"After 30 years as a chef in the restaurant business I considered myself ready to bake dog treats," wrote Frank Ortlieb on his website for Big Dogg Bakery. "Wrong. It's harder cooking for dogs than people."
Big Dogg Bakery has been baking homemade, natural, healthy dog treats on-site in Bay View for about nine months.
"Dogs seem to have more dietary restrictions than people, as well as the normal people-type allergies," said Ortlieb, the shop's owner. As a result, Ortlieb developed dog treats that lack bleached flour, preservatives, sugar, grain, gluten, wheat and dairy.
"The most common allergy I've seen is wheat, but I've had dogs in with chicken, peanut butter and even kidney bean allergies. Gluten and grains are always a concern."
A peanut butter allergy? That sounds a dog with the worst luck. Luckily Ortlieb has a myriad of alternatives to keep those puppies happy.
Flavors such as pumpkin and sunflower seed, pineapple honey and black bean and bacon sound delicious enough to be a treat for any human. That assessment is probably not far off.
"I buy a lot of my ingredients like garbanzo bean flour at Outpost Foods. It is a high-protein flour and also wheat, gluten, and grain free product. I'm also starting to see Lentil bean flour in high end dog foods, which is another great source of protein," said Ortlieb.
"Every ingredient has to be researched to make sure it is safe for dogs. If there is anything I've learned, there is a lot of misleading information out there."
Once the ingredients are selected, the dough is made.
"I combine them with the right flour, make them healthy with fruits and veggies and include something dogs will love, like honey or molasses."
Each treat is stamped with a number to help indicate the flavor your dog should be expecting.
"Originally I planned on different shapes, but that got way too time consuming," Ortlieb added. "The numbers just came to me and made more sense than separate bags."
Then, everything is baked on location in the shop.
At the moment Big Dogg only has one part time employee, "and of course my dog," said Ortlieb. "She was the first dog I saw when I went to the humane society. Her name is Missy, aka Moose." Missy, a 160-pound St. Bernard mix, inspired the name "Big Dogg."
Ortlieb doesn't rule out adding a line of cat food in the future, but noted that creating a product requires a lot of research. It's not something that can be added easily and quickly. He is, however, working on cupcakes and birthday cakes for dogs.
Big Dogg Bakery also has other food and pet-related accessories. Ortlieb just introduced custom, handmade, all-wood raised feeders that can be made to the customer's specifications. These feeders can be designed to ensure a dog's food is placed at the right height, which can be important for dogs with arthritis or other physical ailments.
"We also have some chew toys, coats and boots, shampoos and ear cleaner, breath freshener and number one rated Orijen brand dog food." Ortlieb continued. "I hope to become the neighborhood dog walker's destination with tables out front, tasty treats. And of course dogs drink for free."
Ortlieb's aspirations don't stop there.
"I'm also looking at branding my own dog food. I am currently researching craft dog food contractors – preferably local – and a nutritionist with a clean no-recall history. Dog food is not the same as treats because it requires all the daily necessary nutrients and vitamins."
"I want to be able to oversee every batch made. Having been an executive chef for a number of years I know the proper handling, holding, cooking and sourcing of products."
Big Dogg Bakery is located in Bay View at 815 E. Potter Ave. Treats are available by the piece or by the pound, which translates into roughly 30-35 pieces for $12. More information and more flavors can be found at their website, bayviewsbigdoggbakery.com.
Jason McDowell grew up in central Iowa and moved to Milwaukee in 2000 to attend the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
In 2006 he began working with OnMilwaukee as an advertising designer, but has since taken on a variety of rolls as the Creative Director, tackling all kinds of design problems, from digital to print, advertising to branding, icons to programming.
In 2016 he picked up the 414 Digital Star of the Year award.
Most other times he can be found racing bicycles, playing board games, or petting dogs.