Three Dog Bakery opens second Houston, Texas location

Learn about how Three Dog Bakery’s latest new location highlights the company’s vision for its dog treats and its brand.

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Three Dog Bakery Houston Grand Opening Outside
Lindsay Beaton, WATT Global Media

Three Dog Bakery was founded in 1989, and while the pet treats landscape has changed quite a bit in the intervening years, Three Dog’s mission has not: Feed the souls of dogs and the people who love them.

Three Dog Bakery Houston Grand Opening2

Three Dog Bakery’s new store in the Houston Heights neighborhood of Houston, Texas, exemplifies the company’s mission of connecting with both pets and the people who love them. The store's grand opening was on February 25, 2023. | Photo by Lindsay Beaton, WATT Global Media

The company, which has franchise locations in the U.S., Canada and Hong Kong, provides dog treats crafted from scratch in small batches — both pre-packaged (found on store shelves and online) and fresh (baked in an onsite kitchen visible to anyone who wanders into a Three Dog Bakery location). The company’s latest store, which held its grand opening on February 25, 2023 in the Houston, Texas neighborhood of Houston Heights (also known as “The Heights”), is a testament to Three Dog’s vision.

“This is our second store,” says Carin Giga, owner of Three Dog Bakery Houston. “We opened our first store in Rice Village (another neighborhood in Houston, near Rice University) four-and-a-half years ago. It's a destination shopping, dining area that we (Giga and Co-owner Sara Saber) were very comfortable with. We always knew that The Heights would be our second location for several reasons. One, because it's a population that just doesn't make it down to Rice Village all that often. Two, there's this incredible sense of community identity in The Heights, where there's so much pride in being a Heights resident and being a Heights business. And that's what connects with our model. We're all about community building and becoming partners with the community, developing relationships with our customers.”

Three Dog Bakery Store Shelf

Each Three Dog Bakery store is unique, selling the company’s line as well as other brands that meet both match the company’s goals and the demands of its local clientele. | Photo by Lindsay Beaton, WATT Global Media

The importance of connecting with pet owners

With the humanization of pets firmly entrenched in the way the pet food and treats segments do business, being able to connect with pet owners is more important than ever — even in the age of e-commerce.

“There's no denying the effect of e-commerce,” says Giga. “But even with some of the brands that four years ago were not available online that have gone online now, we still see customers come in here to buy them. (Three Dog Bakery stores carry other brands besides their own, including dog foods, spa products and accessories such as leashes and toys.) Online is the convenience, the efficiency factor. But in-store is the experience, and that's what you can't replicate online. I see it in a couple of different facets. There's the human-to-human connection: We know your name, we know your dog's name, we know what your dog loves. Sometimes we call you when your favorite treat comes back in stock. There's also our kitchen: Our kitchen is what really sets us apart. Even if someone's coming in to buy a bag of dog food, they see our pastry chefs at work making our treats. The time that goes into them, the love that goes into them, the real ingredients. We think of it as a theater in the round. We intentionally designed our kitchen to be in the middle of a store so that we're creating an experience that you can't get on a website. It's just developing those relationships, and I think that supersedes convenience.”

Three Dog Bakery Baker Decorating Treats

Perhaps the most stand-out aspect of Three Dog Bakery is its in-store treats: The company employs pastry chefs who bake and decorate treats in-house, in full view of the store’s customers. | Photo by Lindsay Beaton, WATT Global Media

The idea of connecting with everyone who walks through a Three Dog Bakery door is so vital to the business that it’s a considerable component of employee training for each store.

“[Saber] and I make sure everyone knows that this isn't just an investment for us,” says Giga. “This is our family business. Our children are involved and our customers see them come here and help in the store. With all of our staff, it's really talking about making sure that we greet every customer and get to know every dog. It’s a huge part of the culture that we develop here, and we try to make it more than just about shopping.”

Three Dog Bakery locations hold annual community-based events to help promote the brand as well as build connection. In the Rice Village location (and now in the works for the new Heights location), events include activities that tie in with holidays or the seasons.

“In the summer, we do a customer appreciation ice cream social,” says Giga. “In the dog days of summer when it's hot outside here in Houston, we have a lickety-split bar — that's our version of ice cream. Customers can come in and build their own waffle cone and add their own toppings, and all of our toppings are the same ingredients we put into our treats: Freeze-dried strawberries, peanuts, carob drizzle, yogurt chips. We [also] do Growl-o-ween, which is trick-or-treating for dogs. That is so much fun because the dogs trick-or-treat at all of the local merchants. We build a map and then we give treats to all our neighbors. The dogs go around to all the store fronts, and we hear from other stores that that's the day their employees all want to work because they know the dogs are coming by.”

Pet treats: Aiming for continued excellence in a crowded market segment

There’s a lot happening in the pet treats space right now, with companies looking to evolve within the category in a meaningful way. Three Dog Bakery has always aimed to excel in the dog treats space specifically, and current plans are to stick with what they do best.

“It's the humanization of treats,” says Giga. “Thinking specifically about what we make here, in our pastry case, the more they look like real, human desserts the more appealing they become. One of our top sellers is our carrot cake. It actually surprises many dog owners that carrot cake would be something their dog would eat but it's one of our top treats, and I think part of it is that the taste is appealing to dogs but it looks like our own dessert. It looks like it's got that cream cheese frosting, even though we use yogurt and buttermilk and honey. And we use carob in place of chocolate, but it looks like chocolate.

Three Dog Bakery Treats Display Case

The comparison to a human bakery is obvious and deliberate, as Three Dog Bakery plays to the strongest aspect of the pet food and treats segments: Pet humanization. | Photo by Lindsay Beaton, WATT Global Media

“[There’s] a real emphasis on human-quality ingredients, natural ingredients,” says Giga. “And we see this not just in what we do in our kitchen but in packaged treats from a variety of different brands — fruits, vegetables, less processing, just things that look more natural or more like a human package of cookies.”

The new Heights store is helping Three Dog Bakery continue to grow its vision.

“Making our own treats is really focusing on what we do best,” says Giga. “We’re not trying to be everything. That's where we bring in the other brands [we carry in-store]. We’re not trying to be everything for everyone, but to excel at our sweet spot because that's what we very much see as our competitive advantage. We're a one-stop shop. You can get everything from food to spa to accessories to treats here, and we don't want to be just a one-time visit on your dog's birthday. We want to see you all the time, to celebrate all the everyday moments.”

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