Dogs First

With The Hip Hound in their neighborhood, Portland, Ore.’s dog community has it good.

photo by kolu westcott, www.koluphoto.com

Jennifer Heckman

The Hip Hound has one mission—providing all the essentials for happy and healthy dogs.

Number one on their priority list is food. The back of the store holds the selection of diets for dogs of all sizes, with a clear emphasis on grain-free and U.S.-made options.

“We’re so passionate about nutrition,” says store manager Emily Keudell. “A healthy dog is a happy dog, and keeping them happy is very, very important to us.”

Other healthcare products in the store are just as carefully selected. “We’re really picky about the ingredients in our vitamins and dental care,” Keudell says. “We try and keep it as natural yet effective as possible.”

The Hip Hound opened about eight years ago when the owner, Jennifer Heckman, decided to leave behind a career in insurance to concentrate on her lifelong passion for pets. Two years after the business opened, it moved to a larger location with space for an expanded product selection.
“Not only did we get to expand and bring in more products we love, we’ve been able to refine and find what sells best and which companies are the best,” Keudell says. “That’s been a pretty fun journey.”

The store has a boutique feel, with cute treats and practical chews and a selection of collars and leashes greeting customers as they walk in. The Hip Hound also carries dog clothing, like sweaters and raincoats stocked with the Pacific Northwest weather in mind, as well as jackets and jerseys representing area sports teams. In apparel and other categories, the shop tries to cater to everyone, big and small dogs alike.

Keudell says that being independently owned and having a team approach to management has helped the store stand out. “We all do ordering and researching, and we all help the store run, as opposed to being corporate,” she says. “We all have a voice and an opinion.”

This approach and a focus on being engaged and involved with the Portland community has helped The Hip Hound attract loyal customers who regularly come in with their dogs. In particular, the store’s “yappy hours” every third Thursday, complete with treats for humans and their canine companions, have proved popular with locals. Last November, the shop added the Java Hound, an in-store coffee bar with goat’s milk puppacinos for the dogs and coffee for the people.

The business also does its part to help out shelter animals in the area by hosting adoption outreach programs like dog meet-and-greets on weekends at the store. If the store receives pet food as part of a promotion, or can’t sell items due to damaged packaging, it donates the products to shelters.
Whenever possible, The Hip Hound maintains a unique collection of goods by sourcing from local producers. Local artists are featured in the cat and dog collar collections as well as the clothing. But despite the local focus, the store is working on becoming nationally accessible.

“We are working on getting our store online so we can reach out to more people not from the Portland area,” Keudell says. “We want to be able to the cater to the people who come in and say ‘Oh, I’m from Texas and we don’t have anything like this there.’ That’s our main goal right now.”



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