Man’s best friend. Four-legged friends. Fur babies.
Whatever you may call them, the role that dogs play in people’s lives has come a long way since the early days of their domestication, over 15,000 years ago. They’ve become family members, and they’re now loved like our children.
I recently learned that February was Dog Training Education Month, so I thought I’d take a closer look at dog training in this era of “pet parents.”
According to the ASPCA, there are roughly 80 million dogs owned in America, and nearly half of all U.S. households have at least one dog. The pet industry is second only to the healthcare industry when it comes to growth over the past 20 years. It’s a nearly $70 billion industry.
So, take all of these factors—dogs being treated as children, the consistently increasing pet spend levels, and the immense number of dogs owned in the U.S.—and you’d think that dog training must be a staple for all of these pet parents. Not so.
The question is why? According to Rob Steinberg, Co-Founder of Puptimize, an app that provides free expert dog training and product recommendations, it comes down to three very clear reasons: knowledge, cost, and time.
According to Puptimize’s research, 77% of all dog owners do no training at all, with over half citing one of the three factors above as the main reason why. The interesting thing, though, is that their research also showed that nearly 80% of all dog owners want to train their dogs.
There’s a real disconnect there.
“We know how many people want to train their dogs, but they just don’t know where to begin. Professional trainers are great, but most people can’t afford that option,” said Steinberg. “So a small percentage do that—less than 10%. A bit more choose to do group training, but once they leave the class, the knowledge tends to break down because people don’t have the time to put together a plan to maintain what they learned. Books are full of useful information, but are typically overwhelming and not easy to act on.”
So, that brings us back to the point about the vast majority of dog owners doing no training at all. This may not seem like an issue for anyone other than those individual dog owners (and perhaps those in their immediate vicinity), but this actually has pretty major implications for all of us.
The ASPCA says that an average of 4 million dogs end up in shelters each year. That costs U.S. taxpayers an average of $2 billion each year. And while a fair number of these dogs simply got lost, the impact of training—or lack thereof—is felt here, too.
A study conducted at the Ohio State University found that the top reason why the study’s shelter dogs were given up was that their owners couldn’t handle the dogs’ bad behavior.
Puptimize's mission is to help reduce the number of dogs given up or given away. Their app and training is free, because they believe they can accomplish that mission by making it easy for anyone to raise a great dog.
“We believe that by creating a world full of confident, educated pet parents and healthy, well-behaved dogs, we can help end the tragic cycle of canine abandonment,” says Steinberg.
“We know the main barriers for people to train their dogs now is a lack of knowledge, no time to find that knowledge, and/or no ability to spend the money that it usually takes to effectively train a dog. So we made it free, we made it fun, and we made it easy.”
If a dog is man’s best friend, people need to be better friends to their dogs. Training will make the life of the dog owner more enjoyable, and it could actually save the life of the dog.