Eight in 10 Australians prefer the company of their dogs to humans, while more than half say it is A-OK to kiss their pet pooch on the lips, new research shows.
A survey of more than 1,200 Australian dog owners across three generations – millennials, GenXers and Baby Boomers – revealed that the relationship between humans and their proverbial best friends knows no bounds.
The research revealed that a whopping 80 per cent of Aussie millennials would rather spend time with their fur baby than other people, with about half saying they prioritise dogs over their social life and family.
Further stretching the boundaries, nearly half of millennial pet parents give the green light to bathe or shower with their dog, while 89 per cent allow their pup to sleep in the same bed.
How close is too close?
Dr Liisa Ahlstrom, Technical Services Veterinarian for Elanco Pet Health Business says that while millennial dog owners are undoubtedly evolving the bounds of the dog-human relationship, it is important people are aware of the diseases that can spread from dogs to humans.
"It's heart-warming to be able to support and enable the ever-growing closeness between humans and their BFF and the changing nature of the Aussie family," Ahlstrom said.
"We know the relaxing of spatial boundaries is occurring. But it's really important for people to be aware that there are diseases that can spread from dogs to humans, for example, diseases carried by fleas, as well as some intestinal worms that can have serious health implications for humans," she added.
"These zoonotic diseases pose a real threat, especially in the wake of our growing bonds. So it's vital that dog owners not only consider protecting the health of their dogs but also the health of themselves and their families too."
Filling the void?
The research also revealed that for millennials, fur friends tend to feature heavily when trying to find the perfect partner. While looks, a good sense of humour and a good job are on the top of the list, as many as 74 per cent said they would break up with their partner if they did not get along with their dog.
Another 72 per cent revealed that their dog made them less anxious about finding a partner, while 69 per cent said their fur baby has removed the pressure of starting a family, the study showed.
"There's no question about the growing role of dogs in our family units, regardless of what that 'family unit' looks like. I like to think that dogs find a role where a human gap for companionship opens up, and in that sense, perhaps dog ownership is, in fact, a bi-product of the natural decline in the Australian birth rate," Ms Ahlstrom commented.
Not just puppy love
The research also proves millennials are willing to spend big in the unfortunate event their dog needs medical attention, with 34 per cent saying they would spend between $3,000 to $10,000 while 29 per cent would pay whatever it takes, which includes committing to a side hustle (13 per cent), forgoing haircuts and beauty treatments (42 per cent), suspending streaming services (31 per cent) or selling off belongings (34 per cent).
The Covid-19 pandemic also contributed to the growing closeness between people and dogs, with three out of five saying they gave their pet more attention and care during lockdown. About 44 per cent said their dog was an emotional lifesaver, another 53 per cent said their dog helped stave off general isolation and loneliness, while 37 per cent said taking good care of their dog gave them a sense of purpose, and 22 per cent noted their dog allowed them to express their emotions.
The research also suggests that two in three owners had established new routines with their dogs during lockdown, with a massive nine in 10 revealing these new habits are what they'll miss most upon returning to the office, studying or even just socialising.
About 72 per cent of respondents also said their dog's needs would influence their choice of workplace, with many admitting to feeling anxious about leaving their pets at home when they head back to the office.
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