There was once a time when dog owners were content to give their K9 friends an old blanket in a chewed up basket for a bed, a ready supply of dry dog food, regular trips to the vet, and the occasional bone left over from a steak dinner. Today the status of pets has changed dramatically in our society, as dogs in particular are viewed more like children now than as pets. For example, 20 years ago, terms like “dog hotel,” “K9 cosmetic surgery,” and “designer dog collar” would have sounded alien. Today these terms are commonplace in many regions.
As a consequence, dog pampering (for lack of a better description), has become a massive market and a booming industry. The English retailer, Harrods, recently quadrupled the size of its pet department to eleven thousand square feet, and carries items like Juicy Couture dog tracksuits, and bejeweled dog hair clips. Harrods also hosts an annual pet fashion show. During this show, attendees can gawk at exquisite K9 jewelry like a $25,000 Swarovski crystal-encrusted dog bed and a nearly $500,000 diamond dog collar by the jewelry icon Stephen Webster.
Furthermore, this insanity is not contained just within the British Isles. Americans have managed to make the pet market a recession-proof industry, with the pet industry projected to grow roughly 5% in 2009. In the last decade, American spending on pets has doubled to the eye-popping total of $43.5 billion dollars. While most of that sum is made up of very normal pet supplies like food and medication, there are also those who will pay thousands of dollars for things like a “pet stylist,” who will help make more pooches appear more fashionable.
Another area where dog pampering has reach new levels is in the popularity of dog shows, or ‘confirmation shows’ as they are sometimes called. The largest and most prestigious dog show in America is the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It was established in 1877 and is usually held each year at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The 2008 show had a total entry of 2,627 dogs. Dog breeders are attempting to utilize the most modern of technologies, even going so far as to dabble in controversial areas like genetic engineering and cloning.
So why are pet owners worldwide becoming so much more willing to spend lavishly on their beloved animal companions? There are many potential reasons. Perhaps it is our increasingly fragmented society, and the rise of divorce rates coinciding with the deterioration of the modern family unit. Perhaps pets and dogs especially, can help fill a void that is present in many modern people’s lives? Whatever the cause, the upward trend of excessive pet spending seems to be one that will continue into the foreseeable future.
Now I’d like to order a Filet Mignon medium-rare please. My Golden Retriever needs his lunch!