By Tim Falk
Published: 03/18/2022, edited: 08/18/2022
Prefer fur-babies to human babies? Surprised by how challenging and expensive it is to raise a puppy? Enjoying improved mental health thanks to the arrival of a pandemic pet? According to the 2022 Wag! Dog Parent Survey, you’re not alone.
In honor of National Puppy Day on March 23, we commissioned a survey of over 1,000 US adults who welcomed a new dog to their family in the past 2 years. We wanted to find out how people were coping with the transition to pet parenthood, assess the main challenges faced when raising a puppy, and discover how pups and their people will manage the return to work following the pandemic.
The results shed light on the highs and lows of pet parenthood, and some of them are sure to prompt some interesting discussions around the family dinner table.
One of the many fascinating trends to emerge during COVID lockdowns was the pandemic pet phenomenon. According to the ASPCA, over 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic.
But while those dogs have enjoyed human company 24/7 throughout lockdown, that’s all set to change as pet parents return to work. We asked survey respondents who are heading back to work in an office or on a job site what they will miss most about the return to normal working life, and over 40% said their dog.
That’s no real shock — we all adore our pups — but what is surprising is that a significantly smaller number (21.3%) said they’d miss their kids the most. If ever you needed proof that your dog is the most important member of the family, look no further.
But before your kids start complaining about finishing second to your pup, take note that they’re still above spouses in the family pecking order. Only 8.6% of those surveyed said they’d miss their spouse more than anyone or anything else when they return to the working world. That’s even less than the number of people who said they’d return to work pining for their house or the joy of avoiding a long commute — yikes!
Let’s face it, the pandemic was a great time to be a pet parent and spoil your fur-baby with a whole lot of love and attention. But with life now returning to normal, many people expect caring for their dog to become increasingly difficult.
1 in 4 people said they were “very nervous” about pet care challenges when heading back to work, with the pet parents of city dogs particularly concerned. With dogs spending more time home alone, making sure your pup gets enough exercise and mental stimulation is a major concern.
However, plenty of parents have lined up a pet care strategy to help make the return to work transition a smooth one. The majority (43.7%) will rely on family to look after their new pet, others (21.6%) will use a paid service like Wag!, while an extremely lucky 17.9% get to take their dog to work. If there’s one thing that could make returning to work an easier pill to swallow, we can’t think of anything better than having your pup by your side.
Numerous studies have shown that dogs can provide a welcome boost to our mental health, reducing anxiety and depression while also helping us stay active and build new social connections. And now there’s some more data to add to this growing body of research.
Over 40% of those surveyed said having a dog had provided them with a “very high” level of mental health support, while another 29.8% singled out their dog for providing a “high” level of support.
1 in 4 people even reported a significant decrease in anxiety levels, all thanks to welcoming a dog into their life. This shows that sometimes a pup is just what the doctor ordered — especially in a time of great uncertainty and disruption like a pandemic!
An increasing number of Americans are choosing to adopt pets rather than buy their fur-babies from traditional sources. Almost 62% of survey respondents had adopted or rescued a dog in the past 2 years, compared to 47% who purchased a pooch. A further 33% of people were gifted a dog during the survey period.
Almost 69% of adopters were very satisfied and a further 18.8% somewhat satisfied with the adoption experience, indicating that there are plenty of people out there who are happy to do their bit to help pets in need. Besides, what’s not to love about giving a dog a second chance at a happy life?
While raising a dog is fun and rewarding, many first-time pet parents don’t realize just how much hard work is involved in puppy care. A major shock for pandemic pet parents was discovering how much training their newest family member needed, with over 30% of survey respondents surprised by the effort required to teach their pups some manners and basic obedience.
A further 21.8% were taken aback by just how expensive raising a puppy can be. Even though puppies are cheaper family members than kids, their day-to-day care can still leave a pretty big dent in your bank balance.
But not all of the unexpected surprises of puppyhood are unpleasant, with a whopping 37.1% of people reporting that the biggest bombshell of bringing home a puppy is just how much you love them. Nawwww!
First-time dog parents face a steep learning curve when they bring home a new puppy. But of all the behavioral issues and training concerns pet parents face, separation anxiety is the most prevalent.
More than 21% of all respondents said separation anxiety was the most difficult part of getting a new puppy, but the figure was even higher (23.8%) for parents of rescued and adopted pets. And with pet parents returning to work after the pandemic, separation anxiety looks set to be a major concern for many households in the months ahead.
Chewing, teething, and general destruction were singled out as major bugbears by 19% of survey respondents, with housebreaking and crate training also keeping plenty of pet parents (18%) on their toes.
But the pet parenting task that makes up the most time is walking the dog, with around 1 in 5 respondents spending more than 10 hours a month pounding the pavement with their pooch. Taking care of a pup’s feeding and training needs were other major time consumers, with many survey respondents surprised by the time and effort involved in raising a dog.
That’s probably why almost one-third of respondents felt that better education around the costs and time needed for dog parenting would have been “extremely helpful” before welcoming a new furry family member.
First-time pet parents know that raising a dog means additional expenses in your family budget. But while forking out for food, toys, and veterinary care is generally expected, 17.7% of respondents said they were “completely unaware” of pet insurance.
Pet insurance is designed to help you cover unexpected vet bills when your pet suffers an injury or illness. It’s a financial safety net that ensures your dog gets the care they need, which is probably why more than half of those surveyed spend $50 or more a month on pet insurance.
Technology is also changing the way we raise pets, not just by making it easier to book pet care through the Wag! app, but also letting us keep track of our dogs when we’re not around. That said, before getting a dog, 15.2% of respondents didn’t know about in-home monitoring (e.g., camera systems) they can use to keep an eye on their pet while they’re not home.
Conversely, many pet parents were very knowledgeable about the importance of dog walking, the need to provide toys for their new pup, and the grooming and cleaning required to keep their pet and home in tip-top shape.
Finally, when US pet parents take a vacation, they want their furry family member to join in the fun. Almost 28% of respondents said they travel frequently with their dogs, which is more than double the amount of frequent travelers who prefer to leave their pets at home.
Interestingly, almost 30% of pet parents said they would travel more if they could take their dog(s), with finding pet-friendly hotels and pet-friendly vacation activities the 2 biggest barriers to adventures with canine companions. Over to you, accommodation and attraction providers around the nation — build it and pet parents will come!
Are you one of 42% of pet parents who will miss your dog more than your kids and spouse when you return to work? Don't worry — we won't tell!
Book a Pet Caregiver with Wag! to keep your canine company while you're at the office. Download the app today and find your fur-baby's new BFF!
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