One of the greatest things about being an e-commerce owner and blogger in the pet space is the amazing people I get to connect with! This month, I (Steph) caught up Heather Hunt, an incredibly talented woman in the pet industry. Heather is the founder of The Dapple blog and author of a joyful recipe, DIY, and activity book for dog lovers.
I sat down with Heather to discuss the story behind The Dapple, get tips on how to successfully grow a niche blog in today's online community, and learn more about her adorable pups, Dave and Elizabeth. We also chat about her new book that just dropped on Amazon and discuss the process of getting a book deal.
It is so nice to speak with you, Heather! We've been following your dog blog, The Dapple, and your two adorable pups on Instagram for a while now. To kick things off, would you give a brief introduction of yourself for our readers?
Yes! I’m Heather, and I founded The Dapple blog and Instagram account, which features my dogs Dave the Dachshund and Elizabeth the Corgi. In 2020, our blog got a book deal with Simon & Schuster to create a guide for pet parents looking for fun and easy ways to celebrate life with their pups. It truly blew my mind since I still feel like it’s still such a small blog, but it’s truly been such an honor.
Outside of my life working on The Dapple, I work in marketing. I’m a total nerd and read constantly, so a lot of my career has been related to working in the book industry doing marketing. It comes naturally since I already love telling people what to read! I live in Seattle with my husband, Josh, and our daughter who just turned two.
What inspired you to launch a dog blog?
Right before we brought home our first pup, I was working for a kids’ clothing start-up where I was responsible for a lot of the influencer program. Since I was reading parenting blogs for work 24/7, when we got a puppy, I assumed I’d be able to find the same kind of fun and modern blogs for pup parents. I was shocked at how few existed. Sure there were plenty of places where you could find training resources or medical advice, but the fun stuff like how to throw a cute barkday party or where to buy modern products or how to bake a cute pupcake? Not so much. After a year of pup parenthood, I decided to create my own.
You and I (Steph) have a lot in common! I launched DJANGO Dog Blog a few years ago when I realized how rare it was to come across dog blogs that provide useful, valuable, and genuine content.
When did you launch your pups' Instagram account and your blog?
Initially, we only had an Instagram account, which we started in September 2016. We just created it to share pictures of our puppy with our families, so I was really surprised when so many people started following it. We launched the blog a year later in the fall of 2017.
How would you describe The Dapple?
The Dapple is a place to celebrate the light-hearted side of pup parenthood. Our dogs’ lives are so short and we want to make the most of every minute with them. The Dapple is a place where you can discover new products from small pet businesses, find fun activities to share with your dog, and explore easy recipes for your pup.
You definitely have very fun, unique and creative content. I love all of your DIY activities and crafts for dog parents!
Growing a modern dog blog in today's online community isn't easy! There is a lot of noise on the internet and competition. It's not always easy to be found. What is a key strategy that has helped you grow The Dapple?
I think that picking such a niche topic has actually been the biggest factor in our growth. It’s so tempting when you’re starting off to want to just do everything—fashion, home design, travel. And honestly, these days I spend so much time in my life on things outside the realm of dogs that could be turned into online content—I’m in the midst of renovating a hundred-year-old house in Seattle, I spend a lot of time coming up with activities for my daughter, and I love writing book reviews. Sometimes I’m like, am I missing out by not turning this stuff into content? But I think our readers love that they can go to The Dapple and know that they’ll specifically get dog content. It lets our site stand out.
Focusing on one niche is excellent advice, especially for any readers thinking of launching their own blog! After traveling extensively in the United States, Canada, and Europe with my husband, Mike, and dachshund, Django, I realized I had so much knowledge to offer on pet travel topics. Although DJANGO Dog Blog has grown to cover many important topics today—dog health, dog food, high quality product funds—our key niche remains pet travel.
Do you think anything else has helped make The Dapple successful?
Honestly, because dog people are the nicest people on the internet. I realize that sounds like dodging the question, but I truly feel like there’s this network of small business owners, bloggers, and content creators in the pet space who all really look out for each other. They’ve been so kind about sharing our content and supporting the blog—I certainly wouldn’t be here without that.
I couldn't agree more! I absolutely love speaking to and partnering with loving dog parents, pet business owners, and bloggers. Dogs bring people together in an incredible way.
Do you have any other advice for aspiring pet bloggers?
I think the advice you hear over and over is consistency and to crank out a lot of content on your blog and on social media. And while that’s awesome, I’m also a really big believer in taking a break. Sometimes you need a second to just live your life and not turn it into content, and that’s totally okay. We’ve had some huge life changes during the four years I’ve been blogging—a cross-country move, a rough pregnancy, a new baby, a new house, new jobs for both of us, and now a pandemic—if I hadn’t hit pause on creating content in some of those times, I for sure would have burned out. I think your readers can tell when you’re not having fun writing for them any more, and it’s important to love what you’re creating.
Great advice. Let's shift gears and talk about your new book, Life’s a Puppy Party: Recipes, DIYs, and Activities for Celebrating the Seasons with Your Dog, that just came out! How did you get a book deal, and what was that process like?
In February 2020, I got an email from an editor at Simon & Schuster asking to talk about a book project. I thought she just wanted me to contribute some photography or something to someone else’s book, but was completely shocked when she and her team explained they wanted me to write the entire book of parties, costumes, and recipes for dog owners. I was incredibly intimidated, but the publishing team has been so supportive and helpful in walking me through the process. Plus, we were able to bring Dr. Sarah Machell, the medical director of Vetster.com onboard in the project to help make sure everything in the book was safe and healthy for pups. It’s been such an amazing team effort to get this book ready for pup parents, and I am excited to finally share it with the world! You can order it here.
The book looks wonderful, and I will definitely be ordering a copy for our home! I think it will be a hit here, and our 2.5 year old toddler is especially going to love doing the DIY crafts with me and Mike.
Your dogs, Dave and Elizabeth, are naturally featured throughout the book via beautiful photography. They are both absolutely adorable! How old are they, and what are their breeds?
Thank you! Dave is a five-year-old Dachshund and Lizzie is a four-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
Do you have tips for other pet parents who are trying to capture high quality shots of their pups?
I’m lucky enough to be married to someone who has had a photography side-hustle for a long time, so I have learned a ton from him. When we started out, my husband did all the photography for our Instagram account and blog. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten a lot better, and now I do most of it myself. I think a lot of people think you need a fancy lighting set up for good pet photography, but you can actually do a lot with natural light. For the first two years of our blog and Instagram, 90% of our photos were shot outside on our apartment’s roof deck, even if they looked like they were shot inside. Getting that beautiful natural lighting is really what allowed our account to take off.
Dave and Elizabeth always look so sweet and loving together in your photos. Do they always get along really nicely?
Surprisingly, yes! Dave was our first pup, back when my husband and I were newlyweds living in a tiny NYC apartment. He was the center of our world, so we were a little worried about adding a second dog (and kids down the road). He was about a year and a half when Lizzie joined our family, and it definitely took a bit for him to come around to liking her, but now they’re best friends. They have occasional spats since Lizzie often sits on him—I think by accident?—but in general, they really love each other.
I can relate! Mike and I got Django when we similarly lived in a tiny NYC apartment and well before we had our baby boy. It definitely took Django several weeks to adjust to life with a new baby when we brought our son home from the hospital.
What are Dave and Elizabeth's personalities like off-camera?
Lizzie is named after Queen Elizabeth, and she’s definitely the alpha in our house. She barks at you if she doesn’t like something you’re doing. I think she feels a strong need to herd everyone in our family, especially Dave.
We call Dave our little, umm, asshole (can I say that?) with a heart of gold. He’s rough around the edges with strangers, but he’s actually a little angel with our whole family, even our two-year-old daughter. Any time we’re at home, he’s curled up on our laps or licking our faces.
Yes, you can definitely say that :) Dogs are amazing in every way, but we all know they are sometimes prone to moods like us humans!
Halloween is right around the corner! Do you have any fun DIY doggy costumes planned for Dave and Elizabeth?
I love Halloween, and I’m so excited to plan some fun costumes for the pups this year. We just featured an easy DIY for a rainbow Halloween costume on our blog, so I think one of our pups will be wearing that. Our book has a bunch of other really easy last-minute Halloween costume DIYs in it. I especially love the unicorn one and the dinosaur one.
What do you, Josh, and the pups do on the weekends for fun?
Now that we have a kid, our weekends are a little busier than they used to be, but we still love to walk to our neighborhood farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. We usually pick up coffees and croissants, and then go for a long walk through the neighborhood.
Do Dave and Elizabeth have a favorite toy?
I just discovered a company called Dirt & Dog Hair, which uses sustainable and vegan materials to create truly adorable dog toys. I love finding small businesses that are innovating to make the pet space less wasteful.
Elizabeth is 26 lbs and wears a large dog harness and medium dog collar. Dave is 17 lbs and wears a medium harness and small collar. We love that DJANGO is specifically made for active small and medium dogs like ours!
Visit The Dapple dog blog and check out Life’s a Puppy Party: Recipes, DIYs, and Activities for Celebrating the Seasons with Your Dog on Amazon.com!
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