Living the Ruff Life – A Portrait of Dog Ownership

For many thousands of years, humans and dogs have lived together harmoniously. Whether through hunting wild game, guarding livestock, or providing companionship, dogs have secured a permanent place in our hearts. What motivates today’s dog owners to get a dog? How much money do they spend on their dog per month/year? Does their dog sleep in bed with them? We surveyed 1,000 dog owners to find out.

Must Love Dogs

We were curious about what people living with dogs called themselves. Turns out, dog owner was their top choice with 43.6%. Pet parent was the second most popular response with 30.5%, followed by Furmom/Furdad (19.9%), and Pet Guardian (2.2%) bringing up the rear. Broken down by gender, 61.6% of males chose dog owner, while 25.8% of females chose Furmom/Furdad  vs. just 8% of males.

Here are the basics when it comes to dog owners:

  • 87.1% got their dog for companionship
  • 63.4% have just one dog
  • 50.4% also have other pets with cats being the most popular
  • 65.1% got their dog as a puppy
  • 45.8% enjoy taking their dog to the dog park
  • 14.2% take their dog to work

You Had Me at Woof

The majority (62%) of dog owners surveyed adopted their dog(s) from an animal shelter or private rescue organization. 32% purchased their dog from a breeder while 6% purchased from a pet shop. Reasons for adopting their dog included:

  • “They were cute, fluffy, and needed a home”
  • “Instant bond”
  • “To rescue them and keep them from getting euthanized”
  • “Reduce the population of animals in shelters”

Among those respondents who purchased their dog(s), the number one reason was that they wanted a specific breed (48.1%), 13.4% were looking for a hypoallergenic pet, while 5% were planning to breed. “Other” was chosen by a third of the respondents and included reasons like “cuteness”, “wanted a small dog of known breed”, and “helping out a military member leaving the country.”

All Shapes and Sizes

Dogs can fit in a teacup or take up your entire sofa. Depending on your activity level, where you live, and your aesthetic preferences – there is a dog out there of the right size for you. We found an even split amongst small, medium-sized, and large breed ownership; with a small percentage owning the extra large.

  • 44.2% own medium-sized breeds such as beagles and cocker spaniels
  • 37.6% own small breeds such as pugs and yorkies
  • 32.7% own large breeds such as labs and German shepherds
  • 4.9% own extra large breeds such as great danes

Dog size may also affect how many dog owners share their beds with their dogs. 38.9% of our survey respondents have their dog sleep in be with them. Gender of the dog owner definitely affects this decision, with 42.6% of females allowing their dog to sleep in the bed with them vs. only 31.4% of males.

Fetch!

Our dogs are family and we are willing to spend our money to keep them happy. Most respondents admitted to spending $100 per month ($1,200 annually) on their dog’s needs. These figures were consistent across both male and female demographic groups. Daily expenditures include food and treats. Monthly expenditures include toys, flea/tick prevention, vitamins. Annual expenditures include beds, leashes, collars, clothing, and grooming products.

Activities we love to do with our dogs also cost money. The dog owners we surveyed spend money on puppy training classes (26.3%) and obedience/agility classes (24.4%). And dog owners are willing to spend money to keep their dogs comfortable while they are away at work earning — they use pet sitters, pet walkers, doggy daycare facilities, etc.

Dog health is important to the owners we surveyed – outside of routine veterinary appointments,, they spend money on vitamins/supplements, grooming, and chiropractic care to keep their dog in tip top shape.

 

Taking Fido Along

Dogs are excellent travelling companions. Who among us can’t picture that happy dog with her head stuck out the car window feeling the breeze? When we asked respondents if they travel with their dogs, 13.7% said “yes, all the time”, 43.3% said “yes, sometimes”, 24.2% said “only if I have to”, and 18.8% said “never”.

Traveling by car was the most popular travel method with 98.7% of the responses followed distantly by air travel at 4.8%.

 

Heel! Or Should We Say Heal!

A small portion of the dog owners surveyed got their dog as a service animal. 35.7% of these service dog owners needed their service dog within the past year while 7.1% have needed their service dog for their whole life. Anxiety was the number one reason for needing a service dog followed by PTSD. Service dogs also provide autism assistance, mobility support, visual assistance, and diabetic alerts.

 

The Takeaway

According to the American Pet Product Association’s 2017-2018 “National Pet Owner Survey” over 60 million US households own a dog and in 2017 they spent an estimated $69.4 million on their care. We love our dogs and they are an integral part of our families. Dogs provide needed companionship, come with us when we travel, keep us healthy, and enrich our lives.

Find the full survey results here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Allie Smith
Allie Smith is the former Director of Charts for eMarketer with over 15 years of experience in the world of market research. Her love for charts and graphs is only outweighed by her love for her whippets. She spends her free time watching Law & Order reruns while knitting cute hats for dogs.