Garret Jennings, co-founder and CEO of Laughing Dog Inc. , hasn't always been in the business of making petfood. "I started the company Think Products and a nutrition bar line in the early nineties," Garret explains. "We were utilizing a lot of nutraceuticals for human consumption - using a lot of herbs and vitamins. We were originally trying to enhance mental performance." Garret quickly became well versed in moving a brand to market and formulating specific, healthy nutrition.
"Through enhanced pet nutrition we have the capability of increasing the longevity and health of our most precious companions," Garret attests. "Had I been conscious of the efficacies of crossover human nutrition to pets, I believe my dogs could have lived healthier, longer lives." In 2000, Garret stepped down as president of Think Products to become chairman of the board and started focusing in on increasing the lifespan of dogs and cats after his two aging Chow Chows passed away.
"I decided one day it was time to provide better nutrition to our canine companions as a tribute to my late Chow Chows Pugsy and Symone," he says. "I wanted to focus on bringing the best petfood in to fruition, along with Tamara of course." Tamara Jennings, co-founder and president of Laughing Dog, is Garret's sister. A call to his sister inquiring into her desire to make her beloved pets healthier, to create a food nutrient rich and healthy resulted in a resounding, "Let's make the best food on Earth, a food so healthy that our animals will enjoy great lives, a food that will give them back the precious energy and spirit that they give us!"
And Laughing Dog was born.
A powerful process
"We started talking and figuring out what our company was all about, right around the time of the initial petfood recalls," Tamara says. "So though we weren't directly affected, when we started looking for a manufacturing system we wanted to make sure that it was a facility that hadn't even seen any of those products. That was important to us." Laughing Dog's petfoods and treats are now processed in a human grade facility - the very plant that manufactures the Think nutrition bars.
The process developed for the manufacturing of their food is
unique as well. "All of us here at Laughing Dog are proud of
the Vacuum Infusion System (VIS) we use to process our
petfood," brother and sister agree.
Once the Laughing Dog kibble is ground, extruded and properly dried, it goes through a screening process that should eliminate any broken pieces of food or dust. After the screening systems the kibble then enters the distinctive VIS. "Laughing Dog is very proud of the Vacuum Infusion System because it is here that it allows us to add active enzymes that are found only in raw diets, and probiotics that are the good bacteria," explains Tamara.
The kibble enters a large round chamber and then is gently rotated inside while all the air is removed. Then the liquids - chicken fat, fish oil, Omega 369s, enzymes and probiotics - are misted on the kibbles by sprayers located in the vacuum chamber and thoroughly coated. "We then allow the air to re-enter the VIS under a controlled system. As the air goes in it pushes the liquid that is coating the kibble and it actually pushes it inside," Tamara continues to explain. "Subsequent entries of air push the liquids further into the kibble. At the end of the process, the kibble comes out dry but with the exact measured amount of oils in it and of course the still active enzymes and probiotics." According to Laughing Dog, this one-of-a-kind process (at least in petfood manufacturing) insures a non-degradable product.
Dancing cats and laughing dogs
"When we started doing research in to the petfood market, we noticed that some of the 'premium' brands weren't using 'premium' ingredients in their formulations," says Garret. "That's when we decided to make our focus the natural, holistic approach. We wanted to be something different and be something that meant more than just clever marketing on a package of kibble." And when you look at the ingredient lists for their foods, it's easy to see Garret and Tamara Jennings take the quality of what goes in to their petfood seriously. All formulations - whether it be their Dancing Cat feline formula or Wise Dog blend for aging canines - contain whole grains and rice, essential amino acids and a plethora of other do-good ingredients, including:
- Enzymes and probiotics aid in absorption and digestion;
- Cranberries protect the urinary tract and fight yeast infections;
- Blueberries provide antioxidant support; and
- Vitamins C & E benefit heart, kidneys, liver, skin and coat.
"After approximately two years of working with chief formulator David Lawrence, we have developed what we feel is the best petfood for dogs and cats on the market today," says a confident Garret. "Our all-natural ingredients are rich in antioxidants to help prevent the breakdown of cells, and wild herring along with vacuum infused omega oils and vitamins add a rich nutritional profile not available in lower quality foods." The company says no wheat, corn filler, or animal byproducts, are allowed in any of their products.
While such attention to detail may mean a slightly higher price tag, Laughing Dog asserts it also translates into shinier coats, optimal weight, and an overall healthier demeanor. In the long run, healthier pets mean fewer trips to the vet," says Garret. "And that's a real savings to the consumer."
Further down the trail
While starting a petfood company in the midst of a recession is no easy feat, Garret and Tamara are already looking towards Laughing Dog's continued success and future. They are releasing a new blend of dog treats, expanding distribution, as well as escalating their current cat food line. "We may even look in to wet varieties," says Tamara. "There are endless possibilities!"
Setting goals and reaching them seems to be this brother and sister's strategy for success, and the expansion of their business has plenty of pet owners excited. "We get calls and emails all the times about what our products are really doing out there," says Garret. "Old dogs acting young again, shiny coats and more energy in cats - that's what keeps us going."