Through the Covid-19 lockdowns, pet ownership has been increasing globally. The pandemic has exacerbated many underlying social issues, including the loneliness epidemic. Many turned to pets for companionship in the experience of isolation and loneliness. In a pre-Covid study, one out of five Americans feels lonely “frequently or constantly“. Social media, and other factors are impacting the quality of social connection. Covid-19 bought these issues into sharper focus. Man’s best friend is being used to address loneliness and wellbeing needs.
Snapshot of Pet ownership in the Covid era
It is not surprising that pets have become a significant part of people’s lives during the Covid era. In fact, 70% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 90.5 million households. In 2021, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) expects to record a new sales benchmark, with pet-related sales exceeding $123 billion. They estimate that growth would continue in 2022 with a forecast of 13.5% growth year-over-year.
Additionally, they report that millennials and Generation Z are spending more on their pets than have before. Furthermore, there has also been an increase in pet ownership in other countries, including the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.
Dogs have been popular for millenia
What do we know about man’s best friend? The dog-human relationships are amongst our earliest and most enduring . Dogs are the most common terrestrial carnivores and found on every continent; as well as in space. Yet, only a minority of dogs alive are pets. Globally, more than 70% of the dog population (estimated at > 700 million to ~ 1 billion) comprises of free-ranging dogs. So, only 30% of dogs alive are one of ‘human’s best friends’. Dogs have changed a great deal in appearance over the last two hundred years. Making it one of the most physically diverse mammalian species. The first professional canine registries ( late 1800’s) started with fewer than ten dog breeds. Today, there could be anywhere between 199 and 500 different types of dog breeds throughout the world. A diverse selection of designer-type dogs are available in today’s pet market. With the current trend being hyphenated ‘oodle’ breeds, such as the Labradoodle, Goldendoodle, Cockapoo, Maltipoo, Cavapoo, etc.
Man's best friend: the co-evolution of humanity and dogs.
Did they evolve for us or vice versa?
The philosopher, Mark Rowlands, believes that the differences between dogs and wolves is explained by their relationship to us. Suggesting that we are part of a dog’s extended mind, and evolved problem solver.
So it might be possible to reframe ‘Man’s best friend’ as a ‘dog’s best friend’. A balanced friendship is based on mutuality, are we doing enough for them?