The Humanization of Dogs
A new study presented at the 108th annual meeting of the American Sociological Society suggests that people feel more empathy for dogs (and children) that have been subjected to cruelty or abuse than they do for grown adults that have suffered the same. The study explains, “marked by vulnerability and dependence, dogs are seen as our wards — and much like children, we have a responsibility to safeguard their welfare.”
When my dog Dave and I come home from work each evening, my children run to greet us. However, the greeting for me is usually a bit brief….. Hi Daddy, then DAVE!!! They scream as they give him kisses and make a huge fuss over him. They ask Dave about his day and which dogs he played with at day care. My children love Dave so much and Dave seems to respond to them with the same affection. I did not teach this to my children, they developed this on their own. They look into his eyes and let me know his daily emotions—“I think Dave is sad today, maybe he wants to go play outside and chase the squirrels.” We see this same kind of interactions from many families and their dogs. People are continually putting human emotions and characteristics on their dogs.
We dress up our pooches in outfits and then push them in specially designed strollers down the street, showing them off as if they were our human babies. We make sure that the food we are giving them is organic and grain free. Most of us spend more time looking at the ingredients of our pet’s food than we do our own food!
A huge emerging pet service business is the Doggie salon where we can treat our dogs to a massage and perhaps have some energy work done to align their chakras. We then give them a nice hair/fur cut, have their hair colored and then have hair extensions or feathers put in. We can finish up the pampering with nail polish and then a spray of a complimentary fragrance before we go out on the town.
While 50 years ago most dogs lived in the doghouse outside, they now live with us in our homes and sleep in our beds. In my own pet product business, this humanization trend has made Dog Gone Smart design and manufacture products specifically for people living with their dogs in their homes. Our Repelz-it™ Nanoprotection technology ensures that the fabrics we use for our dog beds and jackets stay cleaner and don’t carry doggie odor into the house. Our Dirty Dog Doormats and Runners keep the inside of the house cleaner by absorbing the dirt and water from our pets’ paws.
We have taken technologies originally designed for the human market and brought them into the pet industry. Many companies in the pet industry are doing the same because consumers want the best possible solutions for their pets. So using the most advanced technologies out there and putting them into product offerings many times ensures success.
This humanization trend hugely impacts consumer spending. People in America will spend an estimated 50 billion dollars on their pets this year.
At the Dog Gone Smart Canine Center, people spend $36.00 a day for day care and $60.00 to spend the night. This rivals many human industry rates. People spend as much money on their pets as they do on their own children and themselves. As a canine behavioral expert, I see 3 clients each day. My average fee for an hour session is $220.00. While some people may feel spending this kind of money on your dog is crazy, I am usually booked 3 weeks out. Most people won’t spend that kind of money for themselves unless their insurance covers it. In my clients’ case, there is no insurance that covers my consultations.
A huge segment in the pet industry is dog clothing. Here humanization of dogs is at its best. In reality very few dogs need clothing. Their fur/hair works incredibly well as an insulator to keep them warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Yet our jacket sales at Dog Gone Smart continue to grow every year. Consumers are demanding the same things we demand in the human apparel industry. Brands (like Dog Gone Smart) are being forced to make their jackets in 2” size increments to ensure the perfect fit. Each coat also needs to be adjustable so that different parts of the dog’s anatomy are covered up and protected. People want to know that there is enough insulation inside the jacket to keep their pooches warm. Dog jackets need to be stylish and keep up with the human fashion trends in terms of color, outer shell fabrics and even the trims (such as reflective piping, decorative zippers, faux fur and bling). Just like the human apparel industry, consumers want to see new styles every fall so they can buy their pup a new jacket and keep up with the latest fashion trends.
With all this humanization of dogs going on, I am very grateful that I am in the Pet industry! I am in a business that is not very much affected by the economy and one which continues to grow.
(Original Article posted on CanineMaster.com blog)