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The Canine Lifestyle

I just returned from spending a few days at a convention called "SuperZoo", purportedly the world's largest tradeshow for pet retailers. Over one-thousand vendors were on hand to display products for a variety of companion animals, but the most-popular pet, by far, was the dog. While snake enthusiasts may have had one or two booths of related products to visit, dog aficionados had to rush to hit the hundreds and hundreds of displays solely devoted to canine happiness. Despite the crowds and the noise, one statement from the pet industry came through clearly: Your dog needs clothes, jewelry, and enough furniture to fill a studio apartment.

This was the third year in a row that I've attended SuperZoo, and this was the first year that a large section of the floor was set aside just for canine fashion. A sign hanging above the area read, "Rodeo Drive". All the vendors here were selling clothing for dogs, shoes for dogs, and jewelry. Not just fancy collars adorned with rhinestones, either; retailers feel your dog would look good in a gemstone tiara and sterling silver hairclip. Some of the clothing was just the usual "cute t-shirt with funny saying", but you could also find leather jackets, tulle skirts, and just about every other frou-frou accoutrement the brain could imagine. Matching outfits were common, so you and your dog can wear the same shirt and look just like parent and furry child. Not surprisingly, the clothing and jewelry retailers feel small dogs are their market, so if your dog weighs more than fifteen pounds, it may have to go naked.

The other newly-emerging trend in dog products is furniture. Gone are the days of the plywood doghouse or the old pillow as a dog bed. I saw displays of dog beds built into nightstands, dog beds styled like the cylindrical cone chair from the 1960s, and beds which heat up and give your pet a vibrating treatment of "magic fingers" (no quarter needed). Some dog beds had been designed by chiropractors to ensure support for older dogs or dogs with back problems. The styles and colors seem practically endless, and the prices of some beds approach the price of a cheap used car. Keeping your dog in “the lifestyle” is going to set you back thousands of dollars.

Sociologists have been quoted as saying that dogs have become pseudo-children for many families, and it's hard to deny that when you see a large floor display with two dozen strollers and half a dozen dog "playpens". These sorts of products didn't exist even a year ago, yet now you can not only buy a playpen for your puppy, you have choices about which one to purchase.  A person walking into SuperZoo could have been easily convinced that they'd stumbled across a baby retailers' convention and not a display of pet products.

While I found the jewelry and dog clothing a bit disconcerting, I was happy to see signs of other, very positive trends.  There were more and more vendors of raw food, and more and more treats made from a single ingredient, like salmon or beef.  Wheat and flour had left the building.  Signs of high-quality were everywhere, not just in the strollers and playpens.  There's also increased attention being paid to dog healthcare and safety, with a number of products available to help your elderly or disabled pet remain comfortable.  Maybe the pet industry as a whole had a bit of a fright earlier this year with the pet food recall, and decided to start taking pet care more seriously.  They certainly seem willing to treat dogs like little people, and it will be interesting to see if this trend continues twelve months from now.

Leigh-Ann Gerow

September 28, 2007 in product review | Permalink

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Comments

I treat my dogs like my kids since I don't have any and definately spoil them.

Posted by: Joe the Dog Lover | Sep 2, 2008 10:40:55 AM

My dog, at 50 lbs., is feeling very relieved that he can go naked. I tried to put him in a coat once (a reflective jacket for nightime outings, since he's a black dog) and he was too embarrassed to leave the house...
As a hard core dog lover, I find things like doggie strollers and clothing (unless for warmth or safety) a little hard to fathom (dogs love to roll in dead things and drink from the toilet, after all) but glad to see products that make older dogs lives easier and healthier food more accessible.
Thanks for a great article!

Posted by: laurie | Oct 1, 2007 6:53:31 AM

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