Dress up little Betty in pajamas, play doggie … Has our dog-loving obsession gone too far? Michael Hogan introduces this week's special and shows how crazy we are for dogs
We call ourselves "proud parents" and refer to them as our "babies". We torture ourselves with their names, inject our money onto the latest kit and spoil them lazily. We dress them in sweaters that match ours and have them pose for social media images. We build our lives around them. Of course you know that I am not talking about our children – I am talking about dogs. As a nation, we British have always loved dogs, but lately this has become a complete obsession. I am as guilty as everyone else. We adopted a rescue puppy from the Dogs Trust charity a year ago: a Staffie Cross named Betty. Within a few hours of turning her household upside down, we couldn't imagine life without her.
Today's dogs can live almost the same life as their owner – drink, eat, or even go to the office with them
I tell myself, we are reasonable owners who treat Betty like the dog she is. She sleeps in a basket, not in our bed. She fetches sticks and splashes in puddles. It is rarely picked up, let alone put in a handbag. No matter how much she asks, she mustn't get scraps from our table. However, deep down I know that I am a dog. I post more photos of Betty than necessary. I'm talking about her – not to mention her – more than likely is healthy.
And I'm not the only one. Today's dogs can live almost the same life as their owner – drink, eat, or even go to the office with them. Dogfriendly.co.uk lists thousands of pubs that welcome puppies, many of which offer special menus, treats, and water bowls. The same goes for dog-friendly cafés where pupcakes are served. Both dog and owner can then do everything with dog yoga (also known as "doga"). Dog-friendly vacations do good business thanks to websites like PetsPyjamas.com. If you're more of a festival type, try Dogstival in the New Forest. And for fashionistas there was London Dog Week last month.
The "dog pound" is worth a fortune. Data research firm Mintel estimates that the British spend £ 1.7 billion on pets in 2018, and forecasts a 25 percent increase over the next four years. Much of this expenditure is used for day care services for dogs. Career counselors take note: the future is canine. It's cash-rich, timeless millennials, ages 19 to 38, who are most likely to waste money on their pets and boost sales from non-alcoholic pawsecco to doggie PJs.
Why is this generation so crazy about dogs? Well, I was only half joking when I said that dogs are the new babies. Since we not only have fewer children, but only leave parenthood later in life, there is more time for four-legged family growth. Some couples consider a dog a test run for parenting.
Tom Hardy and Kylie Jenner's dogs have drawn almost as many inches as their owners
TV presenter Ant McPartlin is in a custody battle with ex-wife Lisa Armstrong over her Labrador Hurley
Dog names are as competitive as those of children. The current trend is towards those who fit a servant of Downton Abbey, such as Mabel, Ethel, Alf or Stanley. Our Betty often plays in the park with Reggie, the Staffordshire bull terrier by Primal Screams Bobby Gillespie. As they frolic around, I always point out that "Reg and Bet" sounds like an old couple from EastEnders.
It has also become a ritual to visit friends with new puppies, to carry gifts and to coo idly. As soon as they get older, there are "Doggy Playdates". All this humanization of dogs has led to the appearance of such bad terms as "fur baby" and women who call themselves a "mummy" for a dog. However, using such jargon isn't as tragic as it sounds when you're looking for love for dating apps. A survey found that 69 percent of women and 38 percent of men achieved more matches by adding a dog picture. An affinity for dogs suggests that you groom. And dog ownership makes men more attractive, hence the Instagram account "Hot Dudes with Dogs".
Indeed, the mutt mania is promoted by the juggernauts of the 21st century: social media and celebrity culture. The dogs of Ariana Grande, Tom Hardy and Kylie Jenner have attracted almost as many inches as their owners. Oscar winner Olivia Colman goes everywhere with her Border Terrier Alfred, Lord Waggyson. When famous couples split up, the latest battlefield is over who gets the dog. TV presenter Ant McPartlin is in a custody battle with ex-wife Lisa Armstrong over her Labrador Hurley. Similarly, married YouTube superstars Tanya Burr and Jim Chapman have been training their sausage dog Martha since their separation.
Almost half of the new puppies now have their own Instagram profile. The most popular attract millions of followers and lucrative sponsorship deals. Who needs Kardashians if you could have dachshunds? Insta-hot breeds are bulldogs, pugs and chihuahuas. Other It breeds? Labradoodles, French bulldogs, whippets, schnauzers and cockapoos. Speaking of which, the next mixed breeds that are predicted to be big are (deep breaths) puggles, pomchis, Yorkiepoos, sprockers and goldendoodles. I'll let you find out what they are.
Dogs are the perfect antidote to loneliness, provide love and physical contact, while walking promotes social connection – spontaneous small talk is part of traveling with a dog. The increase in work from home is another reason for the increase in dog ownership. This in turn has resulted in many offices, including Amazon and Google, becoming pet friendly.
Ariana Grande with her beloved pet. Insta-hot breeds are bulldogs, pugs and chihuahuas
Dogs are now playing a more central role in our homes. Rolled up on loaf sofas or spread out on designer carpets, they are part of the decor – hence the rise of high-end accessories from Mungo & Maud and Fetch & Follow. Many companies paint their dog furniture to match their Farrow & Ball walls or supply customized kitchen units with built-in dog beds.
There was also an increase in owners who commissioned portraits of their dogs. Do you remember Matt Goss in the documentary Bros: After The Screaming Stops? "This is one of the darlings of my life: Alfie my bulldog," he said proudly. "I had him painted with half a liter of beer." Matt was up to something – just like Craft Beer took over our pubs, there is now a large selection of dog-friendly beers. By the way, Betty's favorite drink has the tasteful name Bottom Sniffer. Bottom up! And um, Bottoms Up.
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