March 23rd is National Puppy Day, but dog owners already have plenty of reasons to celebrate their pets. In a new survey from Wag!, an app for pet owners, people who own dogs made it clear how deeply they've come to rely on their canine companions during the pandemic. In fact, in the survey of more than 1,000 dog owners, (all of whom took on a new pet in the last two years) nearly half indicated they’d actually miss their dogs more than their children or spouses when they have to return to the office post-pandemic.
Mental health support top benefit of dog ownership
According to the ASPCA, 23 million U.S. households took in a new pet between the beginning of the pandemic and May of 2021. While the value of professional support can't be overstated when it comes to caring for one's mental well-being, dog owners say that their pet provides meaningful support.
In the Wag! survey, dog owners reported these major benefits to raising their pets:
- 93% say parenting a dog has provided them mental health support
- 48% say that dog parenting has decreased their anxiety
- 37% say that the most surprising thing about parenting a new puppy was the overwhelming amount of love they feel for the dog
The fact that dogs are good for humans' mental health is not only feel-good news, but it's timely. One of the biggest challenges identified by workers throughout the pandemic has been the pressure on their mental wellness. And the transition back to the office, after a long stint at home, could add new stress.
In October, roughly one-third of workers under 40 said they were "in crisis" or had concerns about their mental health and coping skills. In a more recent survey on career optimism, almost half of respondents said they needed care for their mental health and wellness (48%), and 44% had sought resources to help with mental health stress related to work.
Dog owners have so deeply bonded with their pets that 42% even say they'll miss their dog more than their spouse (8.6%) or children (21.3%) when they return to work. And employees who have already returned to the office echo the same sentiment.
In an August survey of employees who had returned to the office, 72% said they missed their dog while at work, versus just 39% who missed their partner and 35% who missed their children. Some respondents also said they would be happier and less stressed out (32%) and more productive (20%) if they could bring their pet to work. Despite that, only about 18% of people told Wag! they'd be taking their pet to the office.
Scheduling conflicts and expenses add challenges to pet ownership
Of course, there are challenges to pet ownership, too. In the Wag! survey, respondents reported that some of the main drawbacks include the amount of training that's needed, and how burdensome pet insurance can be.
- 63% expressed surprise at how much time, effort and money is required for pet insurance, more than any other challenge of becoming a new pet parent
- 29% say they would travel more if they could take their dog(s)
- 25% say they're very nervous about managing pet care when they return to the office
In addition to the joys of raising a dog, new pet owners should be aware of the financial commitment they're taking on. When it comes to pet insurance, the cost can vary, but the average plan is around $50 a month. On top of that, the most common dog treatments cost $253 on average, for conditions like infections and allergies.
Potential pet owners should also figure occasional and everyday expenses into their budgets, like grooming and pet food, in order to prepare for a more sustainable and less stressful ownership experience.
Methodology: This online survey was conducted and analyzed by DKC Analytics on behalf of Wag! using the Pollfish survey delivery platform. The survey included 1,001 U.S. adults (18 years or older), all of whom own at least one dog adopted, purchased or gifted to them within the past two years. The survey was conducted between Feb. 14-17, 2022.