What is it with our love affair with dogs? It seems like if anything, Americans have only become more obsessed with their canine friends in recent years.
I suspect COVID has had more than a little something to do with that. After all, that long, painful period in 2020 (coming up on four years next month!) taught us a great deal about separation, anxiety, loneliness, and of course, companionship.
The statistics bear that out. The Washington Post reported in 2022 that north of 23 million American households – or one in five – adopted a furry friend during the throes of the pandemic.
Where do the numbers stand today? Forbes Advisor offers up the following numbers:
- Two-thirds (66%) of U.S. homes have a pet of one kind or another. That amounts to nearly 87 million households.
- Across all generations, dogs are the most popular pets, residing in more than 65 million households. In fact, Gen Zs are especially likely to own a dog.
- On average, it costs more than $1,500 each year to own a dog (includes boarding, vet care, and insurance).
- The pet economy is massive, led by dogs. Check out the annual spending on dogs (vs. cats), especially when you look at toys, grooming, and other discretionary expenses.
While the costs of owning a dog are skyrocketing, the other truth about the canine class is the fact that people of different backgrounds and socioeconomic status can agree on their love for dogs.
Most dog parents would readily admit they receive more than they give. Dogs humanize us, and teach us about unconditional love. On our worst days, our furry buddies are there to greet us, give us a lick, and jump happily around the place because we're home.
No matter your politics, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents can agree on their love for their dogs. In fact, Donald Trump was the first U.S. President in over 150 years not to have a dog running around the Rose Garden. Joe Biden reversed the trend, but his dogs have had chronic behavioral problems since he took the oath.
So, the popularity of dogs is indisputable. It's a trait that common threads so many listeners. And yet, most stations do not get particularly active promotionally with dogs – or their owners.
Thee are notable exceptions, of course. Just across Lake Michigan, Sherman & Tingle on WDRV/Chicago have made their annual “Operation: Santa Paws,” a staple of the show, raising money each holiday season on behalf of our four-legged pals.
Audience donations fund food, supplies, toys, vet visits and other expenses directed on behalf of homeless dogs. Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society is the recipient of Sherman & Tingle's fundraiser.
Back east, John DeBella hung up the headphones last year, capping an incredible career mostly in the Philly market. When the live action version of Disney's 101 Dalmatians came out, it created a problem in a lot of U.S. cities and towns because that breed is not for everybody.
As John explains, “Within six months of the movie's release, over 120 Dalmatians in the Philly area were put up for adoption. I started working with rescue and shelter groups long before it became popular. But this put me in high gear, and the ‘Dog Walk' was born.”
In the Philadelphia market, John made it an annual signature event at Classic Rocker WMGK, drawing a large population of canines and their accompanying humans. Need I remind you the latter group carries those little meters around?
And as John reminds us, “Someday, I hope to be the type of person my dog believes I am.”
I would be remiss if I didn't give massive canine props to perhaps the biggest advocate of dogs in all radio, WDHA programmer and host, Terrie Carr. She has done SO much on behalf of dogs, including this annual calendar:
In the world of radio, it is hard to go wrong with promotions, public service events, and fundraisers that revolve around dogs.
And that brings me to revenue generation, because you know it drives me nuts when radio leaves relatively easy money on the table. The numbers suggest many radio stations are in a position to sell a substantial amount of “doggie merch,” and in the process, raise money for worthwhile causes that support our furry buddies.
It seems like more and more – especially in cold climates – our canines are outfitted in often elaborate outfits and costumes. This is especially the case around holidays like Christmas, Halloween, and the Fourth of July. Creative owners need no excuses for decking out their dogs.
So, when a I saw a pictorial story in Loudwire the other day, it reminded me of merch opportunities. Writer Corey Irwin did the research on the story, and it's quite in-depth.
It turns out many Classic Rock bands – among them, the Beatles, Aerosmith, and Pink Floyd – sell officially licensed doggie duds.
If you want merch for other artists and groups, you often have to go the Etsy route. But fear not – a wide variety of performers have shared their logos with Fido, Lucy, and Cooper.
Below are a few of my favorites, but you can check out a wide array of band merch for dogs here. And if you want something personalized for your dog, there are literally thousands of artisans on Etsy ready to take your order.
I perused a number of online station stores looking for dog merch and came up empty. If your station offers them, post a photo here on my socials. There's a lot of “rock dogs” out there, and it would be nice to some of them sporting your station's logo.
Clearly, there's an opportunity for some brands and personalities who are all-in for dogs. Branded merch can be a great fundraising tool, and it's hard to imagine more buzzworthy clothing than this stuff.
Sadly, I did not run across doggie clothing for “Diamond Dogs,” “Black Dog,” or “Hounds of Love.”
But I'm still looking.
Who wants a treat?
Thanks for the reminder, Elnora.