanks, Will. I hope you have a great day.
Will: Thank you. You too.