Survey: How Our Dogs are Impacting Our Financial Decisions

Pet parents consider dogs when making housing, car and vacation choices
An owner pets her golden retriever

It’s no secret that pet food and other supplies take up a portion of every pet owner’s budget. However, a new survey suggests that many Americans are keeping their dogs top of mind when it comes to other major financial decisions, as well.

Pet food maker Merrick Pet Care commissioned a study by The Harris Poll that asked 1,000 dog owners about their thoughts and habits concerning their pets. Not only did an overwhelming 92% of pet parents say their dogs were members of the family, but 69% said their dog was their favorite member of the household. Women (75%) were more likely than men (63%) to feel that way. Even in households with kids, dogs came out on top, as 61% of pet parents with kids under 18 said the dog was their favorite household member.

Lucky for dogs, there are benefits to being No. 1. The survey showed pet parents were willing to express their love for their dogs with cold, hard cash. In fact, 62% of dog owners admitted to buying their dogs holiday gifts and 54% threw birthday celebrations for their canine pets.

Read A Budgeting Guide for Pet Owners

Dog owners also consider their pet’s welfare when making other major financial decisions. A quarter of pet parents considered their dog when deciding what house or car to buy. Also, approximately 43% said they took their dog on vacation. For some that might translate into a more expensive getaway if they had to buy their dog a plane ticket or find a pet-friendly hotel.

In some cases, survey respondents implied that they treated their dogs better than they treated themselves. More than one-third–40%–said they spent more on items for their dogs than for themselves, and 55% of millennials between 18 and 34 said their dog eats higher-quality food than they do.

Other findings shed further light on how Americans feel about their four-legged family members and suggest other indirect costs pet owners may face. For example, 62% of millennial dog owners said they consider their dogs when planning their social schedule. For events that can’t be missed, some pet owners may end up paying for dog-walking services or pet boarding if they have a conflict. Likewise, 77% of unmarried dog owners let their dog sit or lay on their furniture, a move that could prompt the need to repair or replace some pieces of furniture more frequently.

Pets can enhance our lives in so many ways so it’s not surprising that dog owners would prioritize their dogs when making financial decisions. However, planning is critical if you want to make sure your pet spending doesn’t conflict with your other financial goals. When setting an annual budget, consider how much your pet costs you day-to-day, but also think about less frequent costs such as gifts for your pet and trips you’ll take with your dog. Sure, your dog deserves to live his or her best life; just make sure you plan ahead for it.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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