Millennial and First-Time Dog Owners on the Rise

A new survey finds that today’s younger dog owner spends more money, and time, on their pets.

The 2015–2016 National Pet Owners Survey, released by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), shows that more than 10 percent of current pet owners are new ones—amounting to nearly eight million within the last year. And it turns out that the majority of these new pet owners are Millennials (18 to 34 years old) and Gen X (35–50).

The overall number of households with pets, according to this survey, is a staggering 79.7 million—a 50 percent gain over the past two decades.

According to the survey these dog- and cat owners tend to pamper and spend more on their pets than their parents and grandparents did. They spend more to purchase their pet; take them to the vet more often; buy more toys, gifts, and care items; and utilize more services than Baby Boomers (those in their 50s–60s).

“This generation also likes high-tech gadgets like pet cams and electronic health-monitoring collars, and convenience products to take their pets with them or care for them while they’re gone,” says Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the APPA “This opens the door for innovation in products and services as well.”

Perhaps an even more signifcant sign of how we feel about our dogs is that the economy does not seem to be a factor in pet spending. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed reported that they are not influenced by it when it comes to their pets.

New data also shows a growing prevalence of online and social media networks used to find pets and pet products with websites, product review sites, and Facebook pages leading the charge. Emerging channels like blogs, YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram are gaining growth as well.

Businesses and corporations have taken notice, and more of them are catering to pets:

* 8 percent of current pet owners report that their workplace allows pets.

* 28 percent of dog owners have been to a pet-friendly hotel

* 9 percent have dined at a pet-friendly restaurant.

Happy Dog, Healthy Owner

The survey, along with research conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI), (supported in part by the APPA) finds that not only do more owners believe pets are good for our health, so do doctors:

 * 64 percent of pet owners say the health benefits of pets are important to them.

* 97 percent of 1,000 doctors polled believe in the health benefits of pet ownership.

* 60 percent would recommend a pet to improve overall health.

“The body of science validating that pets are good for us is growing with strong research in numerous areas of health,” says Vetere. “Studies show that pets can help improve our cardiovascular health, improve immunity in young children and assist with therapy for autistic children and people suffering from PTSD.”

The APPA is the leading not-for-profit trade association serving the interests of the pet products industry since 1958. 

- Erika Mansourian