Canine Corner

The human-animal bond

In Tough Economic Times People Will Make Sacrifices For Their Dog’s Happiness

People are willing to go without for their dog's happiness.

      The stock market has taken a nose dive, many people find that their income is not keeping pace with their cost of living and the amount of disposable cash available to most of us is greatly reduced. Given these facts it seems sensible to ask the question as to whether people are still willing to spend money on their dogs. Because of the state of the economy, some academic economists and sociologists (probably not pet owners themselves) began to make some dire predictions. These included the expectation that so many people would now choosebad economy for dogs to give up their dogs in order to save money that animal shelters would find themselves in crisis. Certainly they predicted that the purchasing of many products and services for pet dogs would take a nose dive. As yet there is little evidence that any of these negative outcomes is taking place, and dog owners continue to buy frivolous toys and fancy treats for their pets while the intake rate in animal shelters shows little change from normal.

      In light of the bad economy the American Kennel Club decided to conduct a survey to see if people were willing to give up any of their own comforts keep their dogs happy and to allow their pets to continuing living in the style that they had become accustomed to. The study consisted of a survey that was posted on the kennel club's website which attracted 1088 volunteer participants. The results showed a startling level of commitment to our pet dogs. Let me list some of the results in no particular order.

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  • 96% of the respondents are willing to give up their coffee habit in order to save some money for their dog's expenses.
  • 97% are willing to eat more meals at home to save money for their dog's wants and needs.
  • 94% are willing to spend less money on their clothes.
  • 89% said they are willing to delay home remodeling so that they can have extra funds for their dogs.
  • 88% said that they are willing to delay buying a new car, or would buy a less expensive model.
  • 72% said that they are willing to give up their exercise club memberships.
  • 67% said that they would cancel their travel plans this year if they couldn't afford to board their dogs.

      When it comes to their dog's health and welfare people are quite willing to make major sacrifices.

  • 97% said that they would cancel their own massages and spa treatments to have the money to pay for their dog's veterinary fees.
  • 78% said that they would cancel a teeth-whitening appointment of their own in order to pay for their dog's annual teeth cleanings.
  • 65% said that they would eat instant noodles in order to be able to continue to afford high quality food for their dogs.
  • 50% said that they would cancel their cable or satellite TV subscriptions in order to provide necessities for their pets.

      However one unexpected finding had to do with something that some people might consider to be a pure luxury.

  • 59% of the participants said that they would perm or color their own hair in order to be able to afford to keep their dog's appointments at the groomers.

       Looking over this list of sacrifices that people are willing to make for their pet dogs in tough economic times indicates just how committed people are to their pets. When I mentioned these results to a colleague who is also a psychologist he laughed and said, "It sounds just like the kinds of sacrifices that people are making to have the money to allow their kids to continue to play their favorite sports nowadays--even though cash is scarce because of the economy. Maybe this simply demonstrates the fact that dogs have become part of our families today, and we don't make all that much of a distinction between what we are willing to do for our four-footed or our two-footed family members."

Stanley Coren is the author of many books including: The Modern Dog, Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses? The Pawprints of History, How Dogs Think, How To Speak Dog, Why We Love the Dogs We Do, What Do Dogs Know? The Intelligence of Dogs, Why Does My Dog Act That Way? Understanding Dogs for Dummies, Sleep Thieves, The Left-hander Syndrome.

Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or reposted without permission.

Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia.

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