In celebration of National Dog Day, we had the pleasure of speaking with Alise Jarvis, founder of Sidewalk Dog. Sidewalk Dog is a media company that caters to dog-loving locals in Seattle, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, and Chicago. The company provides content and resources for both first-time and long-time dog owners, along with dog-friendly recommendations for activities, events, and more.
A slightly edited version of our conversion is as follows.
Community Reinvestment Fund, USA (CRF): When we last talked, you were unable to host in-person events due to COVID closures. How have you changed your business model since COVID?
Jarvis: “Before the pandemic we hosted a lot of events and had a lot of event-related content in general, so we had to shift our content to what was relevant now. That meant focusing on things you can do with your dog at home, how to safely explore dog-friendly areas, etc. Thankfully we were successful in pivoting our content to fit the pandemic; we weren’t just writing about local places in our four markets. Instead, we were talking about how to manage work at home with your dog, different types of walks with your dog instead of daycare, among other topics.
During the pandemic we grew a national following, and our content became more geographically agnostic. Before, our content was 90 percent event or market based, now 50 percent of our content is national. So far, it’s been good for us as we figure out what makes the most sense as we continue to grow.”
CRF: With more dogs being adopted during the pandemic, are you seeing an increased interest in Sidewalk Dog?
“That’s been a really fun thing to see. We are huge proponents of rescue, so it’s good to see that rescues were running out of adoptable dogs. We’ve been more focused on training, behavior, and nutrition. With so many people getting dogs for the first time, we have seen a need for more basic content. Starting a foray into national content that applies to many people is definitely a result of the pandemic.”
CRF: What does the future look like for Sidewalk Dog? How has your business shifted, if at all since the pandemic?
“Sidewalk Dog has grown over the past twelve years. I’ve thought about focusing on hyperlocal content and working with multi-market campaigns for national brands as many are focusing on our current markets. One thing I’ve learned is how important location is when it comes to advertising, pet brands want to focus on strategic launches and expansions into certain locations. So far we’re doing well and right now the focus is on creating relevant content for first and long-time dog owners.”
CRF: What excites you most about the future of Sidewalk Dog?
“The pandemic has helped me learn how to make things easier. Focusing on the local market is a harder route in general and it still might be the right route for us. However, the signs are pointing towards a national model. I love the idea of working with writers from all over the country and helping dog owners live fulfilling lives with their dogs. We get messages every week from people who want Sidewalk Dog in their area. We can do that now, but not at the same depth as our target markets.”
CRF: What are the differences between dog owners/activities between Minneapolis-St. Paul/Seattle/Denver/Chicago?
“In Chicago there are boat tours through the city and a lot of people bring their dogs along with them. Chicago also has walk-up windows that we don’t have in Denver or Seattle. They have these restaurants where you can walk up and get food outside with your dogs. Seattle also has many dog-friendly seltzeries where people can drink and socialize along with their dogs. Something in common that all locations have is that people want to eat and drink with their dogs. Everyone wants to get out and socialize.”
CRF: Do you own dogs? Tell us about them!
“My favorite thing to talk about! I have two rescue dogs, Maggie Moo and Molly. I adopted Maggie when she was two, she is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who is now thirteen. When I rescued her she was around forty pounds and she resembled a cow as she would eat grass, that’s why I call her Maggie Moo. Now she’s twenty pounds and I love her size because I am able to hold her like a baby. Molly is a Boxer Cattle Dog Pitbull mix who is forty pounds. She is always down for anything and has a lot of energy to play and run around. Growing up I’ve always had one dog, but I’ve found having two is amazing as their personalities and sizes are different. Both Molly and Maggie love going for car rides, going for walks and love spending time together.”
CRF: What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about adopting a dog for the first time?
“My advice would be to figure out the temperament and personality must-for your lifestyle. It’s so easy to get caught up in the look of a dog, especially if a certain breed is trending, but it’s more important to know yourself first. Ask yourself what type of dog would fit your lifestyle, whether it’s needing a workout partner or something else, and then put in the work that comes with maintaining a dog. If you’re not the type of person who has a lot of energy, then consider adopting an older dog. If you have kids or plan to have kids, then make sure they are kid tested.
It may sound obvious, but I’ve seen so many instances where people have dogs that have needs they aren’t able to meet and then that dog becomes a stress for the family. There are many other things to consider as well. Know that you can get puppies, purebreds, and senior dogs at rescues. If you’re unsure about adopting a dog, consider fostering first as there is no commitment upfront. It’s a great thing to do if you’re nervous about adopting a dog, feel unprepared, or don’t know what type of dog will fit your lifestyle needs at the moment.”
CRF: Are there any volunteer opportunities that Sidewalk Dog provides as a source for those seeking to volunteer at nonprofits?
“It is something that we want to incorporate into the future, but we are always seeking volunteers for the nonprofits we work with. We love to raise awareness for nonprofits and encourage people to give back.”
CRF: Why did you start Sidewalk Dog?
“I was looking for a resource like Sidewalk Dog for myself and I could not find one. My previous cavalier, who was a rescue from a puppy mill, was diagnosed with a rare neuromuscular disease at six months old. I would take him with me everywhere just so that I could keep an eye on him. I needed to give him medications at different times during the day, and so the stress of having to be at home at certain hours was a lot to handle. During that time, I was living in downtown Minneapolis and I thought about just taking him to places like restaurants and shops with me. That’s when I met a lot of people and started talking to business owners about creating a resource for people to find dog-friendly places. From there Sidewalk Dog was born and now I provide a resource for people who seek places where they can take their dogs, meet other dog owners, socialize, and go shopping without worrying if they are allowed to bring their fur babies.”
CRF: How is Sidewalk Dog going to celebrate National Dog Day?
“For us, every day is National Dog Day. We’ve got some cool fundraising campaigns right now so we will encourage people to help raise awareness on social media. One example is we are working with Searchkibble, a new search engine. For the month of August, if you download their Chrome extension, you can help raise money for a Minneapolis-based pet food shelf called People & Pets together.
We are also working with the Minnesota Veterinary Hospital Association to spread the word on “Yellow Ribbon Dogs”.
The goal is to increase awareness of people that have dogs who need space. Essentially these are dogs that for whatever reason don’t want to be touched, maybe they’re aggressive or they’re recovering from a surgery or illness. Here at Sidewalk Dog, we’re selling Yellow Ribbon Dog Leash Wraps to help raise money and awareness for the Minnesota Animal Health Foundation (MNAHF) and you can find more information about what to do if you have a yellow ribbon dog.
Apart from fundraising for nonprofits we are also selling brewery and restaurant passes that help raise money for local rescues. We try to encourage people to raise awareness and donate to nonprofits, and that is something that I’m pretty proud of.”
Be sure to check out Sidewalk Dog and the nonprofits they support to learn more. If you are based in Minneapolis and like to socialize and drink, purchase a Dog-Friendly Brewery Pass and a Dog-Friendly Restaurant Pass, they’re very pup-ular. They also have a Brewery Pass for those located in Denver. To dogs and their parents everywhere, Happy National Dog Day!