Dog Food Buyers

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Dog Food Buyers

Dog ownership is on the rise in the US, and for the first time, the Millennial population owns the most pets in the US. Diversity is the first word on many researcher's lips when discussing the demographics of the typical dog owner. Married men aged 30-49, earning almost $100,000 annually, and holding a high school diploma are the most likely dog owners. However, this is by no means the norm with many people and backgrounds adopting dogs. The diverse demographics of dog owners means that a unique psychographic profile is created for this group. It has also seen pet food manufacturers and those in the pet industry focus on the motivations of the consumer and the reasons for their purchase choices as they attempt to understand this dynamic market.


  • 54% or 66.8 million US households have a pet, according to the Pet Food Industry. One of the difficulties that pet food manufacturers have faced in recent years is the increasing diversity among pet owners, with ownership varying by age, gender, and ethnicity.
  • The average number of dogs per household is 1.6, with 38.4% of American households having at least one dog. Dog ownership rates have continued to grow in the US over the last decade. The growth in the dog population in the US exceeds the growth of the general population.


  • Since 2017, Millennials have been recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association as the primary pet-owning demographic in the US, making up 35% of US pet owners, and just sneaking past the Baby Boomers at 33%.
  • Among all age groups, Millennials are seen as the most responsive to owning a pet. Of those in the Millennial demographic that do not have a pet, 43% say that they want one in the future. 54% of Millennials have a pet.
  • The most likely age to have a dog is 30-49 years of age. 75% of people in their 30s own a dog. 39% of all adults have a dog.
  • Baby Boomers are more likely than previous generations to share their retirement with a dog. They enjoy the extra security that comes with owning a larger dog. Both, have formed meaningful attachments to each other.
  • The least likely age is in the 65 years and older age group, with only 25% of senior citizens owning a dog.


  • Pet ownership is slightly more popular among the male population, with 71% of Millennial males having a dog, compared to 62% of female Millennials.
  • Dogs are the first choice in companion among the male population. When shopping for a dog men aged 35-34 are the most likely to have a specific bred in mind.

Income Level

  • Households that earn more than $100,000 per year are twice as likely to have a dog as households that earn less than $30,000 per year.
  • One of the reasons for the growth in the dog population in the US is in the increasing number of high income earners that are adopting dogs.
  • The average income of dog owners in 2016 was $96,7000. This was up from $86,400 the previous year. 78% of dog owners own their own home.

Educational Level

  • Households that have a high school diploma or GED level of education are the most likely to own a dog (64%), compared to households where one member of the family has had some college education (56%)

Marital Status

  • The majority of pet owners are married, with the likelihood of a married person owning a dog 34% higher than that of an unmarried person.
  • There are an increasing number of unmarried and childless Millennials adopting dogs. People that have never been married are more likely to see their dogs as part of their family. 91% of those that have never had children see their dog as a de facto child.
  • It is expected that as more Millennials marry and have families, they will be reluctant to add a new dog to the mix as well. There is an increasing trend towards smaller dogs in the matrimonial home. Young families today are more hesitant than previous generations to add a dog to the family mix.


  • European Caucasians are the most likely to have a pet, with 70% currently sharing their home with a furry friend. They were followed closely by Hispanics, with 69% pet owners. Only 44% of African Americans and 43% of Asians were pet owners.
  • European Caucasians are the most likely out of any ethnicity to own a dog, with 45% of households owning one. Only 20% of African American households and 25% of Hispanic households have a dog.


  • Those living in rural areas are more likely to own a dog than those living in an urban environment, interestingly it does not make them more likely to own a cat. Only 33% of households in urban areas have a dog, compared to 41% of suburban households, and 51% of rural households.
  • Arizona has the highest rate of dog ownership, with 47.9% of households having a dog. 1.7 million households have dogs there.
  • Households in the west are more likely to have a dog than other regions in the US, with 81% of households in the west having at least one dog.



  • Millennial dog owners have some unique habits around how they care for their dogs and the unique relationship they have with them. Millennials are increasingly delaying parenthood and substituting pets for children, with 44% of Millennials considering their dog a starter child. 53% of Millennials will take time off work if their dog is unwell. 44% of dog owners take their dog to work with them.
  • Dog are increasingly treated as members of the family, with 53% of dogs sleeping in the bedroom of their owners at night. 67% of dog owners insist on taking their dog on holiday with them, while 44% of dog owners bring their dog home a gift from their holiday if the dog is unable to go.
  • 77% of dog owners allow their dogs free rein in their homes, 9% restrict their dog to just a couple of rooms, and 7% keep their dog exclusively outdoors.
  • Dog owners are likely to own more than one dog, with the average number of dogs per home being 1.6. The majority of dog owners spay and neuter their dog to keep more unwanted dogs out of the animal shelters and rescues. Owners that have multiple dogs have been found to splurge on their pets more often than those that have just one dog.
  • Millennials are more likely to buy their dogs premium or customized products and toys that are aimed at improving the health of the dog. With Millennial owners being prepared to indulge their pets, more dogs (and cats) are getting dental cleanings and dental rinses than ever before.

Consumer Attitudes

  • Millennials are most likely to say that money is not an issue when it comes to spending on their pets. Women are more likely to consider the dog a member of the family (89%) than men (80%). 80% of pet spending is completed by European Caucasian owners.
  • Veterinarians are playing a more significant role in dog's lives with Millennials more likely to consult them about the most appropriate treatments for their dog than buy an over the counter treatment. The current generation of dog owners is prepared to invest in the future health of their dogs.
  • Preventative medicine is becoming more relevant, with dog owners looking to ensure their pet remains healthy long-term. They are more likely to give their pets regular treatments to maintain their health whereas in the past, treatment has been issue focused.
  • The attitudes of dog owners around health and nutrition is also reflected in their geography. Suburban dog owners are more likely to be open to the idea that their pet may have special nutrition requirements or food allergies and intolerance. Urban dog owners are likely to have a focus on natural or organic brands and ensuring that any ethical or sustainability concerns in the manufacturing of pet food are addressed.
  • The majority of Millennials want to make sure that their pet eats food (57%) and treats (46%) that are age appropriate.
  • Pet owners are less likely today to allow a veterinarian to take an animal outside of the room for an examination or other routine tasks. The Millennial population of dog owners is fueling the growth of niche market areas in animal health. For example, Millennials are interested in developments in motion sickness and anxiety levels in pets, making it one of the more frequent veterinarian consults.
  • 10% of dogs are covered by pet insurance at the cost of $9 billion annually. Over 4 million US dogs are currently insured by their owners. A typical policy will cost $250-500 each year.


  • Dog owners are likely to be animal lovers in general. Many dog owners enjoy animal-focused hobbies, many help out at local shelters or pet rescue centers. They enjoy outdoor activities that their dogs can participate in with them. Hiking is one of the most common hobbies of dog-lovers.
  • Flyball is a sport for dogs and their owners. Teams race each other relay-style on an obstacle course for dogs. More owners are participating in this activity than ever before; with the collateral benefit, it improves the bond between dog and owner.
  • Running, writing, and gardening are other popular hobbies of dog owners.

Values and Beliefs

  • The majority of dog owners consider their dog part of the family. 90% of dog owners believe that their dog has had a positive health impact. Many owners think their dog is essential to maintaining their health. Experts believe more than $11.7 billion is saved annually by the healthcare sector, due to improved opportunities and resources related to dog ownership.
  • 94% of dog owners believe that their dog has human personality traits. 63% of dog owners celebrate their dogs' birthday. If stranded on a desert island, 50% of people would take their dog rather than another human companion. 45% of dog owners believe that their dog listens to them better than anyone else.
  • The majority of dog owners (93%) would risk their own lives to save the life of their dog, while 64% would expect their dog to come to the rescue if they were in trouble. Dog owners want to ensure they do what is best for their dogs. Over half (54%) of pet owners agree it is important their pet is comfortable in their advanced age.
  • Just under a quarter (23%) of dog owners would pay for medical procedures to extend the life of their pet no matter what the cost.


  • For the largest group of dog owners in the US, decision-making is "a long, complex and often iterative journey."

Spending on Dogs and Dog Food

  • Americans spent an incredible $11 billion each year, pampering their pets. The pet supplies' category has seen moderate growth in recent years, increasing 18% from 2011-16. Over the past five years, the most substantial gains were seen in 2012-13, and are associated with the pet humanization trend.
  • Dog owners typically spend more on their pets than cat owners, but less than the owners of small mammals, who spend more on their pets than cat and dog owners combined spend on their pets. 53% of dog owners spend more on their dog compared to previous pets.
  • Millennials are generally educated. This includes education around nutrition. As a result, Millennial dog-owners are happy to buy premium natural products. 52% of dog owners prepare special meals for their dogs.
  • On average, it will cost a dog owner $138.80 per month or $1,665.60 per year to provide and care for their dog.
  • Men typically spend $20 per month more on their dogs than women do. Younger dog-owners tend to spend more on their dogs than older dog-owners. Residents of Washington D. C spend the most of all US dog owners in the US, spending on average $270 monthly.
  • 40% of those who take their dog to doggie daycare are between 30-49. High income households are more likely to take their dog to daycare, accounting for 60% of the annual revenue.
  • There has been a 73% increase in over the counter treatments since 2000. The average household spends about $500 on over the counter treatments. The new leading pet owners would rather buy quality over quantity when it comes to caring for their dog.
  • A review of the spending habits of US dog owners found that there are currently 115,000 businesses operating in the US that focus on dog care or dog care industries. An additional $6 billion is spent annually on dog grooming. There are more than 211,000 people employed by these businesses.
  • The cost of a dog depends very much on its size. Small dogs cost $1,314, medium dogs costs $1,580, and large dogs cost an average of $1,843 in the first year of ownership. 1% of all household spending is on related to providing and caring for dogs. Households often spend more on their dog than they do on alcohol, landline phones, and clothing.
  • Millennials will spend whatever is necessary to ensure their pets are well looked after.

Channels Used For Research

  • The channel most often used by Millennial dog owners is a professional channel. Millennials look to their veterinarians to provide them with advice on the products and services, appropriate and nutritional foods, and how to best care for their pets to ensure their pets are happy.
  • Millennials are persuaded to make purchases based on the advice they receive from these professionals. Veterinarians have noticed an upswing in the number of dog owners consulting with them and making decisions based on their recommendations. Already research has been commissioned to determine if there are a sufficient number of trained professionals to meet this increased demand.
  • 57% of Millennial pet owners involve veterinarians and their teams in pet-related purchase decision-making compared to just 42% of older generations. 50% of Millennials will follow the advice of their veterinarian when making purchase decisions, while only 31% of older generations do so.
  • Millennials will typically seek the advice of a range of different professionals at the veterinarian clinics to inform their decisions and ensure they have a comprehensive understanding of the issues from a variety of different viewpoints. Older generations are more likely to seek the advice of the veterinarian in isolation.
  • A 24/7 advice and text service is considered the most valuable service offered by veterinarians.
  • The new generation of dog owners consider veterinarians and their teams a key part of their purchase decision-making process when it comes to their dogs. This generation is also strongly influenced by their peers, social media plays a role in this process. Social media channels are used by pet owners to seek advice and to inform pet purchasing decisions. There are a huge number of social media networks for pet owners that the owners can use to research purchase decisions. 90% of Millennials are active on social media and 33% use it to communicate with businesses.

Time Spent on Research

  • Typically, cat owners are more likely to research all the different aspects of their pets life, while dog owners are more likely to research the specific issues their dog is encountering, according to recent Pew Research.
  • Millennial dog owners will take the time to research a range of different aspects of their dogs life, especially health-related issues. They will take the time to ensure they have all the information available to make the decision that is in their dogs best interests.
  • A wide net is cast by Millennials researching products for their pets, and specific pet care advice. They "actively gather, curate and assess information from many, many sources" to inform the purchase decision-making process.
  • When Millennials became the largest group of pet owners, Pet Owner Paths Research provided some valuable insights. "This journey takes them substantially longer than it does older pet owners, and it does not always end with a purchase. Even after researching and evaluating options, millennials are less likely to purchase a product and stop the process; they often want to keep looking, Millennials tend to cast a wide net when they're looking for information to support a decision-they actively gather, curate and assess information from many, many sources."

Purchase Channels and Store Time

  • Subscription box services providing monthly food and play options are becoming increasingly popular among Millennials. This generation wants to ensure their pets have all they need to be happy. Barkbox is an example of a company that has identified this growing trend and has built a multi-million dollar business based on it. There is a YouTube channel that relates solely to the experience of unboxing their monthly subscription.
  • Veterinarians offer a wide range of products and services. Given the Millennial affinity for seeking the advice of their veterinarian around these purchases, Millennials see their local veterinarian as a purchase channel that they regularly avail themselves of.
  • In line with their behaviors around all products and services, Millennials are more likely than other generations to purchase the products they need for their pets online. There are an increasing number of online purchase channels that provide these products and services.
  • Markets that have gained momentum based on the behaviors of Millennial pet owners include the pet health insurance and luxury pet item markets. Both have a strong online presence.
  • Zulily is an example of an e-Commerce channel that is devoting more resources to this product category. Vice President, Kerry Gibson explains why, "Our customers are purchasing pet products year-round and love to involve their pets in every aspect of their lives, from birthdays to walks in the park to even thematic kitchen and home decor — since they are seen as an extension and beloved member of the family."
  • Healthy and nutritional food choices drive Millennial spending on pet food. They are the pet owners most likely to purchase high-end food choices. Super premium and premium have become increasingly popular marketing terms in the pet food industry because of the influence of this generation. Products that focus on raw food, grain-free diets, and ingredients like kale or sweet potato are in response to demand from Millennials.