9 of the Most Entrepreneurial Dogs in America
From being on the New York Times bestseller list to modeling for Ralph Lauren, dog influencers (OK, their owners) are making a lot of bones being entrepreneurs.
When it comes to entrepreneurs, they come in all shapes and sizes -- and now species.
In the past few years, there has been an explosion of dogs -- OK, their owners -- being paid to promote products, services and brands.
Known as pet influencers, these canines are part of the world of influencer marketing, in which social media accounts with big followings are cashing in by working with brands. And while celebrities, models and leaders have been tapping into this opportunity for some time, dogs (and other pets) are becoming more in demand.
“Brands are becoming more and more interested in working with animals,” says Kyla Brennan, the founder of HelloSociety and its sub-brand WAGSociety, which focuses solely on animal influencers.
The animals represented by WAGSociety have worked with countless brands, including L.L. Bean, Jeep and Morton’s Salt, along with several major movie studios. Brennan says she believes WAGSociety, and other pet agencies, are just getting started.
“Dogs have been getting famous since the German Shepherd Rin Tin Tin appeared in silent films in the 1920s, but brands are now increasingly seeing the benefits social influencers and pet influencers can have on reaching an audience,” she says. “Marketers are always excited about experimenting with new avenues of brand messaging, and with pet influencers, the results consistently over-deliver for both the brands and the consumers engaging with the content.”
But it isn’t just Instagram posts the owners of these famous dogs are capitalizing on. Because of their huge followings, a pup’s brand can expand to other areas, including books, apps and apparel.
We scoured the internet and came up with some of the most entrepreneurial dogs in America. (Want to know how to make your dog the next pup influencer? You can read the other half of the interviews on This Dog’s Life in the article “9 Super Celeb Dogs Share Tips About How Other Pups Can Find Fame.”)
Click through the slideshow to check out these famous dogs.
Tuna Melts My Heart
Entrepreneurial endeavors: The chiweenie (half chihuahua, half dachshund) known as Tuna Melts My Heart has accrued nearly 2 million Instagram followers. People enjoy his adventures, personality and wrinkly neck (known as a “shrivelneck”). Besides working with a number of brands, Tuna (OK, his mom) also released a book, Tuna Melts My Heart: The Underdog with the Overbite, produced an annual calendar and has a product line of mugs, rings and tees. Recently, the pup also debuted The Traveling Tuna to document his adventures around the world.
Her mom, Courtney Dasher, explains what it is like for this entrepreneurial dog.
Proudest moment: "We completed the manuscript for Tuna’s book the same day Reese Witherspoon encouraged her audience in a Vogue video '73 questions with Reese Witherspoon' to follow Tuna on Instagram."
Best perk your dog has received: "Staying in some of the nicest pet-friendly hotels in the U.S. and U.K."
Favorite part of the job: "Getting to be with Tuna every day. I say that he’s my boss, and that I have the best boss in the world! I would also say hearing from Tuna’s followers about how he brings them joy! Those comments make me realize that this is more than just an Instagram account, and that our job is to bring people joy and laughter.”
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "For a lot of people, their pets are a huge part of their everyday life, and a lot of products cater to both humans and dogs, so I think brands are drawn to that. I also think dogs are disarming and offer a fresh perspective, and brands appreciate those qualities."
Entrepreneurial endeavors: The maltese/papillon rescue dog was literally discovered on the streets of New York City. During a walk with her mom Sam Carrell, an agent noticed the pup and signed her on as one of his clients.
Tinkerbelle’s big debut was as the dog model in a Ralph Lauren collection, and since then has gone on to model for American Eagle, Burt’s Bees, WagWear and Converse, among many more. She also now has long-term contracts with Purina, Swiffer and PetSmart. She has also played Chowsie in the Broadway show Gypsy and was the face of a campaign for the movie A Dog’s Purpose.
We asked her mom, Sam Carrell, what it is like being a dog entrepreneur.
Proudest moment: "Booking her first national campaign with Ralph Lauren."
Best perk your dog has received: "Through Tinkerbelle’s #TravelingTink blog, she has been globetrotting expense free."
Favorite part of the job: "She lights up everyone’s day."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Human brands love to partner with Tinkerbelle because she has such a broad audience reach. From kids to adults and all over the world, Tinkerbelle brings awareness to products that people might not know about. And everyone loves seeing pics with animals."
Doug the Pug
If there was one pug that ruled the world, it would be Doug the Pug. The Tennessee native has nearly 6 million followers on Facebook, 2.8 million on Instagram and 1 billion video views. He also just made a cameo in Katy Perry’s video (can you spot him?). Other achievements include winning this year’s Shorty Award for Instagrammer of the Year, being the star of a New York Times bestseller book, Doug the Pug: The King of Pop Culture and launching a Doug the Pug line, including coloring books, mugs and t-shirts. Oh, and he has collaborated with some big-name stars, like Justin Bieber.
We chatted with Doug’s mom, Leslie Mosier, to get more insight on the famous pug.
Proudest moment: "Winning the Instagrammer of the Year Shorty Award and making the NY Times bestseller list."
Best perk your dog has received: "Staying at the five-star hotel Savoy in London with a suite overlooking the River Thames and Doug having his own personal butler."
Favorite part of the job: "Getting to hang out with Doug all day and making millions of people smile. It never gets old."Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Everyone loves dogs, they’re adorable, funny and the perfect brand ambassador. "
Entrepreneurial endeavors: Bodhi, the dog behind Menswear Dog, makes everyone envious of his fashionable style -- including humans. His owners, Yena Kima and David Fung, began dressing up the shibu inu in 2013 for fun, and posting the images on Facebook. After it took off, they set up the Menswear Dog account on Tumblr and received offers almost instantaneously. He has been the face of international menswear brand Comodo, attended numerous NYFW shows, had a book written about him and appears at events for Club Monaco, Casper and Canary. He currently has more than 300,000 Instagram followers.
We asked Kima to open up about her entrepreneurial dog.
Proudest moment: "Probably when he was born and realized how much better looking he was than everybody else."
Best perk your dog has received: "Endless compliments from me, everyone he meets and from other dogs."
Favorite part of the job: "Making people chuckle."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Brands love to work with them because it evokes the warm feeling you get when you see something you love, and in this case loves you back unconditionally. Also, dogs are a cute, approachable and are a feel-good way to get eyes on a message."
Entrepreneurial endeavors: If the Kardashian family had a dog, it would be Chloe Kardoggian. While the senior rescue dog waits for her big intro to Kim, Khloe and the rest of the clan, she is focusing on growing her empire. Chloe has her own line of stationery and gift products produced in collaboration with the artist Elizabeth Caparaz. The pup has also done sponsored posts and appearances with such brands as Beggin, PetSmart, Clorox, Casper, Stainmaster and Swiffer.
Chloe’s mom, Dorie Herman, opened up about her famous dog.
Proudest moment: "When Chloe hit 100,000 followers last year she hosted a virtual kissing booth. For each kiss emoji received, PetSmart donated to our favorite charity Foster Dogs and gave funds to its fospice program for terminally ill and/or senior homeless dogs near end of life. We were able to raise $5,000 for them, the largest single donation they'd received to date."
Best perk your dog has received: "I saw a dog I wanted to adopt online (now my dog, Cupid). To get myself noticed, I emailed from Chloe's account. I figured if ever there was a positive reason to use a perk, this was it."
Favorite part of the job: "Being able to help homeless dogs, especially seniors, find homes. Also getting to reshape the public perception of both chihuahuas and senior rescues. I regularly get notes and comments from people who say they adopted a chihuahua and/or senior because of how wonderful Chloe is. There's nothing better than that."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Dogs aren't polarizing figures in the way that humans are. They are love and kindness and never say the wrong thing."
Hamilton the Pug
Entrepreneurial endeavors: A rescue pug has brought a whole new caliber to the cute breed with such a big personality in a small size. Known as little comedians, Hamilton the Pug’s Instagram feed is extremely funny, entertaining and highlights a lot of great stories about pet adoption. He also has the very popular (and often trending) Twitter series #Pugchat, in which participants across the country and world ask pug and dog-related questions. Each week, there is a different sponsor that provides a few prizes at the end of the hour. He has also worked with big brands like Subaru, The Shelter Project and the Dials app.
We chatted with Hamilton’s mom, Wendy Frink, about his entrepreneurial endeavors.
Proudest moment: "Being picked as one of three internet famous pets for The Shelter Pet Project, a PSA that emphasizes the importance of adopting from shelters and rescues. Hamilton wound up on billboards across the country and his commercial is played on TV and radio."
Best perk your dog has received: "A gourmet steak dinner at a Casper event for its dog beds."
Favorite part of the job: "Ham really created a community with #Pugchat. We’ve made friends all across the country that we otherwise would have never met. Also, going on Good Morning America and ringing the NASDAQ bell was fun. Never in a million years did that even cross my mind of things we would do."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "They are easier to deal with and are really cute."
Chloe the Mini Frenchie
Entrepreneurial endeavors: With more than 175,000 followers, this tiny French bulldog has quite the big name. Having worked with many blends -- from The Ritz Carlton to Casper and Urban Decay -- Chloe’s influence spans across fashion, travel and food. She was also the face of Ann Taylor LOFT in April and launched her own line of stylish poop bags (made in New York with all proceeds going to the Humane Society of NY).
We caught up with her momager, Loni Edwards, to talk about Chloe.
Proudest moment: “Chloe's Time Out New York cover.”
Best perk your dog has received: "Chloe loves getting presents, and brands are always sending her their newest products to test out. She starts jumping up and down the moment she sees a box come into the apartment. She assumes all packages are for her, and she's usually right."
Favorite part of the job: "In addition to being the human to Chloe, I’m also the founder of The Dog Agency, so my entire job revolves around helping celebrity pets grow their personal brands. One of my favorite parts of the job is meeting our celebrity pet clients in person, but I enjoy all parts of the day-to-day. It truly is a dream job."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "People love dogs, and brands want to resonate with consumers. Partnering with pet influencers is one of the best ways to do that -- people have an innate positive reaction to pet content and looking at photos and videos of pets even boosts endorphins! People will then associate those positive feelings with the brand."
Entrepreneurial endeavors: Another puppy mill rescue, this pup is the newest to the pack of celeb dogs -- a rising star, if you will. Known for her luxe style, this 4-pound pup packs a lot of punch for her tiny size.
Ella Bean works with a number of hotel brands, like 1Hotel South Beach, The Standard Spa Miami and Belmond Splendido Portofino, to educate people about their pet friendliness policy -- an important amenity for those traveling with dogs. Ella Bean has also appeared on Good Morning America and was at last year’s Webby Awards and part of this year’s Puppy Bowl. She has also worked with Link AKC, an activity and health tracker for pets, Framebridge and Kayak.
We asked Hilary Sloan about her entrepreneurial dog.
Proudest moment: "Our recent auction benefitting The Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Generation: Friends of Finn committee, a group of young leaders dedicated to fighting the puppy-mill industry. We partnered with great brands who donated products for us to auction off and raised $4,000 to benefit this important cause."
Best perk your dog has received: "Ella Bean is a puppy mill survivor and with all the humor on her social platform, the greatest perk we've received is the ability to give back. Aside from our auction, we've participated in various adoption events and promoted dogs in foster care who are seeking new homes. There's nothing more rewarding than when we get an email saying that someone rescued a pet because of our social channel."
Favorite part of the job: "Meeting people who have rescued pups, both in person and online, hearing their stories and becoming part of a community of people passionate about pet rescue."
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Dogs make people happy. According to the ASPCA, there are 70 to 80 million dogs owned in the USA -- that's a huge audience of pet owners who are receptive to marketing that includes dogs. Celebrity pets come with a built-in audience that has a personal connection to that pet. This helps brands overcome a huge barrier in an oversaturated advertising market and communicate with those audiences in a new and deeper way."
Mochi in the City
Entrepreneurial endeavors: The pint-sized fluff ball is known for her stunning photographs on Instagram, impeccable taste and cute poses. As an Instagram influencer and dog model, she’s partnered with brands such as Google, Martha Stewart, Disney and Petsmart on collaborations ranging from sponsored content to attending launch events and modeling in marketing campaigns. She’s also been featured on Refinery29, Mashable, InStyle, People and other media outlets.
Mochi’s mom, Elle Drouin, opened up about her famous dog.
Proudest moment: "I remember feeling really proud when she got her first four-figure contract. It was the moment that I really realized that we had built a brand that was worth investing in."
Best perk your dog has received: "Probably the king size mattress we sleep on every night. It’s incredibly comfortable and the fact that it was free as part of a collaboration makes it that much better."
Favorite part of the job: "Getting to travel with Mochi and meeting some of her fans in other cities. It’s so rewarding to see her put a smile on people’s faces!"
Why do you think brands love or want to work with dogs: "Everyone loves dogs, right? They’re cute. They make people happy. Most dog influencers we know have higher engagement as compared to traditional human influencers with similar sized followings. So from a strategic standpoint, it just makes sense."