Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

By Mark Richards.

A week today and it is Christmas Eve – and plenty of families and couples will be looking forward to a new puppy. In fact, there is evidence that a growing number of couples are opting for dogs instead of children – and that around the world there are some very pampered pets…

We have all heard the phrase: ‘It’s a dog’s life.’

The phrase originated around the 16th Century – the time of Henry VIII – when dogs were used to guard houses or small communities, lived outside in all weathers, were fed on scraps and generally had short, fairly miserable lives. So the meaning of the phrase was simple: ‘life’s not good.’

Never has the meaning of a phrase changed so much. These days our dogs are pampered, well-fed, taken for walks and as for being outside on all weathers…

‘Do you think we should move his bed a bit closer to the radiator?’

‘Maybe, but I was thinking of getting him a doggie electric blanket.’

How much does the average dog cost over its lifetime?

This will give you paws for thought – even ignoring the cost of the electric blanket. The cost of owning the average dog through a 10/12/14 year lifespan is well into five figures. It goes without saying a Great Dane is going to eat rather more than a miniature poodle but – by the time you have added vet’s bills, insurance, kennels while you are on holiday and those Christmas morning doggie treats to everyday food – the cost of all dogs is significant.

According to a recent article in the Guardian, the cost of owning a dog is anywhere between £21,000 and £33,000 throughout its lifetime, with 98% of dog owners underestimating the cost of owning Ben or Poppy – which are, apparently, the two most popular names.

But however much Ben costs you, it is nothing compared to the cost of a child – which perhaps makes the decision to opt for a ‘furry baby’ slightly more understandable. This article from the Telegraph suggests that the cost of raising a child is £230,000: given that it was written three years ago and childcare costs have increased significantly since then, you can safely add a few extra thousand…

Millennials having dogs instead of children

We have all seen the bumper sticker, ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas.’ It seems that many people are taking that even more literally: there is a growing tendency – especially among the millennial generation – for people to opt for pets, not children.

More Couples Opting for Pets instead of Children

Is having ‘fur babies’ an illness?

Let me say straightaway that neither I – nor MoneyGap – necessarily agree with this paragraph. But as more people in the millennial generation opt for dogs (and cats) over the commitment to real babies, it is a question that some psychologists are increasingly asking.

The vast majority of us, at some stage in a settled relationship, feel the urge to start a family. Having spent years saying, ‘What, children? Never’ something suddenly clicks into place and you find yourself with The Baby Names Book on the shelf.

…Unless, of course, you make a conscious decision to get a different sort of ‘baby.’ Could ‘replacement baby syndrome’ one day be a recognised medical condition?

But there is a potentially serious problem here. If millennials choose to have pets, not children then the birth rate is going to decline. That may well be even more pronounced as the cautious, self-centred Generation Z decide that they are not going to do anything as dirty, dangerous and expensive as have children.

Ultimately, a declining birth rate means that there is not a big enough tax income from the working population to sustain the rapidly-increasing cost of looking after a disproportionate number of old people.

It really is a dog’s life – of luxury

You have to love Google, don’t you? I would have given you long odds against me tapping in ‘world’s most luxurious dog hotel’ but never say never…

When I am away I take my dog to Sue-down-the-road. But for the millennial generation, Sue may no longer be the answer…

For some people, nothing is too good for their dog – and that includes kennels when they go away. My mistake: that includes the very best doggie hotel when they go away. Right now there seems to be some dispute over which is the most exclusive dog hotel in the world – so we compared two for you.

Over on the West Coast of America – where else – you will find The Wags Club, a ‘Premier Los Angeles Dog Daycare and Resort.’ The splendidly named Wags Club features 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor play areas, dog grooming, dog training and Abi, the dog whisperer. Wags also offer a ‘pawcierge’ service, so that your dog will be driven to any necessary vet’s appointments and vaccinations.

Your dog can also take advantage of the ‘organised hikes’ or – as they are more usually known – a walk.

How much does all this luxury cost? $35 (£27) a day – which slightly surprised me, given that Sue-down-the-road charges me £18 and is as far removed from a ‘dog whisperer’ as it is possible to be.

But for the really last word in dog luxury we need to go to India – a country with a rapidly-emerging middle class – and specifically the town of Gurugram. Here you will find Critterati (I bet there were some high-fives exchanged when someone came up with that name) and possibly the last word in looking after your dog.

Overnight boarding offers the choice from a standard room up to the Royal and Family Suites. Obviously, all the facilities you would expect are there, as well as the option for the owners to watch their dogs and for the dogs to watch the flat screen TVs in their rooms. The Royal Suite is 95 square feet and features a ‘personalised balcony for your bundle of joy.’ How much does this cost? A medium sized dog is 2,399 rupees per day for a week’s stay, which works out to £26.50 per day.

Time for me to have another word with Sue…