LERN

Bark Twain and Jimmy Chew

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dogsAccording to social media analysts at RivalIQ,  some of the top hashtags have gone to the dogs. That is, #nationaldogday and #nationalpuppyday were the two most effective hashtags in generating response to Instagram posts for organizations in our field.

LERN has already given you data on the effectiveness of using images of dogs and puppies on the cover of your brochure, and there is another indicator that 2018 was not the end of the Year of the Dog.  There is no question that as a generation, millennials are infatuated with dogs. (Most people like dogs, and millennials certainly did not invent the term “man’s best friend,” but there is a new level of dog-love going on.

For millennials, almost half consider them “practice” for having children, and for many a dog IS their kid—a four-legged substitute that does not generate the same financial drain on limited resources, require expensive baby-sitters and a lifetime of commitment. It’s an achievable dream, while many of the other “grown-up” goals of the past remain far out of reach in the millennial imagination.

While millennials are often opting for dogs over kids, there is another cohort that has a thing for our four-legged friends—baby boomers. They express it differently, in the boomer style, spending more than $60 billion annually on their dogs, according to Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrymyler/2016/03/22/baby-boomers-love-their-pets-to-the-tune-of-60-billion-annually/#493a4c40546b). Boomers have actually led the trend in incorporating animals into the family, taking them to the spa and to daycare, and even doggie psychologists. It is not uncommon to see touching eulogies for “Mr. Wags” or “Winnie the Poodle,” posted in social media, and I admit I bring the ashes of our beloved Frisbee to our summer cabin every year because this was the place he loved most.

Given that the two largest cohorts of the U.S. population have gone ga-ga over dogs, there is no denying that these animals have truly taken a new place in the landscape of the American family. Dogs are the second most popular pet in Canada.

The signs are everywhere. Personalized bandanas for dogs and other personalized gifts abound. Books like 100 Unusual Names for Dogs; weird and funny names for pets with personality, Best Names for Female Dogs (with more than 21,000 options),  and Best Names for Male and Female Dogs: More than “40,000 Meaningful Names for Dogs of All species with Meaning,” are flying off the shelves.  It has only been within the last decade or so that dog-parks have proliferated like bunnies, and dogs are called by the last names of their “parents” when they go to the vet. There are special classes for dogs to train them, socialize them, and give them the opportunity to “build on their native skills” (“Nose Training” is becoming a hot new course).

Many hotels now accept dogs, and you should not be surprised if your companion on your next flight includes a dog, as well. Some have their own Instagram profiles, and many even “dress” to match the attire of their “parents” like the old days. Except then, it was “mother-daughter” dresses.

Most importantly, dogs provide companionship and unconditional love. According to The Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/14/age-of-loneliness-killing-us) “loneliness is an epidemic among young adults,” as well as among older people. Dogs are an antidote for many of the stresses of today’s world. VICE Magazine, Quoting  Julian Victoria, Editor of DOG, says “And when we can’t escape the post-ironic way in which we view the world, or let go of the earnest anger we feel towards the news cycle, dogs do the trick. “There’s something in them that triggers people to become more soft, more sensitive.”

Dogs have come to play an increasingly important role in the social life and well-being of adults. They provide companionship, love, comfort, and having a dog is documented to increase longevity, health, and mental health. Making a place for “the whole family” in our classes is something we should do. It is a win-win for our participants and for our programs.