December 26, 2000, 9:55 AM

Bites for barks

Three Dog Bakery stands out for its animal magnetism. Where else would you find a retailer that offers membership in the Tummy Rub Club and reminds shoppers about their dog’s birthday?

Three Dog Bakery opened in 1989 when Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff began making and selling all-natural dog treats out of their home in Kansas City.

With help from taste-testers Dottie, Gracie and Sarah Jean-the three dogs behind the store’s name-their baked goods soon developed a Great Dane-size demand. With more than 50 franchise stores, the company launched its Web site in May.

The site takes a droll approach to Web retailing with whimsical graphics and home page greeting: “Thanks for sniffin’ us out.”

Three Dog succeeds in part by tapping into the emotional connection people have with their pets, even if the site’s features get a bit silly. For example, shoppers browse a DOGalog and googley-eyed cartoon dogs decorate the site.

Carrie Ardito, an analyst at Forrester Research, says Threedog.com’s cult appeal makes perfect sense: “The pet industry has an emotional feel, and pet lovers gravitate to that.”

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