They call it puppy love…when your passion for all things canine is at the heart of dog-based business ventures
Valentine’s Day can be a great opportunity to show our love with thoughtful gifts. And why not share the feeling with our furry friends and include them in the fun? From grooming sessions to heart-shaped treats, there are plenty of local options to treat your pooch this Valentine’s Day.
Dog groomer Amy Olphert of Erry-based Highmoor Hounds has created a Valentine’s Day gift set for dogs, featuring her own range of handmade natural grooming products, plus popular canine treats like pops -corn for dog and cookies in the shape of a heart.
“Before I was a dog groomer, I would have always bought my dogs little gifts,” says Amy.
“I used to buy them a love heart cake, I wouldn’t have bought them anything randomly, it would have been Valentine’s Day themed.”
Amy says when her Christmas gift sets sold out last year, she did some research to find out if there was indeed a demand for Valentine’s Day gifts for dogs.
In a poll on his social media page, a majority of respondents (60%) said yes, they love buying Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets.
“This year, I’m making a Valentine’s Day box that has clear love hearts on both sides, and it’s filled with my own soap, paw balm, perfume spray and treats.”
Dog lover Amy creates her own line of luxury handcrafted grooming products for dogs – all made with natural, plant-based ingredients without the harsh chemicals often found in commercial brands.
“I have my own line of products – my own natural soap and natural paw balm just for dogs. I went to England to take the course and learn how to make all the soaps. I had found that the coat dogs was damaged by all the chemicals in (commercial) shampoo, so I wanted to find a natural shampoo or soap.
For Amy and her fiancé Cathal, their two springs, Riley (4) and Rhea (1) are part of the family.
“I would be completely lost without them. You cannot leave them. One of mine, a four-year-old, suffers from separation anxiety. If I leave, he can only stay with my mother and he won’t eat while I’m gone.
The 25-year-old gave up her previous job in customer service at a car dealership to start her thriving grooming business so she could be with her dogs.
Amy loves grooming dogs and giving them pampering sessions, whether it’s a luxurious mud bath or an oatmeal and blueberry facial.
“I love it. I love it a lot. I always wanted to work with dogs and I could never be a veterinarian, but I knew I had always wanted to do something with dogs. I didn’t know what, so when he had this separation anxiety, I started to think about it a little more.
Naomi Thompson, mum-of-two from County Antrim, pursues her own passion for dogs with her business, Dogsbody NI.
She began by providing a dog walking service and dog daycare, but soon branched out into a line of holistic handmade grooming products. Her bath bombs are proving popular with dog lovers ahead of Valentine’s Day.
“Bath bombs are popular because they’re heart-shaped. Maybe not as popular as Christmas gifts, but I’ve definitely found a lot of people doing fun things for Valentine’s Day and spoiling their dogs.
“Some people would be very interested in a small selection – an assembled basket or box. I make great handmade organic shampoo and it’s great with bath bombs.
“I do a really good antibacterial paw balm and soothing spray, which is awesome. And I also do accessories, so some people might opt for a cute red bandana for Valentine’s Day.
Boswell and Honor pets were the main inspiration behind Naomi’s decision to create natural and organic dog grooming products.
“The grooming line came into play when I couldn’t find anything for my own pets that wasn’t full of chemicals.”
Dog lover Naomi is also a qualified Bach Animal Practitioner, the only one in Northern Ireland.
This means she is trained to create her own treatments for animals suffering from emotional issues such as fear and anxiety, using a blend of flower essences tailored to their specific needs.
“If an animal is having negative emotions, maybe suffered a trauma or very afraid to go to the vet or if there was a lot of stress, I would customize a bottle of Bach flower remedies specifically for that animal – could be n any animal from a goldfish to a dog.
To really wag your tail for Valentine’s Day, in addition to pampering yourself, you can never go wrong with a treat for your four-legged friend. And if your dog has a taste for the finer things in life, look no further than BARK-elicous in County Antrim.
Self-proclaimed “dog fanatic” Toni McCorry started her bakery about two years ago, offering artisan chocolates (made with carob – a non-toxic alternative to cocoa and safe for dogs) and a variety of cookies for homemade dogs.
The mother-of-one lives in Derriaghy with her husband Mark, young daughter Amelia-Rose and their two pet dogs, Maggie (6) and Bear (3). When Maggie was diagnosed with hip and elbow ectasia, it motivated her to start creating her own dog snacks.
“With her condition, I found it very difficult to find treats that had good ingredients but weren’t fattening for her.
“So I started making them myself, and I just brought them to dog parks when I took her out. And all the other dogs loved them too. So I decided to branch out and do it right.
“Everything comes directly from my kitchen. Chocolates are made from carob or milk, so carob is the dog-safe equivalent of cocoa which is toxic to dogs.
“These are just natural flavors, so usually freeze-dried fruit or rosehip water. Just to keep them healthy as they are more of a luxury treat for dogs than an everyday treat.
“They came because we always joked that Maggie being a chocolate brunette thinks chocolates are for her.
“She was terrible at begging and I always felt bad that I couldn’t give her anything with her condition. So I designed these to be a healthy alternative for her. So when we sit down to have a chocolate together, she can also participate.
“We’ve always included them with just about everything – birthdays, Christmas, Halloween. They’ve always been a part of all of our celebrations.
Toni has seen an increase in demand for sharing celebrations with your pets, especially last year when we were in lockdown for Valentine’s Day.
“There was a very big demand and I think it was partly Covid-related. There have always been people who have seen dogs as part of the family, but especially with confinement, and by staying with them, they are so much more a part of your day.
“We’re coming out of that period where people viewed dogs as property where they sat outside. You don’t see so many dogs outside anymore. You see them being and being part of the family.