I started When Hounds Fly during the last recession, the 2008/2009 recession caused by the sub-prime mortgage collapse in the United States. At the time, I worked in sales for a large US technology firm. No one was hitting their quota, no one was buying, and the sales pipeline looked pretty grim. Hero one day, zero another. I found myself unemployed in late 2009.
A global recession was the perfect time to pursue dog training! Really! It was time to follow my passion. I had only owned a dog for about three years at the time (although I was forced to learn quickly, as my first dog was severely dog-reactive and had severe separation anxiety!) The same conditions that made it an easy decision for me to go all-in back in 2009 appear now in 2021. Here are two similarities:
Pet spending increases during recessions
In 2008, when people had less certainty in terms of earnings, spending, and budget, they held off on big purchases (expensive vacations and other luxuries). Instead, they targeted their spending to their pets. Rather than spending less on their pets (buying lower-cost food, reducing veterinary care, buying fewer toys and accessories), spending in these categories increased.
The “dog parent” generation
Millennials continue to trend toward having fewer kids (or delaying parenting). In place of children, millennials have more dogs. Survey after survey show that pet dog owners receive a lot of joy from spending on toys, treats, clothing, and experiences for their dogs. An important part of that satisfaction is investing time and money enriching their dogs’ quality of life, and training and mental stimulation are crucial parts of the enrichment equation.
Finally, here are two trends that are unique to 2021 that have the pet industry poised for even more growth than in previous recessions:
Work from home/work from anywhere
One common reason people delay getting a dog is that they must be away from home for long hours. In the past, that might have prevented people from getting a dog altogether or required a considerable budget for daytime care options (typically dog walkers or doggie daycares). With the recent shift to work-from-home/work-from-anywhere, this barrier has been removed for many people and has resulted in an increase in the demand for, adoptions of, and purchases of pet dogs.
The second unique characteristic of 2020 and 2021 is the continued reduction in global travel/tourism due to the pandemic. If you’re not going to be travelling around the world for 4-6 weeks this year or, possibly, the next two years, now may be the time to get that dog you’ve always wanted.
For all these reasons, I think it’s safe to say the demand for training and enrichment-related products and services for pet dogs is going to continue to grow into 2021 and beyond. If you’ve been thinking about a career change, now is the time to make the move.