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The role of the Human-Animal Bond in the Pet Industry

HumanAnimal Bond Blog

The human/animal bond has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Pets were loved and well cared for but would have been described as “just” a pet, something separate from the family. Over the past two decades, pets have moved from our backyards to our back porches to our beds.

Every time a survey is done, the number of Canadians who view their pet as a member of the family grows. As the relationship we share with our pets deepens, a new answer was added to pet ownership surveys, Canadians can now choose “infant in the family” when asked to describe their pet, and 26% of Canadians do!

What does this mean for the pet industry? The increased bond between owners and their pets and the subsequent humanization of pets is changing the industry. Engaged, dedicated owners are doing their own research. They are taking an active role in all aspects of their pets’ lives, and they’re seeking the best for their beloved furry family members.

The history of the HAB
The study of the bond between people and pets is not new. The term “human-animal bond” was first coined in the 1960s by Austrian zoologist ethologist Konrad Lorenz, and in 1981 the AVMA launched a Human-Animal Bond taskforce.

Today we have gained a much deeper understanding of the role of the HAB, including the benefits pets can bring to people with therapy dogs, service dogs, training programs in correctional centres, and the general decrease in stress that we see when people spend time with animals.

The role of the HAB
Pets are playing an increasingly important role in people’s lives, and consequently, owners are willing to do whatever necessary to provide their pets with the best possible life. The Human-Animal Bond Research Institute found that:

  • 51% of owners are willing to pay for pet insurance to provide their pet with the best care
  • 92% are interested in preventative medicine to keep their pet healthy
  • 88% of pet owners want to provide their pets with the best nutrition

As the most extensive pet ownership segment, Millennials believe that pets are part of the family is as ingrained in their lives as social media – ubiquitous. As pets’ humanization increases, so do trends of owners seeking premium products, preventative care, and specialized merchandise for their pets.

1. Premium Pet Foods
The pet food market, including complete diets and treats, has had a rapid evolution from cost-effective “leftover” ingredients to premium products boasting human-grade, organic, minimally processed, and whole-food options. Owners are avidly reading ingredient lists to avoid certain ingredients and find others. Pet parents are often shopping for pet food that mirrors their own nutritional philosophy and approach.

Pet owners are also committed to finding the best food for their pets; there is a growing balance and understanding of the need to have science, safety, and quality with appealing ingredients.

2. Pet Food Technology
Beyond the diets themselves, the HAB’s deepening is reflected in how pet owners are feeding their pets. Pet food technology includes smart bowls that measure weight to ensure accurate feeding, video cameras to allow pet owners to interact remotely with their pet and deliver treats, and training aids that enable owners to release a reward at a distance.

3. Social Media
Pets have gone from making regular appearances on their owner’s social media feeds to having their own pages and accounts. Pets with impressive social followings are regularly approached to be brand ambassadors.

As more owners interact on social media on behalf of their pets, there are opportunities for pet-related businesses to connect with owners on a deeper level. It is critical for pet product businesses and manufacturers to be present online and ready and willing to interact with owners.

The HAB continues to evolve, deepen, and strengthen, Canadian pet owners will be increasingly focused on finding the best for their pets. We can help you market to these dedicated owners, showing the benefits of your products and services. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you evolve your approach.

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