According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of pet food and supply stores increased by over 15 percent in Washington between the years 2000 and 2007. Entrepreneurs interested in starting a dog treat business can take advantage of the state's growing pet industry. The benefits of a dog treat business include relatively low start-up expenses and the ability to work from home. Dog treat makers must abide by both federal and state pet food regulations. Still, starting a dog treat business is relatively simple.
Test your dog treat recipes. Experiment with your dog treat recipes to determine which treats are the most appealing to the widest variety of dogs. Give free samples to friends and colleagues. Ask for honest feedback about whether the dogs enjoyed them.
Register with the Washington State Department of Agriculture. The Washington State Department of Agriculture requires pet food sellers, including dog treat producers, to register their products and abide by the Washington state label requirements. An application form is available for download at the department's website (see Resource #2). Print the application form, fill it out and pay the appropriate fee. Product registration fees vary depending on the weight and number of products your business offers.
Obtain a business license. Reference the Washington State Department of Licensing website for information on licensing requirements in your specific city or county, as requirements may differ based on your location (see Resource #1). The website provides business license contact information and forms for each city and county. If your city or county is not listed, contact your local officials for licensing requirements.
Offer samples to dog organizations. This marketing strategy places your product directly into dog owners' hands. Provide samples to Washington-based dog trainers, veterinarians, dog walkers, groomers and animal shelters. Search for dog-related businesses in the Washington area at Dogster.com. (see Resource #3).
Set up a vendor booth. For example, the renowned Pike Place Market in Seattle often has vendor booth opportunities. Begin selling your dog treats at street fairs to gain product brand recognition and begin earning a monetary return for your efforts. Promote your products as a locally-made Washington brand.
Approach pet retail stores. Washington is home to several independent pet stores and pet-related businesses that sell dog treats. Contact the owner to make an appointment or drop off treat samples with a letter of introduction. Sell your dog treats to pet businesses in bulk, at a wholesale price.
Set up a website to sell your dog treats to out-of-state customers.
Consult with a licensed veterinarian to ensure that your dog treat ingredients are safe for canine consumption, or risk liability if a customer's dog becomes ill.