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Here's How Americans Are Pampering Their Pets

Happy Dog Barkery

With National Dog Day in the rearview mirror (August 26) and National Cat Day coming down the pike (October 29), it's amazing to think that our household pets have a day of their own, like mothers, fathers and even grandparents. But when you consider how Americans think of their pets, it's not surprising.

For starters, most pet owners consider their cats or dogs a bona fide member of the family. This is especially true with millennials. In fact, one-third of millennial-aged Americans (ages 18 to 36) who purchased their first home say the desire to have a better space or yard for a dog influenced their decision to purchase their first home. This is according to a 2017 survey from SunTrust Mortgage, a division of SunTrust Banks, Inc. Dogs ranked among the top three motivators for first-time home purchasers and were cited by more millennials than marriage/upcoming marriage, 25 percent, or the birth/expected birth of a child, 19 percent.

"Millennials have strong bonds with their dogs, so it makes sense that their furry family members are driving home-buying decisions," says Dorinda Smith, SunTrust Mortgage President and CEO. "For those with dogs, renting can be more expensive and a hassle; home ownership takes some of the stress off by providing a better living situation."

Also, the sheer numbers explain our obsession with our pets. According to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 millions homes. Of those pets, dogs are number one, with more than 60 million households having a dog, followed by a cat—47 million households.

Given how highly we regard our pets, it makes sense that so many of us want to pamper our pets. I know from my online business how many Americans celebrate their dog's birthday each year and want to be able to throw them a birthday party with a dog-themed cake and dog bone shaped birthday candles. The ornate cake at the top of this article was made using our pit bull cake pan and professionally baked and decorated by one of our dog bakery customers, the Happy Dog Barkery in Downers Grove, Illinois. Soon our online store will introduce cat-themed cake pans and birthday candles for those 47 million households with cats that might want to celebrate their cat's birthday. This will be part of our Kittieware line.

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This is part of the reason that dog bakeries—or barkeries—are popping up all over the place and chowing down the profits. In a recent Voice of America article, Nicki Dobson of Three Dog Bakery in Kansas City, Missouri, explains how pet owners buy treats for their pups as they might ice cream for their children—and, by the way, there is dog ice cream on the market: “We have dogs come in every week,” Dobson said in that article. “Their dog needs a cookie every night. We have people who drop $50 to $75 on [dog] pastries every week.”

In addition to pet-themed bakeries, there are pet spas, pet-oriented restaurant franchises, hotels with pet programs and cat-friendly AirBnB locations. Even automotive brands are marketing to pet lovers, with vehicles with pet-specific features.

I can tell you that in some instances, when we choose brands that we give our business to as a family, we might base our decision on how pet-facing a business is. For example, if a bank doesn't give out treats at the drive-through window, I find myself thinking, Why not?

Do you love your subscription boxes? Well, dogs and puppies can get them now. You can even dress your pup up in your favorite college or professional team's sports gear so your pet is in the spirit when you sit down to watch the big game.

And many pet parents include their pups in Halloween celebrations, too. According to Pet Products News, millions will dress their pets up for Halloween. One statistic said that for every $3 parents spend on costumes for children, they'll spend $1 on a costume for their pet.

Who knows how we pet-obsessed people will find a way to pamper and spoil our pets in the future? If you're aware of a business, service or theme that fits this mold and you want to tell me about it, please post a comment here. Maybe I'll write a follow-up article in the future.

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