Hot dogs! Getting followers on Twitter. Going to A-list parties. Suddenly mutts are being treated like celebs…
08:50 GMT, 20 August 2012
Last night, my husband Ray and I lay awake for hours, fretting over Dylan and his adolescent behaviour. We always knew that once the hormones kicked in, life would become tougher but the fact that we — his devoted mother and father — differ in our approaches to discipline doesn’t help.
‘I’ve always loved his strength of character,’ I said sadly. ‘I don’t want him to simply conform.’ But Ray was firmer. ‘He needs to know his boundaries otherwise things will only get worse.’
It is the sort of conversation — peppered with fierce whispers and exhausted sighs — that is played out in millions of households across the land. Anyone who has a teenager will recognise the sentiments of parents stretched to their limits.
Coddled: David Walliams and Lara Stone with their beloved Bert
Except the adolescent causing us so
much angst is Dylan, our beloved cocker spaniel-poodle cross. Together
with his little ‘sister’ Delilah (golden retriever crossed with a
poodle) they are the apples of our eyes.
We laud their achievements, put their
pictures up on Facebook, and snuggle on the sofa with them to watch TV.
We treat them like humans.
And we’re not alone. Lady Gaga
apparently takes her ‘baby’, canine fluffball Fozzi, into the bath,
while a survey found six out of ten dog owners let their pets sleep in
their beds — despite the fact that more than half say the inevitable
snuffling, scratching, and, God forbid, breaking wind disrupts their
Man's best friend: Tennis star Andy Murray with his border terrier Maggie May – who tweeted during Wimbledon
Now it seems dogs are not merely man’s
best friend, but man’s best-dressed friend, too. Hit website
styletails.com targets pet owners who ‘see their dogs as an extension of
their own style’. It advises on how to co-ordinate your canine with
your ensemble and features shots of stylish hounds in coats or
Dogs are hot right now. There are dogs
with blogs (Andy Murray’s pooch Maggie May tweeted throughout
Wimbledon), dogs with massive Facebook followings (Boo, who boasts two
million fans and has inspired a book on his life), celebrity dogs who
have their own fans (Jonathan Ross’s French Bulldog Mr Snowball, who
regularly Tweets ‘Woof’) and dogs who rule supreme as the kings of bling
(David Walliams and Lara Stone’s beloved puppy Bert donned a tuxedo for
Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball). There are even dogs who get
their hair dyed this season’s on-trend hue, hot pink (Emma Watson’s dog
It’s not just celebrities. Last month
Bella the Bichon Frise made headline news after her teenage owner Laura
Benion lavished 800 of presents on her for her third birthday. Bella’s
gifts included a 375 Louis Vuitton collar and lead, a 735 Gucci dog
carrier and an 80 perfume.
Laura, from Penkridge, Staffordshire,
is an extreme example, but although families are saving money by
avoiding the pub or eating out during this recession, their spending on
pets — especially dogs — remains unchanged.
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association
found that in 2011, 36 per cent of pet owners cut back on eating out,
25 per cent on clothes shopping, and 24 per cent on holidays. This
compared to only 6 per cent who cut down on treats for their furry
Star pooch: Ashleigh and dancing dog Pudsey won Britain's Got Talent in May
Dr Caroline Schuster, a chartered
psychologist, says: ‘What’s changed are the levels of isolation in
society — which means that for many, dogs are substitute friends.
‘People are more technology-driven
now, so instead of meeting in wine bars or chatting after work, many
adults return home alone and then converse through social media.
‘They want someone to actually talk to
— that someone is their dog. Plus, financial constraints and career
pressures mean many women are delaying motherhood until later — in the
meantime, their dogs are like children.’
Dog owners spend a total of 16,900 on their pets
Lucy Kennedy, owner of Happy Dogs
Behavioural Centre in Notting Hill, London, has seen a huge change in
the way that dogs are treated by owners.
She says: ‘Dogs have become an extension of who you are, what you wear, and how you live your life.
‘The biggest example is the changes in
dog walking. A decade ago, it was something done by slightly dotty old
ladies. Today, it’s big business, with people demanding the very best
for their dogs.
‘I know one German Shepherd who lives in Knightsbridge and sleeps on his very own Fendi rug.
‘Another is soon to sail around the
Greek islands with his owners and I’ve just had him fitted with a
customised life jacket and special non-slip suede boots designed for the
‘We’re opening a dog hotel in High
Wycombe, which will include cameras so that pet owners can commune with
their dogs on Skype from abroad. So many owners ring us from their
holidays and ask to hold the phone to the dog’s ear, I know it will be
popular,’ says Lucy.
So there are dogs who Skype, dogs who
blog, dogs who search the internet for the latest in must-have Mulberry
styles. Pretty soon, there won’t be any time left for walkies …