Animal House

Why should human skin get all the attention when our furry family members are scratching away? Macon Brock couldn’t think of a reason, so he and his team at Skout’s Honor have developed a probiotic grooming line dedicated to pampering your pet. We visited Brock and his family in their Newport Beach, California, home to learn more about this breakthrough and all the unique, natural pet products in his lineup


Hardcore surfers have a lot of opportunity to consider the big picture. Lovers of the natural world and contemplators of the next big wave, these athletes seem perfectly positioned to come up with groundbreaking ideas. Even more, they often have loyal dogs patiently waiting on the shore. Given all of that, making a big splash in the pet category seems like a no-brainer.

And so it is with Macon Brock, Southern Californian, surfer, dog-lover, and serial entrepreneur, and Pete Stirling, his surfing buddy, business partner, and CEO of Skout’s Honor, the company Brock founded five years ago. Brock is the brand-builder; Stirling brings the chemistry knowledge as the “resident nerd.” (“He embraces that label,” Brock says. “It’s a positive thing.”) Together they form the core of a company that is dedicated to introducing pet products that outperform the category while checking all the green boxes: natural, safe, environmentally friendly, and socially conscious (with every product sold the company will feed a shelter animal for a day).

Skout’s Honor launched with nontoxic cleaning solutions that carry straightforward labels like Urine Destroyer and Odor Eliminator. They hit the mark, gaining international distribution their first year out after being picked up by mega-retailers such as Petsmart. And they did it by going up against the enzyme-based products that lined pet store shelves. “The products being sold out there were frustrating consumers,” Brock says. “Enzymes can be very good, but you have to have a specific enzyme for a specific stain. And they have a shelf life, which is not identified on any of the products being sold out there. They’re also very slow to react. So when folks go to use it, it just doesn’t work.”

The bio-based enzymatic products could be sold as safe and natural, but all that doesn’t matter if the stuff doesn’t do the job. Enter Brock’s proprietary BioKore technology, which uses a surfactant, or soap-based, formula. Whereas most professional-grade cleaners use petrochemicals—and the few plant-based types are so heavily processed any environmental advantage went out the door at the manufacturing stage—Skout’s Honor developed a vegetable-based cleaner to break down stains and eliminate odors, while adhering to the exacting manufacturing standards of the California Green Chemistry Initiative. That is, they are nontoxic, rapidly biodegradable, eco-friendly and free of harsh chemicals, such as chlorine and formaldehyde, which makes them safe to use around your pets, family, and home.

“In the beginning I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds a little bit like snake oil.’ Then we did our research, and it’s not… We’re curing skin issues in dogs.”

But are the products really all that? This writer was skeptical. My near-perfect rescue Yorkie has a couple of issues. And one of those has meant more area rugs than I like to remember have hit the landfill. So I tried the Urine Destroyer on my favorite Eileen Fisher wool runner—the runner I was determined to keep despite the fact that the residual odor was becoming an embarrassment even after several vinegar and enzyme-spray cleanings.

Well, it worked. I mean, stain and odor busted and rug saved. I’m ready to listen to anything Brock says—especially if his latest great product will cure my close-to-flawless Rosie’s sensitive skin problem.

Brock’s company entered the grooming arena only last year, when Stirling discovered a patented probiotic technology used in human beauty products. They were able to gain exclusive rights to the technology for use in the pet space. “It’s a live culture that is encapsulated and lives in a liquid,” Brock says. “Basically these probiotics don’t go to work until you do the bath and they’ve attached to the dog’s hair and skin, and then will break down and release live cultures on the skin. It’s really amazing.”

The encapsulated probiotics promise that the more effective live cultures can be incorporated into shelf-stable shampoos and conditioners that will balance your pet’s skin microbiome (yep, of course they have one, that complex ecosystem of bacteria that serves as the foundation for healthy skin). A healthy microbiome eases a variety of issues, from dry skin to hair loss. Brock admits, even he was skeptical at first. “It was one of these things that in the beginning I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds a little bit like snake oil,’” he says. “Then we did our research, and it’s not. We have scientific evidence and now we’re actually getting consumer feedback and it’s so exciting. We’re curing skin issues in dogs.”

It’s true. Page after page of testimonials back up the effectiveness of both the cleaners and the probiotic-infused grooming products, complete with photos of pets with happy faces and shiny coats. Like their initial cleaning line, these products do their job naturally, without the harsh chemicals found in other shampoos—such as sulfates, parabens, or triclosan (an anti-bacterial known to strip the natural defenses on both pet and human skin).

As you might imagine, none of the grooming products have been tested on animals. They have, however, been tried on humans—including those on the Skout’s Honor team. “We all use them,” Brock says. “We test them on ourselves. We use the detangler on our kids. In fact, people contact us and say, ‘Oh my god, I discovered your probiotic deodorizer. I’m using it as a human deodorant. It’s more effective and less expensive than what I’m getting at Whole Foods.’”

It likely goes without saying that the pets in the Brock family have also offered tail-wagging reviews, including their three compact and super-cute French bulldogs, Kennedy, Zoey, and Enzo. Like most dogs, this threesome doesn’t necessarily come running at bath time, even though the California canines usually receive their probiotic dousing in a sunny outdoor sink—part of a “major outdoor kitchen,” according to Brock, that was installed by the home’s former owner, a pro chef.

When Brock and Kristen oversaw a redo on the home’s indoor kitchen, making the space more family and pet friendly (including a built-in under-cabinet bed for the Frenchies so they could stay close at mealtime) was the goal. “The kitchen had this one-of-a-kind Molteni stove the chef designed and we couldn’t even work the thing,” Brock says. “It was an $80,000 stove and we had to get rid of it. It just wasn’t for a common household, especially one that isn’t very good at cooking.”

The kitchen was part of a whole-house, pet-conscious refresh that includes Sunbrella upholstery (a sturdy indoor-outdoor fabric line that earns the Greenguard certification for indoor air quality). Multiple dog beds show up everywhere to soften the home’s existing poured-concrete flooring—although it seems this trio finds the adult beds much more appealing. “We have beds all around the house, but typically they still want to be right where we are,” Brock says. “We’re pretty liberal as far as the rules go with our dogs. So they’re allowed up on the couches, up on our beds, they sleep with us. So we’re not normal. Or maybe we are normal. I don’t even know what normal is anymore.”

Judging by the success of his brand (and the habits of most people we know who have pets), this humanization of our four-legged family members is understandably standard. In fact, Brock is banking on that concept to take his burgeoning brand even farther—with natural fragrance. “Fragrance is a key differentiator for us,” Brock says. “We work with one of the largest suppliers of fragrance in the world. People love our honeysuckle. And we’re introducing a new fragrance geared toward the male dog owner called ‘Dog of the Woods,’ taking notes from men’s fragrance brands.” Although I can’t say that Rosie enjoyed her Skout’s Honor bath more than she usually does—which is to say, not at all—but the lavender fragrance did make it more enjoyable for me. It’s in the potential of making the pet grooming category “sexier,” according to Brock, that their future lies. “I mean, think of the human hair care commercials,” he says. “And we have a great new marketing message for next year, ‘Love in a Bottle.’ I’m so excited about it because we are encapsulating love in a bottle. And we’re doing it with a kind of Eastern medicine approach. Our cleaning products are great but they’re just not sexy. This is a different thing. We’re going to hit it out of the park with this one.”