A recent video on “bark” mitzvahs—in which owners throw their canine a party for the second birthday—has attracted the attention (and scorn) of viewers around the country. While this particular activity may be limited to a niche, on a societal level, dogs’ relationship with people is being revolutionized, from man’s best friend to man’s best family member. A recent poll conducted by the Social Beat Research Group stated that when asked who was the “most normal member of their family,” more than 70% of respondents chose their dog or other pet.
A number of factors are behind these changing perceptions. Between increased economic stress and the rise of people getting married at a later age, people are turning to fulfill their parental instincts upon their pets, and more specifically dogs. Recent research suggests that dogs are capable of displaying a variety of levels of attachment towards their owners just as babies display to their parents. A replica of the “strange situation test” that studied babies’ reactions to explore new environments with the presence of their mother was conducted on dogs, and found similar results in canines as they did in infants. It is this child-like attachment that dogs have with their owners that has influenced new genres of dog-care.
The increasing notion that dogs are a part of the family, and that they should be treated as one, is motivating dog owners to invest in new ways of making sure their pets, like their children, are healthy and well-adjusted. While fresh and organic dog food was the first step to a healthy canine life, owners are now becoming more concerned with dogs being socially active. Dog owners now have the ability to enroll their pets to puppy kindergarten class to help socialize dogs as young as 3 months old. Special doggie day-cares are also becoming new trend, helping keep take care of the dogs so they can have fun and be social while their owners are out to work or on vacation.
Even the simple day-to-day grooming of dogs has transformed into providing spa treatments featuring additional packages to focus on the dog’s special needs. PetAvenue in Miami, for example, offers a Blueberry Facial All-Natural Tearless Shampoo, a spritz of cologne, and a bandana or bow for each dog during each grooming session, and for an additional fee, can provide a de-shedding service, medicated bath, and a flea bath. Urban Canis in Soho also offers muscle massages and acupuncture treatment to fully pamper the dogs. Clothing, accessories, and even designer beds are available specifically for pampered pooches. While these services and products may seem extravagant to some, these owners are clearly willing and able to splurge for their pets, and are a lucrative target for responsive brands.