UACCB student funds tuition with dog treats

Originally Published April 28, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 26, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.
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Tyler Counts, 19, of Sulphur Rock makes and sells homemade dog treats under the business name Diggy Dawg Bone Co. to raise money to pay his tuition at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville.

Turning a family hobby into a profitable business is helping one University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville student pay for his courses.

Tyler Counts began baking homemade dog treats with his mom when he was just 5 years old. Now he spends days baking and packaging dozens of flavors of the canine snacks.

Counts, 19, is at UACCB to study accounting and said the money he has earned from his business keeps his tuition paid. Living at home in Sulphur Rock, Counts bakes all the treats there, using ingredients any human would be happy to eat, but that are also safe for dogs.

“I don’t use any preservatives, and everything is all natural, human-quality food,” Counts said. “Just like bread, everything starts out with flour and the flavors, like real bacon or real cheese.”

Counts’ mother first started baking treats at home when the family had a dog sick with arthritis.

“A local vet had a recipe for dog bones that might help,” Counts said.

The family began baking treats for their animals on a regular basis. By the time Counts was ready for college, he realized that other pet owners in the area might be interested in a more-natural treat alternative to what could be purchased in stores.

In 2009, Counts gave the business a name — Diggy Dawg Bone Co. — and began setting up his booth at local festivals and craft fairs, including the War Eagle Mill Arts and Crafts Fair in Northwest Arkansas and the annual Scottish Festival at Lyon College in Batesville. He set up a website for the business in 2010 and continues to take custom orders regularly via email.

“We go to several shows a year, and when we have one coming up, it takes all day, all week to make everything we sell,” Counts said. “It’s from the minute I wake up until pretty late at night.”

With 31 flavors available in the treats, Counts said, his family jokingly calls the business the Baskin Robbins of dog treats. Counts’ mother has come up with names for many of the treats, including Pea “Mutt” Butter, Blueberry Hound Dog, Paw Lick’n Chicken and Banana Bulldogs. Counts molds the treats in bone, pretzel and rod shapes, even dipping some in dog-friendly carob, which looks like chocolate.

Those looking for the Diggy Dawg booth at festivals can keep an eye out for the business’s official mascot, Counts’ dog Sadie. Being a Great Dane, the black-and-white giant of a dog is hard to miss and a big draw for curious festgoers.

Counts said he’s still building his business and hopes to continue it throughout his time at UACCB.

“I’ve never had a job before, and I don’t want someone yelling at me or having to work certain hours to take away from my studying,” Counts said.

Staff writer Emily Van Zandt can be reached at (501) 399-3688 or evanzandt@arkansasonline.com.

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