Owning a dog is more expensive than ever, but it's not just because average services are increasing in price. It's because pooches are increasingly being considered members of the family, and with that comes the luxuries of modern life, including upscale dining, luxurious hotel stays and tech to fit their own connected lifestyles.
"The pet industry is changing. I almost call it a revolution…. We treat them with the same kind of respect and style of life that we treat each other," said Rick Coffey, president of Indianapolis-based upscale pet lodging and training chain Barkefellers.
Pet360.com editor-in-chief Wendy Toth explained that the sector of pet technology is booming thanks to consumers who want to improve their pets' lives with devices similar to what they themselves are using.
"The two main areas we're seeing is you're adding to the pets' safety or you're adding to their enrichment," Toth said. "That makes for a calmer owner or a calmer pet, so the time they spend together they can focus on one another."
The American Pet Products Association estimates $60.59 billion will be spent on pets in 2015, up about 25 percent from five years ago. More U.S. households own dogs than any other pet. They tend to be the most expensive domestic animal. Basic annual expenses per dog are expected to reach $1,641.
Increasingly more urban couples are opting to become dog owners. A Sylvain Labs report in the fall of 2014 suggested that there was a link between the fact that more city-dwelling couples were getting dogs and more partners waiting until they were older to have kids, as well as the decreased number of children per family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2013, the latest year for which information was available, the average woman was 26 when she had her first child. In 1970, it was a little over 21.
When it comes to pet tech, there's pet activity trackers such as Whistle and Fitbark, which act just like the human tech tracker counterparts to help keep Fido in shape. There's even an automatic thrower called iFetch that allows your dog to chase, collect and bring back a ball for hours on end without the owner having to lift a finger.
In the past the idea of getting a private "presidential state room" for your dog—complete with digital cameras so owners can monitor their pet while on the go—might have been more common in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. But, Coffey said that these 35 deluxe Barkefellers' suites in Indianapolis are booked 90 percent of the time, with prices starting at $50 a night.
"Customers are willing to spend more money on their pets today," he said. "More and more people have a 'nothing is too good for my baby' attitude."
Pet360.com's Toth points out there's also a growing sector of safety items, oftentimes similar to what is offered for human children. Pet facial recognition technology Pip My Pet Facial Recognition app is a database of scanned dog faces that can aid in finding lost pets. For the owner that wants to check in on their dogs every day, there's the iCPooch. The service allows dog owners to video chat with their pets, thanks to a digital camera and a remote treat dispenser. Both were nominated for a Pet360.com Pet Parents' Choice Award.
If you need more evidence that are pets are treated just like children, look no further than the socialization experiences that Los Angeles-area company Pussy and Pooch offer. Its "Pawbar" is a gourmet cafe for three animals so they can meet new friends. It also throws "Mutt Mingles" and "Cat Socials" three or four times a month to allow for play dates.
The company also allows for private pet parties. The lavish private space, which can cost up to $600 to rent, not including the human catering and drinks, lets you throw an event for your dog and nine of their closest canine friends.
Pussy and Pooch co-founder Janene Zakrajsek said interest has been increasing, with about two weekend parties booked every month.
"We had a girl who had a schnauzer with a birthday in October," she explained. "She had an Oktoberfest theme with themed toys, a themed menu and themed polka music."