By Cindy Dampier
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Purse-sized dogs paved the way, of course, but more and more medium and even large dogs are showing up in stores. It’s a new, doggier normal.
“I see a big dog,” the little girl said. She looked about 3, her pudgy legs swinging in the shopping-cart seat. Her feet were within easy sniffing range. But sniffing, we had agreed, was not allowed.
“Hmm,” her dad said, not turning around.
“He’s right behind you,” she offered. Her dad looked at his phone.
“I wonder,” she said to herself, “what he wants.”
Gus and I, standing behind them in line at The Container Store, exchanged glances. Obviously, little girl, he wants to purchase spiffy-yet-probably-overpriced organizational supplies. Why else would he be in line?
Like most dogs who find themselves shopping, Gus’ trip to The Container Store was less about what he wanted (treats, petting, a spot on the rug, a good stretch) than about what his human companion (that would be me) wanted. And dog-loving humans want to take our dogs with us. Everywhere.
According to a 2015 Harris poll, 95 percent of pet owners consider their pets members of the family. So much so, that it’s almost as easy to imagine strolling the aisles of a department store with your dog in tow as it is with your child in tow. And retail stores, spotting an opportunity (pet owners spent more than $69 billion on their animals in 2017, so they must have discretionary cash) are largely enabling the urge, allowing shoppers with dogs to get comfortable enough to hang out, and hopefully buy something.
Shopping dogs, who used to get an occasional welcome at more rough-and-tumble establishments like hardware stores, are now shopping for sofas at Pottery Barn and checking the shoes at Banana Republic (where savvy salespeople sometimes have a stash of dog treats waiting). Home Depot has gained an underground reputation as a spot for people to train their dogs for better socialization. Even Ikea, which does not allow pet dogs (though we’d argue that there’s no shopping experience more in need of emotional support) has nodded to dog owners with “dog parking” in some stores.