London - Last night, my husband Ray and I lay awake for hours, fretting over Dylan and his adolescent behaviour. We always knew that once the hormones kicked in, life would become tougher but the fact that we — his devoted mother and father — differ in our approaches to discipline doesn’t help.
“I’ve always loved his strength of character,” I said sadly. “I don’t want him to simply conform.” But Ray was firmer. “He needs to know his boundaries otherwise things will only get worse.”
It is the sort of conversation — peppered with fierce whispers and exhausted sighs — that is played out in millions of households across the land. Anyone who has a teenager will recognise the sentiments of parents stretched to their limits.
Except the adolescent causing us so much angst is Dylan, our beloved cocker spaniel-poodle cross. Together with his little “sister” Delilah (golden retriever crossed with a poodle) they are the apples of our eyes.
We laud their achievements, put their pictures up on Facebook, and snuggle on the sofa with them to watch TV. We treat them like humans.
And we’re not alone. Lady Gaga apparently takes her “baby”, canine fluffball Fozzi, into the bath, while a survey found six out of ten dog owners let their pets sleep in their beds — despite the fact that more than half say the inevitable snuffling, scratching, and, God forbid, breaking wind disrupts their sleep.
Now it seems dogs are not merely man’s best friend, but man’s best-dressed friend, too. Hit website styletails.com targets pet owners who “see their dogs as an extension of their own style”. It advises on how to co-ordinate your canine with your ensemble and features shots of stylish hounds in coats or sunglasses.
Dogs are hot right now. There are dogs with blogs (Andy Murray’s pooch Maggie May tweeted throughout Wimbledon), dogs with massive Facebook followings (Boo, who boasts two million fans and has inspired a book on his life), celebrity dogs who have their own fans (Jonathan Ross’s French Bulldog Mr Snowball, who regularly Tweets ‘Woof’) and dogs who rule supreme as the kings of bling (David Walliams and Lara Stone’s beloved puppy Bert donned a tuxedo for Elton John’s White Tie & Tiara Ball). There are even dogs who get their hair dyed this season’s on-trend hue, hot pink (Emma Watson’s dog Darcey).
It’s not just celebrities. Last month Bella the Bichon Frise made headline news after her teenage owner Laura Benion lavished £800 of presents on her for her third birthday. Bella’s gifts included a £375 Louis Vuitton collar and lead, a £735 Gucci dog carrier and an £80 perfume.
Laura, from Penkridge, Staffordshire, is an extreme example, but although families are saving money by avoiding the pub or eating out during this recession, their spending on pets — especially dogs — remains unchanged.
The Pet Food Manufacturers Association found that in 2011, 36 percent of pet owners cut back on eating out, 25 percent on clothes shopping, and 24 percent on holidays. This compared to only six percent who cut down on treats for their furry friends.
Dr Caroline Schuster, a chartered psychologist, says: “What’s changed are the levels of isolation in society — which means that for many, dogs are substitute friends.
“People are more technology-driven now, so instead of meeting in wine bars or chatting after work, many adults return home alone and then converse through social media.
“They want someone to actually talk to — that someone is their dog. Plus, financial constraints and career pressures mean many women are delaying motherhood until later — in the meantime, their dogs are like children.”
Lucy Kennedy, owner of Happy Dogs Behavioural Centre in Notting Hill, London, has seen a huge change in the way that dogs are treated by owners.
She says: “Dogs have become an extension of who you are, what you wear, and how you live your life.
“The biggest example is the changes in dog walking. A decade ago, it was something done by slightly dotty old ladies. Today, it’s big business, with people demanding the very best for their dogs.
“I know one German Shepherd who lives in Knightsbridge and sleeps on his very own Fendi rug.
“Another is soon to sail around the Greek islands with his owners and I’ve just had him fitted with a customised life jacket and special non-slip suede boots designed for the teak decks.
“We’re opening a dog hotel in High Wycombe, which will include cameras so that pet owners can commune with their dogs on Skype from abroad. So many owners ring us from their holidays and ask to hold the phone to the dog’s ear, I know it will be popular,” says Lucy.
So there are dogs who Skype, dogs who blog, dogs who search the internet for the latest in must-have Mulberry styles. Pretty soon, there won’t be any time left for walkies … - Daily Mail