Pet Insights for the UK (dog owners' worries & pet product market)

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UK Dog Owners’ Worries

Of the people in the United Kingdom that leave their dogs alone for some period of time, a majority of them feel guilty about doing so, and attempt to make up for it by treating their dog in some way or form. Some even go to the extent of having other people take care of their dogs while they are away, just to make sure that their dog is not too lonely for too long. While the U.S. market for dog owners is greater, dog owners do not do as much to ensure the happiness of their pets. Below you will find a breakdown that explains how people in the U.K. and the U.S. feel about the amount of time that they leave their dogs alone, in addition to ways in which they attempt to make up for it.

United Kingdom Concerns

In the United Kingdom, around 86% of dog owners leave their dogs alone for some period of time on a daily basis. 46% of dog owners who leave their dogs on their own report being sad about it, and 40% feel worse about leaving their dog home alone than their teenage child. 40% of dog owners also report that they do not like to leave their dogs alone due to separation anxiety, and others worry about leaving their dogs alone in-case they chew everything apart. Around 54% of dog owners wish that they could reduce the amount of time that they leave their dogs alone. In order to try to prevent their dogs from feeling too lonely or uncared for when leaving them alone, dog owners in the U.K. often do the following sorts of things to distract their pets:

- Turn on radio: 40%
- Leave TV on: 32%
- Give a treat before leaving: 33%

Even when dog owners in the U.K. do these things to comfort their dogs when leaving them alone, many still report feeling poorly about the time they left their dog alone. As a result, dog owners do a number of different things upon returning home to make up for leaving their dogs home alone, including:

- Allowing the dog to sleep in bed next to them: 20%
- Giving the dog a steak dinner: 10%
- Providing treats and attention upon return: 67%
- Cooking the dog's favorite meal: 16%
- Coming home with a special treat: 18%
- Taking the dog on an extra long walk: 64%

Some dog owners in the U.K. feel so horrible about leaving their dogs alone for any period of time, that they resort to having other people check in on their dogs, or even end up pushing aside previous engagements. For example, around 10% of dog owners in the U.K. have reported taking time off of work or not attending a social event in order to spend time with their dog. Around 5% of dog owners will pay for their dogs to attend "doggy day care" when they are not home, and 10% will arrange for an in-home dog sitter to keep their pet company. An additional 24% report asking a friend to stop by to keep their pet company while they are away.

Note: Given the time restriction of this single request, we were unable to find research showing differences in owner group sentiments across gender or profession. However, we did find that around 25% of male pet owners in the U.K. have dogs, compared with 29% of females in the U.K.

United States Concerns

For the purpose of a comparison, 52% of male pet owners in the U.S. own dogs, and 48% of female pet owners own dogs. Of the two-thirds of these owners that leave their dogs along for some period of time, 80% feel guilty about it. On average, dogs in America spend approximately 2,080 hours alone every year, and as a result, 60% of dog owners worry about the negative, long-term effects of leaving their dogs alone for so long, while 20% are nervous about leaving their dogs alone in case the dog injures themselves. 70% of these dog owners also want to reduce the amount of time that they are leaving their dogs alone, but 63% also feel as though they underestimated the time that goes into raising a dog. Even whenever dog owners are with their dogs, 15% still feel as though they do not have enough time to take their dogs for a walk or to play with them.


A majority of dog owners in both the United States and the United Kingdom feel poorly about the amount of time that they leave their dogs alone for. While many dog owners want to find ways to reduce the time that their pets are left alone, most feel as though this task is difficult to complete, as there is not enough time even when they are around to provide their dogs with enough attention. Often times, dog owners in the U.K. will attempt to make up for leaving their dogs alone for so long by providing them with special treats and extra attention, or will even take extra measures to decrease the loneliness that their dog feels while they are away.
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UK Pet Product Market

An overview of the pet product market in the US and the UK was researched using industry reports, trusted news sites, government sources, and other credible sites and databases. This overview includes market sizes and breakdowns, as well as decision drivers and attitudes. Full details are provided below.


According to the Pet Food Manufacturer's Association, 44% of UK households owned pets in 2017. This is approximately 12 million households with 54 million pets. Twenty-four percent of these households have dogs at 8.5 million dogs total. While the number of pet owning households has increased from 11 million in 2016 to 12 million in 2017, the number of pets in the population has decreased from 57 million to 54 million. Statista reports that pet ownership has increased from 40% in 2016 to 44% in 2017. Comparatively, the American Pet Products Association, Inc. reports that 68% of American households at 84.6 million households own pets. 48% of these US pets are dogs.


Export, reporting US export statistics, states that the UK pet market was $5.2 billion (3.7 billion GBP) in 2015 and is estimated at $5.6 billion (4 billion GBP) for 2016 and $5.9 billion (4.2 billion GBP) in 2017. That is a projected 7.2% increase between 2015 and 2016. They expect this industry to continue growing over the next 5 years as people don't tend to spend any less on their pets even in times of financial hardship. Export reports the presence of 3,500 pet shops (600 of those being specialized aquatic centers) and notes the use of veterinary clinics and pet salons as possible centers for distribution. Grocery retailers are responsible for 68% of product sales in the UK while pet shops catch 12% of sales according to an article at Linkedin.


For comparison, the American Pet Products Association, Inc. reports that the total market size for pet products in the US is $48.75 billion or 34.75 billion GBP in 2016. Markets for 2017 were estimated at $44.62 billion or 38.81 billion GBP. Please note that this figure is determined by deducting the cost of services and live animal sales from the total sales figures as these categories do not represent tangible objects that could be counted as products.


Food is by far the largest category in the pet products market. Export reports that food accounts for 3/4 of the UK pet products market. A report by Linkedin reveals that food spending has not increased by volume (decreasing by 3%) but by value (increasing at 2%). Linkedin also reports a slow decline in dry and wet dog food spending while dog treat spending increased 3% in the last 5 years. However, pet accessories are expected to be the fastest growing corner of the pet products market with a prediction of 14.8% growth over the next 5 years. Fashionable housing and bedding has been one of the main drivers in this category.


Both a report from Linkedin and data from Export.Gov reports that owners have been increasingly humanizing their pets. In other words, pets are treated more as members of the family or as equal counterparts compared to past attitudes. This change in attitude not only leads to increased spending and recession proofing, it results in pet owners seeking out higher quality or premium foods (natural, organic, gluten free) and accessories. Not only are pet owners buying more for their pets, they are buying more expensive products. This explains the earlier reported decrease in volume spending on food while still experiencing an increase in value spending.


Overall, we have seen an increase in the UK pet product market, and we can expect increases in that market over the next few years. While food is the biggest part of the market, toys and accessories are expected to grow at much higher rates and any premium or high quality products can expect to meet increasing demand.