I’ve just returned from LA where you can’t move for diamond-dripping, hot-pant clad, designer-perfumed… dogs. My bulldog might dine on roast dinners and occasionally have ear candling, but the level of pooch pampering on the pavements of Beverly Hills surprised even me.
La la land’s dog owners can buy a Ralph Lauren polo shirt for their poochinista, a mobile phone or a flight on Pet Airways — meaning Rover travels in the cabin rather than the cargo hold. They can even book their hound a therapy session with TV’s Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan.
We would never advocate anthropomorphising our canine companions, but the more they hang around us, the more like us they do seem to become. Psychologist Paul Rozin discovered that a dog’s palate can change and they can learn to like unusual foods if they dine with their owners. While stray dogs in Mexico wouldn’t touch spicy sauce, Rozin found that cosseted pets, which habitually sat near their owners at meal times, learned to love it.
And dogs can be good for our health. Studies have shown that people with pets tend to live longer, have lower blood pressure and lower stress levels. They also tend to be in better physical condition — researchers in New Zealand have suggested that regular dog walking is responsible for this.
Pet therapy is also becoming popular. Dogs, and cats, can offer comfort and companionship for people in hospitals, hospices and care homes, and special needs schools. With NHS cuts looming, perhaps we’ll see more of man’s best friend padding along hospital wards — or at least providing a therapeutic nose to pat during a difficult or stressful time.