Food & Drink

These Made-in-Baltimore Dog Treats Are Something to Bark About

The Arbutus-based Baltimore Dog Bakery specializes in natural goodies for your pup.
—Photography by Justin Tsucalas

Twenty-six years ago, Key Wagner was working as a vocational counselor for people who struggled with mental health.

“We were in a meeting being told that there was not funding for our work,” recalls Wagner. “And after the meeting, out of the blue, a friend of mine said to me, ‘I just came up with a recipe for dog treats. Do you want to learn how to make them?’ And I was like, ‘Sure.’”

When Wagner arrived at her co-worker’s home, there was a mock kitchen in the basement with little more than bone-shaped cookie cutters and a KitchenAid mixer on hand.

“It was clearly manipulation,” says Wagner laughing at the memory, “because when I got there, she said, ‘We got an order from a store  for 10 pounds and my husband and I have to go to a wedding, so would you mind making them?’”

From that first day, the 62-year-old lifelong dog lover enjoyed making the treats.

“It was right then and there that I decided to quit my job,” says Wagner, who eventually bought the business. “When you make the treats, you just forget about life. It’s stress-free most of the time.”

The Arbutus-based Baltimore Dog Bakery is now a wholesale operation and Wagner also sells her treats retail at several farmers markets. The bakery makes up to 500 pounds of treats for pet stores, liquor stores, coffee houses, and groceries all around the Mid Atlantic, including Eddie’s, Graul’s, Whole Foods, and Wegman’s. They can also be ordered on Amazon.

“Animals have become our children,” says Wagner, explaining the popularity of the healthy treats. “And we treat our dogs just the same—if not better. I also think people buy them because they want their pets to live longer and healthier lives.”

How has the market for natural dog treats changed over the years?
When this product first came out on the East Coast, there wasn’t much competition for years and we were one of the few places to make all-natural dog treats. And then all of a sudden, kaboom, everyone caught onto it. Now, you look at a pet shelf and there are a lot of good products out there.

Tell me about the product.
There are five or six ingredients and that’s it—they’re all written on the bag. We were originally trying to break into the horse market, but decided to stick to the dog market, which is humungous. The treats are made of all human-grade ingredients, including flour, corn meal, wheat germ, parsley, eggs, which I buy locally, plus oil and flavoring. And they are extremely easy on the digestive system. The most common feedback I get is, “My dog has a sensitive stomach and hasn’t had any issues with these treats.”

Your flavors include apple cinnamon, peanut, and carrot. Can humans eat them, too?
Absolutely. They’re a little bland and pretty dry, but I tell everyone who works here that if there’s ever a hurricane, we will be just fine

What do you hear from your customers?
People will send thank-you notes from their dog. In fact, I just got an order from someone’s dog, and it was saying how they’ve moved to Virginia and missed getting my product and could I please send a bunch of bags.