Like many bakers, Abi Naylor spends a lot of time mixing, baking and decorating intricate cakes, Insta-worthy cookies and tempting doughnuts. However, you’re not likely to sample any of her treats anytime soon, because Abi’s clientele is purely canine! Her business, The Good Dog Bakery, grew organically from a love of dogs. We caught up with Abi and her chief taste-tester, Goose (it’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!) to chat about this unconventional bakery business.
Tell us about The Good Dog Bakery—how/when did it start?
In 2019, I was managing a doggy daycare in North Queensland, where I would bake cakes and treats for the dogs who were celebrating their birthday whilst staying with us. Pics were posted on social media and shortly after I was getting requests for cakes from dog owners around the area!
Tell us about yourself—did you have any baking experience before starting?
None whatsoever, I taught myself through online resources and a lot of trial and error. I have also completed a dog trainer certification with the NDTF which gave me great insights into proper dog nutrition.
Please introduce us to Goose! What is his role in all of this?
Goose is a three-year-old Golden Retriever and chief taste-tester for The Good Dog Bakery. Goldens are notorious for eating everything in sight, but Goose has always been a fussy eater. He has helped us develop our recipes and tested all of our products. If he gives them the wag of approval it shows that they are suitable for even the fussiest of pups.
How was The Good Dog Bakery received by customers/community?
To say that we were received well would be an understatement! When we first started, we tested the waters at a local market for dog businesses and sold out within an hour. We now book out weeks in advance, which is great. Most owners see their dog as part of their family and love the idea of treating them on their birthday, just like any other family member.
What challenges did you encounter starting a business baking for dogs?
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, so having products suitable for all ages and breeds was a challenge. Pricing was another—some owners are prepared to pay top dollar to spoil their pup, whilst for others it may be seen as an unnecessary extravagance. We don’t want any dog to miss out, so we have developed our menu to cater for all budgets.
How do you think baking for animals differs from baking for humans?
Ingredients used is the main difference. We can’t use human baking staples, such as fondant or buttercream, so we have to get creative in how we can replicate these features in a dog-friendly way. Piping bags stuffed with mashed potato would be a bit out place in most human bakeries! Dogs are also highly driven by their sense of smell, so ensuring that our treats smell good for the dogs as well as look good for the owners is a priority.
Tell me a bit about your products—what goes into them?
We use only 100 per cent high-quality human-grade ingredients in our products, with zero preservatives. These include oats, apples, peanut butter (xylitol free), natural honey, yoghurt and potatoes.
How do your baked treats differ from other dog treats on the market?
We use only high-quality ingredients as well as putting equal effort into how our products look and how they taste. Owners celebrating their dog’s birthday will often want to take plenty of photos, and in this Instagram age, having photogenic cakes most definitely helps us stand out. You’d be surprised at how many ‘influencer’ dogs come to us for their birthday cake.
Are people mostly buying occasional products/cakes, or are there repeat customers who just love to spoil their pups?
It’s a mixture of the two. Some pups will be just treated to birthday cake whereas others will receive treats for birthdays, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and after each trip to the vet! What is great is seeing the same customers order from us repeatedly, meaning we must be doing something right.
Is there a specific kind of clientele/demographic ordering from you?
Not really. We have quite a wide range of customers, ranging from your average family who are looking to treat their dog, customers who don’t own a dog but want to treat a friend’s pup and even corporate clients requesting treats for functions. Since moving to the Gold Coast, we have definitely seen a rise in the number of social media personalities who spoil their pampered pooches with extravagant cakes and go all out with their party!
How many orders would you get on average per week?
Currently we are baking and decorating three-to-four cakes a day, plus other baked goods such as cupcakes and doughnuts. As each and every element of our cakes are freshly made in house, a lot of time and preparation goes into each one.
And you donate a percentage of your sales to charity—tell us about the AWLQ:
AWLQ is a registered charity focusing on the care and rehoming of abandoned, stray and surrendered animals in South East Queensland. They provide affordable veterinary care through Community Vet Clinics as well as delivering community awareness, outreach and education. Last year alone, AWLQ helped over 5,000 animals get a second chance at life through adoption. Many of our customers were united with their dogs through AWLQ and come to us for a ‘gotcha day’ cake to commemorate the day their family gained a furry member!
We know that around 40 per cent of Australian households include at least one dog, and many bakeries and cafes are becoming dog-friendly. Why do you think we love them so much?
What’s not to love? Dogs provide us with companionship, fun and emotional support. They are always happy to see you and never quick to judge. There’s a reason why they are dubbed ‘man’s best friend’.
Do you have plans for the future of TGDB?
One of our main goals is to make our cakes and treats available nationwide. As everything we make it preservative-free, it becomes tricky to arrange postage, however, we will soon launch a treat box suitable for nationwide delivery.