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Millennial couples get puppies to ‘practice having babies’

Millennial dog ownership is on the rise as many seek to develop parenting skills, with more than two million young couples getting a puppy to prepare them for having a baby.

New research from online pet food retailer,, revealed 67% millennials believed looking after a dog was good practice for parenthood. Some 32% of young pet parents regarded their dog as their son or daughter and 62% admitted they loved them as much as their family.

As a result, today’s generation of pups are reaping the rewards of doting first-time ‘paw-rents’, with half receiving Christmas and birthday presents, 44% enjoying birthday celebrations and 16% getting their own bedroom. A further 37% are allowed to sleep in their owner’s bed.

With 74% of young adults agreeing that looking after a puppy can be just as demanding as looking after a baby, many first-time dog owners share similar experiences to new parents. In the first year of getting a pup, 48% would check on them during the night,34% took time off work to look after them and a similar number dropped them off at pup school daily.

Proud young dog owners have also been guilty of ‘sharenting’ – the act of over-sharing news and pictures of kids online. Some 39% said they posted pictures of their pup on social media every day during the first year of getting them, following the example of many celebrity couples documenting their paw-renting journey.

Aside from the joys of becoming a dog owner, 31% also admitted that looking after their pup was harder than expected and 23% Googled concerns up to five times a day to help them know what to do. According to these millennials, the top three puppy pains include potty training (47%), obedience training (41%) and knowing the right foods to choose (35%).

The research also showed a shift in priorities, with young adults today far more likely to own a dog before starting a family compared to their parents (46% vs 27%). In line with this, companies are starting to offer workplace perks that suit this new generation’s needs.

Some 34% of 22-35 year olds work in an office that is dog friendly and 24% said their company offered pet-ernity leave (paid leave to look after new pets).

While millennials are using dog ownership as an opportunity to trial run starting a family, other factors leading them to choose puppies over babies include it’s less expensive to have a dog than a child (27%), it won’t impact career progression (26%) and it would be easier to manage if splitting up with a partner (13%).

To help new pet parents, is also launching a free puppy parenting course.

Stephanie Wenban, vet and wellbeing ambassador at, said: “Dogs bring so much joy to our lives and it’s great to see young people taking their pet parenting roles so seriously. However we understand how hard it can be, particularly in those early days, from knowing how to potty train your pup to making sure you’re meeting all their nutritional needs. Our new course is a great way to ease pet parent stress and provides expert advice to help you do the best by your pup.”

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