Dogs have never had it this good. From gourmet doggie treats to plush dog hotels, we are coddling and indulging our pups in higher numbers than ever before.
Bearing in mind the upfront costs of buying a canine companion, visits to the vet, insurance, food, toys, bedding, and paying for a kennel while you’re on holiday, having a dog can cost a pretty penny. Even if you forgo the expensive grooming rituals typical of the pampered pooches on Instagram, keeping a pet dog can cost us thousands of pounds.
According to a recent Guardian article, 98% of dog owners underestimate the true cost of owning a dog – which can run somewhere between £21,000 and £33,000 over the course of their lifetime.
But as high as this sounds, it’s nowhere near the cost of raising a child. Four years ago, The Telegraph reported that the average cost of raising a child in the UK is £230,000.
We can only assume that the costs have gone up since then, with the cost of childcare and education continuing to rise.
The Rise of the Fur Baby
It’s no surprise then that millennial couples are choosing to raise puppies and kittens instead of babies.
Being a dog parent still requires a great deal of time, attention, and money, but it also offers much more flexibility and freedom. You can leave your dog at home while you’re at work, use an app to hire a dog sitter, or walker, or leave your pooch at a dog hotel.
Some millennial couples choose to practice their parenting skills on a pet before eventually taking on the more challenging task of raising a child. But a growing number of other couples are satisfied with having pets as surrogate children. As the younger Generation Z – raised on cute cat videos on Buzzfeed and Youtube – starts entering adulthood, we can expect this trend to continue.
Will this mean a declining birth rate? Likely so. Official government figures from 2018 show that the birth rate in the UK plunged to a 14-year low. If pets continue to replace children, we will face challenges in the future, such as how to support a growing number of old-age pensioners with a shrinking working population. We can’t exactly put little Fido to work, can we?
Splashing the cash
As pet ownership increases – and the amount of money we spend on our furry friends increases – the pet economy is booming. Whereas we were once content with giving our dogs a bowl of Pedigree, a little basket to sleep in, and perhaps a chew toy on a special occasion, pet owners of today are happy to spend extravagantly on their pampered pooches.
Mintel research reported by the Guardian shows that millennials are driving demand for human-quality dog food and niche products, such as birthday cakes, Christmas jumpers, and Pawsecco (non-alcoholic dog-friendly “wine”). Mintel found that adults aged 19 to 38 were the most likely to spend lavishly on their pets, with over half saying they would cut back on spending for themselves before cutting spending on their pets.
So, who wore the better jumper this Christmas – you or your dog?