Arnold's Pick of the Month - The REAL Dog Box!

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Here at Pooch Portrait Studio, we are going to start a monthly post about a product that we use and love! This month, we are featuring the subscription box, Real Dog Box. Right now, we get all three options they have to offer: a Chew Box + a Treat Box + a Super Chew! We chatted with the owner and creator of the Real Dog box, Ruby Balaram, and our interview is below!!!

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How'd you come up with the idea to start the Real Dog Box?

The story goes back to 2012. I was still working at a law firm in Washington, DC and my partner, Turk, had recently launched a company called Level Up Meals here in San Diego. It is a fresh food delivery service ~ I'd recently started following the paleo diet and was obsessed with the concept of eating clean foods. That year, Turk's family dog, a then-12 year old doberman named Atum who had survived testicular cancer previously, was suspected to have gotten another form of cancer. His health was rapidly declining in his older years, but we weren't ready to give up on him. We learned about a fresh raw food diet and immediately transitioned him from his lifelong diet of kibble and home cooked food to a raw diet. I saw the transformation before my own eyes of a once grumpy, low-energy senior pup to a new dog full of life and an insatiable excitement for eating real food. I hadn't personally grown up with a dog, so the idea of feeding such a highly-processed diet to a (four-legged) family member was confusing to me. I had learned that a fresh food diet was just as beneficial to dogs as it was to humans and was dumbfounded by the deceptive marketing campaigns that were legally allowed in the dog food industry. It was then that we set out to start delivering fresh food to dogs because we knew that we could make something better -- and we could empower dog owners to take their dog's health and nutrition into their own hands! Both Turk and I left our careers in Washington, DC to realize our new idea. We launched with air-dried treats and chews because we knew that it would be a great way to help dog owners transition from processed food to real food!

How many dogs do you personally have, what types and where'd you get them?

I've got 1 dog (and I think that's enough for now)! He is a 4 year old Anatolian Shepherd named Aykan (pronounced icon), a Turkish name that means someone from a noble, trustworthy family. We adopted him from another couple that originally purchased him from a breeder in North Carolina. He comes from a line of working dogs, bred to protect livestock. Although we have given him no official flock to guard, we respect his breed and honor his need to work! Aykan also serves as the CTO (Chief Tasting Officer) of Real Dog Box.

What is the hardest part about owning your small business?

It's difficult to choose just one thing! I love people management, but there comes a point when you realize some people aren't going to grow with you, despite how they once helped to get you into the stage you're in. It's also not easy starting a business in America when you don't have rich family or friends - banks don't believe in our ideas and we often have to choose between our health and our business.

What is one thing you really want people who subscribe to understand?

We're the only dog food company with a dog nutrition specialist you can reach by text at any time of the day. You can ask us anything.

What inspired you to become a badass girl boss?

Honestly, I was working far too hard for someone else's benefit. It was time to work on a project where I could truly make a difference in someone's life - not just the members we serve, but our internal team as well. Team Real is our family.

Where do you get your new product ideas from? ie how do you pick which meat etc?

Mostly trial and error. I've learned to make friends with butchers, ranchers and farmers, and how to ask a lot of questions! Every item on our menu is chosen for its nutritional benefits as well as digestibility. We have a few new products in the pipeline which are developed as solutions for many dog health issues that many don't realize are food-related, like itchy ears and paws - which are often signs of a food intolerance!

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Pet Profile - Diesel and Hank!

Ever wonder about the story behind the dogs’ photos you see on our Facebook or Instagram? Here’s your chance to learn about our clients through our new blog series!


How old are your dogs? And at what age did you get them?

Diesel (pictured on the left) is 5 and we rescued him when he was about 10 months old. The vet guessed that Hank (pictured on the right) is close to 3 years old, but we don't know for sure as he was rescued as a stray.

Where did you rescue them from? And how did you pick that place?

We rescued Diesel from a friend of a friend. The family that had him had two other adult pitbulls and a litter of puppies. They were unable to care for all the dogs, so Diesel was practically starved and kept in a kennel 24/7 so they could care for the puppies. He likely wouldn't have lived much longer. He wasn't neutered and had a terrible skin infection where he was laying on the wires from the kennel. He wasn't able to sit down completely on the ground because he was in so much pain. We neutered him the next day to get him some relief. 

We rescued Hank from Greenville Animal Center in Greenville, South Carolina, which is about two hours away from where we live. We initially went there because I had my heart set on a female pitbull that was there and I wanted to adopt her. When we got there, Hank was the first dog we saw when we walked into the kennel area. We commented on how cute he was, but kept looking for the female. Once we found her, we introduced her to Diesel. She didn't like him at all! My husband kept asking to meet Hank and I kept saying no because I had my heart set on a female. After we met multiple females, none of them were the right fit. They either didn't like Diesel, Diesel didn't like them or they showed no interest in my husband or myself. My husband finally asked one final time to meet Hank. The shelter staff told us he wouldn't be a good fit since he didn't do well in other meet and greets. I said lets meet him, to humor my husband, and they brought him out. As soon as he got into the play area with Diesel, it was love at first sight. We were unable to separate them. We knew that he was meant to be ours. Diesel told us he was meant to be ours.

What was the hardest thing for you, when adjusting to having two dogs?

It was really difficult going from a dog that listened and had manners to a dog that had zero training. He pushed Diesel to his limits, but Diesel quickly put him in his place. We have found what works for him and that they can't be fed together as they both have slight food aggression. Hank was very timid when we brought him home. If you raised your voice the slightest bit, he would run from you, try to bite or cower. None of it was out of aggression, but simply fear which is understandable. We hired a trainer and he's like a whole new dog. He's much more confident and finally in a routine that works for all of us.

What is your dogs favorite food (not dog food!)?

Diesel, even though he's a fatty, is the pickiest eater EVER! He won't even eat Chick-fil-A fries! Diesel really loves cheese and ice cubes.

Hank is a garbage disposal! He will eat ANYTHING. He loves broccoli, spinach, carrots, strawberries, bananas, blueberries, etc. You name it and he will eat it!

What is the most important thing you want people to know about your dog and its rescue?

I think it's important to let your original dog choose it's housemate. You can't force anything in these situations. Would I have loved to bring home that female pittie? Absolutely! But Diesel wouldn't have been happy and neither would she. We agreed Diesel would be the one that made the final decision and we listened. I'm so glad we did because we now have the perfect dog for our family and for our Diesel. 

What a Year It Has Been! Pet Photography from 2018!

Modern Studio Pet Photography in the DMV from 2018!

Pooch Portrait Studio had one heck of a year! Our studio in Park Potomac was an amazing, large and unique space for our clients and served us well. We are moving on from that space, and will feature the transformation of Sarah’s in-home studio in future blog posts.

From Chocolate labs to Hedgehogs 2018 proved to be a strong year. Below is a recap of some of our favorite images! Enjoy!

Virginia Corgtoberfest Recap!

Earlier in October we participated in Corgtoberfest at Tysons Biergarten! There were over 900 people in attendance and more then 200 corgis from all over the East Coast! We joined fellow vendors like We The Dogs DC, in raising money for The Queens Best Stumpy Dog Rescue, and the event raised over $3000. Here are some pictures of just some of the cute corgis we photographed!

Whole Foods Market x Dog Days of Summer Recap!

As Fall approaches, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on how awesome our summer was! In partnership with Whole Foods Market, I photographed over four hundred and fifty dogs in the DC Metro Area. Below is a highlight of some of my favorite images from the summer! 

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