On Instagram, photogenic dogs—and various other animals—are in abundance. Serious players in the game have taken cute dog photos and videos to delightful extremes. Among many, many other majestic dogs, cats, reptiles, and rodents, I follow Japanese toy poodles that all have better hair than I do and a chihuahua that is frequently pictorially staged as just about to take a train ride ride, wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat like a woman on the run from her messy yet vaguely glamorous past. Other times she is sailor, at the helm of a military grade ship, or a sushi chef. In her photos, or in those of any cute dog that moves me, I'll tag my boyfriend and he'll do the same. Ubiquitously, this has become a standard relationship ritual and a community building act. The urge for a shared connection can easily manifest itself in a mutual aww over a french bulldog that just rolled onto its back and is struggling to right itself. Other people's pets have become a method of communication, entertainment, and catharsis.
As with all things, however, the pure joy that small dogs with adorably plump butts can bring isn't immune to being monetized. Loni Edwards, who started the first dog talent agency that focuses on Instagram-famous canines, is hoping to make that process even easier to navigate. The Dog Agency bills itself as "home to the most influential dogs in the world." Edwards, whose own dog, Chloe, has over 125,000 followers on Instagram, connects high-profile pooches with brands for sponsored content. Her canine clients have worked with dozens of companies, from traditional pet brands to vacuum retailers and hotel chains. And frankly, I don't even mind that cute dogs are being recruited to sell me shit. Ads are unavoidable; if I must watch, scroll, or click through them, at least I get to see a sweet, sweet shiba in the process. I'm ready for a future in which all human models are replaced with far superior puppy models.
Read more: Why You Are Addicted to Cute Baby Animals
In that spirit, we talked to Edwards about her new company and what it takes to be a top-earning dogfluencer with a strong brand.
BROADLY: How did you come up with the concept for The Dog Agency?
Loni Edwards: I have my own celebrity dog, Chloe. When I first got her I just wanted to put her on Instagram because she was cute and she made me happy. I thought she could make other people happy, too. Then her following grew pretty rapidly and brands starting reaching out. That was my ah-ha moment.
I've been managing her for the past two and a half years and meeting the players in the space, from the other celebrity dogs, to the brands that are interested in working with them, to the media outlets who are interested in partnering with them to create content. At the end of last year, I really started focusing on this new and growing pet influencer space. Based on everything I had learned in the past two in a half years, I figured I could do a really good job of making sense of it and started the dog agency to do that.
What kind of celebrity dog owner comes to your agency? I sort of assumed that most people with Instagram famous pets manage their dog's careers themselves.
Well, we help with strategizing, long-term thinking, and figuring out what partnerships make sense; you shouldn't take just anything that comes along. We also know the standard rates and the right looks that speak to brands. With us, [celebrity dogs] are getting more opportunities. Most owners have full-time jobs, and they don't necessarily have the time to check emails and follow up. We take all the work out of their hands. We do all the contracts and invoicing so all the owners have to do is create the content, which is the fun part.
On the other side—the brand agency side—we work with clients to suggest the best dogs for them. Instead of trying to figure out who all the celebrity dogs are—are they male or are they female? Will they reply to me in a timely manner?—they can come straight to us.
What does a brand look for in a dog?
It depends on the brand. A lot of the time they're looking for dogs that have a certain amount of followers in a certain demographic. On average, brands tend to seek out dogs with 100,000 to 300,000 followers. Sometimes it's location-based, and they'll only want dogs who are in New York, for example. We're currently working on a fun video segment for a client and they were looking for "female dogs who are fabulous in New York City." So that's a pretty specific ask. It really depends on the project.
A lot of brands are starting to see the value of partnering with dogs. They're loyal, reliable, lovable, and their content has the innate ability to go viral.
Do you find that dogs on Instagram get more engagement than a human influencer would?
Yes, for sure. If a blogger posts a photo in an outfit it might get a like, but if a dog is doing something cute or silly or funny, everyone is going to tag their friend in the thread.
What are the rates that a dog with a sizable amount of followers would command?
It varies a lot. A dog with a 100,000 followers could make anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000 on average. It also depends on the complexity of the project. The rates are on par with human influencers, using engagement and followers as metrics. There's no distinction because it's a dog.