Class creates dog treat business

Hamilton+mixes+the+dog+treat+dough.

Katharine Blackford

Hamilton mixes the dog treat dough.

Katharine Blackford, Editor

The process begins with a simple set of ingredients: pumpkin purée, eggs, peanut butter and whole wheat flour (mixed in with cinnamon in pre-portioned bags). The ingredients, once mixed, make an orange paste that is then fit into dog bone and paw-shaped molds, both in small and large sizes, depending on the size of the batch. The mixture is then ready for the oven. After baking, the treats are either packaged directly after cooling or frozen.

The process is an effort of every student in the Revere High School Living Lab, taught by Samantha Price and Stephanie Duttry.

Price, a teacher and supervisor of the business, came up with the idea with fellow teacher Duttry. They first implemented the business in February 2020.

“Since COVID, we weren’t able to get out into the community, so we had to be creative and think of something to do for our students that we could still interact with the community. We thought ‘everyone loves their dogs,’ so why not dog treats,” Price said.

Price describes the role of the business for her students, as well as the classroom as a whole.

“It is a fundraiser for our items in our classroom, or we use the money sometimes as their payment because we’re working with job skills. At the end of last year, we had a big end-of-the-year party for them that they planned and enjoyed,” Price said. 

Price describes the initial reaction to the business after it started in February 2020.

“It was very successful. We are going to continue with the dog treats. At the end of last year, we did a ‘pet palooza,’ and we had a photographer come in and take dog portraits. Someone did bring their cat, so we aren’t discriminating against other animals,” Price said.

Although the business focuses on the production of dog treats, Price describes the other products they have available for sale.

“We talked about doing one this year around Valentine’s Day: Pet Palooza 2.0. We’ll be selling our dog treats as well [as making] bandanas, and then we start trying to make some paw print signs. It’s really great,” Price said.

Tiffany Hamilton, one of Price’s students, describes the process to make the dog treats.

“There’s pumpkin puree, eggs, flour, cinnamon and peanut butter. We usually double the ingredients, and then we put them in dog treat molds. There are paws and bones. We roll them up, put them in there and then put them in the oven, and then they dry out,” Hamilton said.

The pet-themed business has many different products, as Hamilton describes.

“We’re doing bandanas. We have dog signs and paws, and you can paint them what you want. I brought my dog to [pet palooza]. We did one during graduation,” Hamilton said.

Duttry explains the purpose of the business, besides making a profit.

“This program’s goal is to get kids ready for work. With COVID happening, we couldn’t go out into the community and volunteer as we had in years past,” Duttry said.

The idea took a combined effort to figure out how to do community outreach in a way that appeals to the students.

“With some brainstorming ideas, Mrs. Price, Mrs. Castle, who is the director of student services, talked about different types of opportunities and what would be reasonable and easy to do but also have an opportunity for every kid in the classroom,” Duttry said.

 After making the treats, they are frozen into molds to take their shape. 

“We end up packaging them. If we don’t need them, we’ll vacuum-seal and freeze them. We make sure that we keep the date on everything, because they have about a six-week refrigeration life, and then if we freeze them, it’s about six months,” Duttry said.

The business started with just dog treats, but Duttry noticed what other schools did and adapted their products.

“We did dog portraits last year at the end of the year to get our name out there more. I have two dogs, I love them to death, and Stow-Munroe Falls High School has always done dog portraits. I used to take my dogs to get portraits [at the school],” Duttry said.

Duttry explains the appeal of dog portraits.

“I actually have two 8x10s up of my dogs, and I don’t have very many pictures up of my boys. A lot of people look for opportunities to get pictures taken with their dogs,” Duttry said.

Bandanas, like the portraits, were adapted from another business model: dog grooming.

“We made bandanas because every time you get your dog groomed they give you a bandana, but these are different in the sense that they slide through the collar, and they’re reversible, and we also have the opportunity to individualize them and add a phone number if your dog gets lost,” Duttry said. 

Duttry explained that the business is a creative outlet for the students.

“We have some really artsy, craftsy kids in here, and [we are] giving them the opportunity to try different job skills. The dog portraits were super fun. We were hoping to do pet palooza and do photos with Santa, but with the time and finding a location, it was harder this year,” Duttry said. 

Duttry explained that the students gain valuable job skills through the manufacturing process.

“There are so many skills that the kids learn. They’re learning how to read recipes, doubling [ingredients], math, we are putting our name on a product, and you buy things with your eyes first and that’s important, so we want it to look good. We’re teaching them attention to detail, how to do time on task,” Duttry said. 

Far from a textbook, the hands-on learning style teaches the students different curriculum skills, such as math.

“We’re teaching them all the core subjects: math, with the money and counting ratios, reading recipes, ELA with comprehension skills, and then science with mixing [ingredients], social studies with income and expense. The kids count money, which is a great skill,” Duttry said. 

Though Duttry, Price and the other teachers offer support, Duttry explains that the students take charge of the business.

“We really want the kids to make this their business. How are you going to get it out there? We know there are things that we obviously have to support them on, but we always ask their opinion because this is run by them with our support, and it is running a job,” Duttry said. 

Duttry explains how the profits earned from the business go back to the students, as well as being reinvested into more supplies.

“The money that we get goes back into the business, but we try to do things like a holiday party, or a movie day, or breakfast that’s like a payday. They earn it, so they get excited about working. The kids really enjoy it,” Duttry said. 

Duttry explains her decision to choose pets as a focus, due to the kindred relationship she noticed between her students and the dogs they make the treats for.

“Whenever they leave high school, there are limited opportunities for them to work and where they go, but a lot of the times, dogs and pets and animals are one of the things our kids gravitate to. Who doesn’t love a dog? But the dogs also gravitate to them,” Duttry said. 

While the business is concentrated in her classroom, other faculty across Revere High School make contributions.

“We don’t just want this to be a living lab business, we want this to be a Revere High School business. We’ve worked with Mr. Dallas and his classes. They’ve made our signs and our advertising,” Duttry said.

Duttry explains how other Revere faculty back the business.

“We’re planning on working with Mrs. Seegert when we do dog portraits again, Mrs. Lyon lets us use her room. We have worked with other people in the building, and [they are] helping us get our name out there. Dr. Lebeau lets us use one of the practicing rooms for pet portraits. He also donates eggs. It’s really awesome,” Duttry said.  

Duttry explains the importance of others supporting the business.

“It’s really hard to do stuff without people backing you and believing in you. And the kids appreciate it too,” Duttry said. 

Just like the process of making the treats, the sale of them requires the effort of more than just one person. Many customers, not all from Revere, purchase and enjoy the products.