Naming your dog used to be simple. Dalmatians were called Spot, black dogs were Sooty and we can’t forget Fido. Dogs knew their place. They were given no-nonsense names and came last in the family pecking order. No frills.

That’s all changing. A recent survey buy a dog food company discovered that we are now more likely to give our dogs human names. In fact, an incredible 50% of all pet names are human or nicknames. Folks today love to think of their pets as ‘fur babies’ and view them as extra children. Dogs today can look forward to being part of the family.

Just like one of the kids…

The recent unexpected runaway success of the book ‘Marley & Me’ by John Grogan (a columnist for the Philadelphia Enquirer) reflects how much we genuinely love our dogs nowadays. In looking for reasons why we treat our dogs like humans now, we need to look back. In the days when a dog was a dog, families were different. Divorce was uncommon. Kids generally set up home closer to their parents. The elderly were often looked after at home. Even leisure time was shared – with a family all watching tv together.

Why we need our fur babies

Now, people are becoming increasingly isolated – which is ironic in these days of world travel and huge increases in methods of communication.

Divorce is commonplace, the extended family is on the decline and kids leave home and go away. People are lonely. They crave companionship and friendship. A dog fits the bill perfectly. They give unconditional love and are always there for you. For people who have been through a series of bad relationships, the dog is a gift from Heaven.

The other main factor is that many people are waiting longer to have families. Even if they can mentally put off the event, their biological clock and the desire to nurture and be loved is very strong. Again, a dog is the perfect fit.

How we see our dogs

On alternate years, the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association runs a poll on the good and bad points of owning a dog. The results bear out our changing relationship with the dog. 97% said that they see their dog as a companion, while a startling 74% see it as a family member. Dogs appear emotionally attached to us (although a lot of it is motivated by the desire for food). For city dwellers, they are a link to nature. And wherever you live, taking a dog for a walk is a great form getting out of doors and getting some exercise.

Number crunching

Let’s take a look at Seattle. It’s a great example of what we’ve been saying. It has less homes with children than any other city except San Francisco. The population is mainly student, professionals with no children and quite a large number of people who are gay or lesbian. In the 2000 census, there were less than 90,000 children – and 125,000 dogs. The nationwide statistics are astounding. 44 million US households own approximately 74 million dogs. In some areas, it seems our fur-babies are taking over. In the UK – people love their dogs just as much and are following the trend of giving them human names. The PDSA says that the latest trend is to call your dog after a celebrity – Beyonce, Becks, Posh and Elvis are all favourites.

The most popular dog’s name, not only in the US but worldwide, is Max and even that has celebrity associations to the Designer label, Max Mara.

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