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Number of Dogs in the US 2000-2019: Statistics, Demographics, and Trends

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How many dogs are there in the United States?
There are 89.7 million dogs in the United States. The number has steadily risen since 2000 with the exception of 2002 and 2015 when dog ownership declined.

Source: Statista and APPA

Since the beginning of the millennium, dog ownership in the United States has grown[1]. Some years showed a decline, such as in 2002; in general, however, more and more households in the country have decided to add a dog or two to their family. This has led to a booming population of 89.7 million dogs in the US[2], according to the American Pet Products Association 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey.

In this article, we will examine further the demographics of dog owners, the most popular dog breeds, dog ownership problems, dog industry trends, and well-known human-dog relationships in pop culture.

A Brief History of the Human-Dog Relationship

Humans did not always have a harmonious relationship with dogs, and having dogs as pets is a fairly new phenomenon, if we’re talking in terms of geological eras. In fact, the practice of keeping dogs as companions is only considered “near universal:” while it may be widespread, it has not penetrated every society or culture in the world.

That is understandable, as the human-canine relationship was, as mentioned before, not always friendly. Indeed, it was borne out of necessity. Humans ate wolves or dogs[3] and skinned them for their pelts to protect themselves from the harsh winter clime. People would also steal fresh kills from wolf packs and the canine species would also do the same to groups of humans.

Symbioses had a huge role to play in this relationship, which began with canine domestication some estimated 30,000 years ago. Evidence for this hypothesis can be found in the genes of canine specimens gathered from the southern part of China, from Mongolia, and from Europe. Scientists also believe that dogs and grey wolves branched out from an extinct wolf species 15,000 to 40,000 years ago. Note that the the years overlap, which has been a point of contention among those who study canine evolution.

Still, domesticated dog species are now largely reliant on humans. As a result, they have actually become worse at working together. They have evolved to look to humans to solve their problems, and humans benefit, too: when dogs and humans look into each others’ eyes, they both release the “affection hormone,” oxytocin. This creates a feedback loop and a strong emotional bond between human and dog[4], which partially explains why there are so many dog lovers today.

Demographics of Dog Owners

Breakdown of Dog Ownership, by Sex, in the US

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Source: Statista, AVMA

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In 2018, global dog ownership reached 471 million. In the United States, over 38% of households have dogs[5] with an average of 1.6 dogs each. More males owned dogs compared to females and those aged 18 to 29 have the highest dog ownership. 79% of females and 91% of male owners had dogs growing up as well, which could partly explain their preponderance towards canine companions.

Source: AVMA

Dog owners are also very capable of providing for their pets, as 81% said in a survey that they earn $100,000 or above in a year. Despite that, 30% of both males and females get their latest pet, either dog or cat, from an animal shelter. Meanwhile, 17% of males and 10% of females picked them up from the streets.

Popular Dog Breeds in the US

But whether they are from breeders, acquired privately, or from the streets, the Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, and Golden Retriever are the top three favorite breeds of dog owners in the United States.

For most states, the Labrador was the number 1[6] while the German Shepherd Dog and the Golden Retriever interchanged on the number 2 and 3 spots. The GSD occasionally unseated the Labrador for the top post in West Virginia, Indiana, and Florida. Other breeds would take the place too such as the French Bulldog (Hawaii), the Beagle (Kentucky), and the Catahoula Leopard Dog (Louisiana).

Source: AKC

On that note, here is a list of the states with the highest and lowest dog ownership. Wyoming heads the list of dog lovers followed by West Virginia. Nebraska, Vermont, and Idaho have the same percentage of dog owners while Rhode Island had the least number of dogs.

Source: AKC

Other states not on the list are in the middle ground: that would include California, New Mexico, and Hawaii. 

Meanwhile, here are dog breeds that have remained popular among Americans since the beginning of the new millennium. They made this list because they appear in the top five list of dog breeds by the American Kennel Club (AKC).

Dog Breeds that Made the Top 5 List by AKC from 2000 to 2018

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. German Shepherd Dog
  3. Golden Retriever
  4. Dachshund 
  5. Beagle
  6. Yorkshire Terrier
  7. Bulldogs
  8. French Bulldogs

Global Top 8 Dog Breeds with AKC Ranking for Comparison 

That is the voice of America, but how about the world? There are some drastic differences between the top dog breeds in the US and the most beloved breeds in the world. Currently, the Bulldog reigns globally[7] but in the United States, it is in fourth place according to the AKC. The breed is popular among dog owners in the UK, Hungary, and USA. Meanwhile, beloved Labrador Retriever, which ranks first in the AKC list, is only third worldwide with the AKC second firm in its place even in global rankings. The Siberian Husky, Pug, and Chihuahua also get a huge bump, as these are not even in the top 10 of AKC.

Global Ranking Vs AKC Ranking

Breed Global Rank US Rank
Bulldog 1st 4th
German Shepherd 2nd 2nd
Labrador Retriever 3rd 1st
Siberian Husky 4th 14th
Pug 5th 28th
Golden Retriever 6th 3rd
Poodle 7th 7th
Chihuahua 8th 33rd

Cost of Keeping a Dog

Source: Business Insider, New York Times

Dog owners love their pooches so much that Americans spend an average of $139.80 on dogs monthly[8]. In contrast, cat owners shell out $92.98 and those who care for other animals like equine species (much more high maintenance) spend an average of $351.67.

But Millennials are willing to spend more. In fact, they said they are willing to shell out $2000 if their dogs get sick and around 11% of Millennials would even go as high as $10,000. However, they may be willing in mind but are not as financially capable.

Nevertheless, some dog owners are ready in case their pets get sick or are injured though. In 2018, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association reported that the US and Canada had a combined gross written premium of $1.42 billion[2], 88.9% of which are for dogs. It is not just private individuals getting premiums for their pets either. Now, even some workplaces offer pet insurance as a perk.

After all, most dogs are long-lived companions. Especially the smaller ones. And owners need every help they can get. 

Average Lifespan of Dogs

Source: PetMD

Generally, small dogs live longer than large dogs[9]. An analysis of veterinary records showed that dogs under 20 pounds lived for 11 years on average. Meanwhile, those over 90 pounds only had 8 years on earth and medium-sized ones had around 11 years as well.

And today, with advances in veterinary medicine and overall willingness of owners to ensure their dogs’ health, canine friends are now living longer. For example, Doberman Pinschers used to live up to 10 years only. But now, there are members of the breed that live up to 16 years.

Indeed, it used to be unthinkable for dogs to live past 15 years. But the longest living dog, Bluey, an Australian cattle dog, surpassed expectations: he lived up to 29 years and 5 days.

American Dogs vs. European Dogs

Longer-living dogs may be truer in Europe, however. Studies are suggesting that dogs in that continent outlive their American counterparts. One reason is that rabies has essentially been eradicated in the region and dogs are only required to be vaccinated against rabies when they have to travel. Also, dogs in Europe do not get spayed or neutered[10].

The latter may be a point of contention. In the US it is a widespread practice to have dogs spayed or neutered. However, this has been shown to be problematic. Not only do they display more aggressive behaviors, but they also become vulnerable to cancer and obesity.

Pet Care and Pet Industry Trends

Spaying and neutering is not the only pervasive trend in the US when it comes to pets, particularly dogs and cats. Pet owners in the country have also become more particular when it comes to what they feed their companion animals. Indeed, they are opting for more fresh, frozen, and made-to-order foods for their pets. To that end, private brands are cropping up to eliminate the middleman, giving rise to the direct-to-consumer trend in the pet industry.

This has made it more economical for pet parents, considering that a good number of them give 8 to 10 treats to their pets per day. But for those with whom money is not an issue, premium pet foods and other products are readily available.

When it comes to grooming and care, they also pay attention. Because of that, more pet salons are also opening to cater to this demand. That’s not all though: pet hotels are also becoming common[11]. These are all accessible to pet owners now because of the ubiquity of smartphones.

Also, palliative services for ill pets, pet cemeteries, and pet cremation are also becoming more common. There are also services such as grief consulting that help owners deal with the loss of their pet.

On that note, here is a list of common diseases that hit dogs[12].

9 Most Common Dog Diseases

  1. Rabies 
  2. Distemper
  3. Parvovirus
  4. Hepatitis (Adenovirus)
  5. Parainfluenza 
  6. Bordetella (Kennel Cough)
  7. Lyme Disease (Tick-borne Disease)
  8. Leptospirosis
  9. Giardia (Intestinal Parasite)

These diseases can be avoided with regular vaccination, proper hygiene for dogs, and frequent deworming and intake or application of anti-tick tablets or liquids. However, some people don’t actually do research before acquiring a dog and this leads to problems down the line. Instead of de-stressing, they become more stressed and this affects the dog’s health, too. This is particularly obvious when it comes to flat-faced dogs. People find them cute but are not at all aware of the health problems that come with them.

Shelter Intake and Surrender Trends

As mentioned before, there are dog owners who know little about the dog breed they are getting. Apart from possible health concerns, certain breeds have their behavioral quirks. Take, for example, huskies: some shelters are also seeing a dramatic increase in surrendered huskies[13]. This is because fans of the TV series Game of Thrones wanted their own direwolves but could not keep the Huskies because the adults are difficult to care for. This is the same case as when the movie 101 Dalmatians came out and everyone started buying Dalmatians.

Source: ASPCA

That has only contributed to the 3.3 million dogs entering shelters each year[14]. Of those, 670,000 dogs are euthanized. Fortunately, 1.6 million dogs find forever homes and 620,000 dogs who entered shelters as strays are returned to owners.

It must also be noted that animal shelters are filled to capacity every after holiday season[15], as people who were given puppies and kittens as gifts mostly surrender them.

Dog Naming Trends

Popular Dog Names in the US in 2019

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Source: Mental Floss

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Despite that, dogs remain popular pets and there are plenty of owners who are responsible. They are also influenced by pop culture when it comes to naming their furry friends, too. In 2019, 24% more dogs were named Sansa[16], after the (spoilers!) Queen in the North in the hit TV series Game of Thrones. Marvel characters are popular among dog owners, too, as 44% more dogs are named Spider-Man and 12% more dogs are named Thor.

Unfortunately, those names did not make it to the top 10 popular dog names in the US.

Popular Dog Names 2019, USA

  1. Bella
  2. Max
  3. Luna
  4. Coco
  5. Charlie
  6. Daisy
  7. Lucy
  8. Bailey
  9. Buddy
  10. Rocky

Meanwhile, in other countries like Mexico, for example, there are also some very popular female and male dog names, like Luna and Oscar.

Popular Dog Names in Other Countries

  • England – Poppy and Alfie
  • Mexico – Luna and Oscar
  • Canada – Stella and Zeus
  • Ireland – Molly and Riley
  • Australia – Bella and Charlie
  • Japan – Momo and Kotaro

Popular Human-Dog Relationships

Speaking of pop culture, there are plenty of popular human-dog relationships[17] in films, TV series, print, and even in real life.

Films

  1. Toto and Dorothy – The Wizard of Oz
  2. Lassie and Timmy – Lassie Come Home
  3. Hooch and Turner – Turner & Hooch
  4. Marley and John – Marley and Me
  5. Hachiko and Prof. Eisaburo Ueno/Parker Wilson – Hachiko/Hachi: A Dog’s Tale
  6. Bruiser and Ellie – Legally Blonde
  7. Old Yeller and Family – Old Yeller
  8. Ghost and Jon Snow – Game of Thrones

TV Series 

  1. Scooby and Shaggy – Scooby-Doo
  2. Clifford and Emily – Clifford the Big Red Dog
  3. Pluto and Mickey – Mickey Mouse, first appeared in 1930 short, The Chain Gang

Print

  1. Snoopy and Charlie Brown – Peanuts
  2. Snowy and Tintin – The Adventures of Tintin
  3. Gnasher and Dennis the Menace – Dennis the Menace

Real Life

  1. Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell
  2. Charles Schulz and Spike
  3. Paul McCartney and Martha
  4. John Gray and Greyfriars Bobby
  5. George Bush and Millie

What is on the horizon for dogs and dog lovers?

Though there had been years when their numbers dipped, based on the statistics it is highly likely that the number of dogs worldwide, not just in the US, will increase. While some regions are not yet open to dogs as pets, other places that do continue to embrace them.

Pet care is also going to continue improving. Pet parents are more particular now about what goes into their companions’ stomachs, hence the rising popularity of premium or gourmet pet food. Because of that, more businesses are popping up to address the consumers’ needs, and even big companies like Amazon are scrambling to produce their own stocks to cut off the middleman.

But it is not just dogs that are getting attention—their owners are, as well. In fact, there are services specifically for them, like the aforementioned services for dealing with grief at the loss of a pet. On the brighter side, there is even a dating app that helps dog lovers find like-minded canine-loving individuals.

Still, dog owners need careful education to avoid crises like pet shelters being filled to the brim. Though some people profess to love dogs, many of them need to be informed regarding general dog care and care for particular breeds. That is an information and education gap that entities can fill to ensure that new dog owners are fully prepared and to protect future pets.

 


References:

  1. ^Number of dogs in the United States from 2000 to 2017
  2. ^Facts + Statistics: Pet statistics
  3. ^Dogs and Humans Didn’t Become Best Friends Overnight
  4. ^How dogs stole our hearts
  5. ^Pets in the U.S. 2017
  6. ^Most Popular Breeds
  7. ^The Top 50 Most Popular Dog Breeds In The World (2019)
  8. ^Pets are like children to many Americans — here’s how much pet owners spend on average each month
  9. ^How Long Do Dogs Live?
  10. ^wo Possible Reasons Dogs Live Longer in Europe…
  11. ^The Biggest Trends In The Pet Industry
  12. ^Disease risks for dogs in social settings
  13. ^Game of Thrones’ fever ends in huskies increasingly dumped at Monterey County shelters
  14. ^Shelter Intake and Surrender
  15. ^Pets fill shelters after the holidays
  16. ^The 10 Most Popular Dog Names of 2019
  17. ^15 Famous Dog & Human Duos in Pop Culture
Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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