In pet consumer dynamics part 1 I highlighted an awesome industry study which corroborated stuff we already knew (people often think of pets as human and because of that it is easy for us to assimilate life stage needs in human terms for our pets).


Part 2 is a continuation of that thought … plus.



Plus … plus an actual idea.




And what drove the “plus” was when Wall Street Journal ran a large article on “pet health & wellness” which inspired me to write about behavior (one of my favorite topics).


The headline:



“When man’s best friend is obese.

Pets are getting Fatter; Owners find it Tricky to Count Calories.”


It points out that new data indicates more than half of U.S. dogs & cats are now overweight or obese (Association for Pet obesity Prevention).

Quote from article:

“Owners are unaware of the severe, and costly, health problems cause by excess weight.

Including diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure and cancer.”

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Another quote:


“People’s idea of what constitutes a fat pet often differs from clinical reality.

A study by Pfizer’s Animal Health business showed that 47% of veterinarians felt their canine patients were obese while only 17 % of dog owners agreed.”


(I will point out the obvious and simply state that if you replace dogs & cats & owners with people – you, me, whomever – then you will have an article about the U.S. obesity issue that appears in papers every day).






Basically the article points out that pets are frickin’ people. We are dealing with the exact same issue.




Maybe it points out a very common sense issue … our pets become us.




People are getting fat. Their pets are getting fat.




I cannot be the only rocket scientist to see this.



Bottom line on the ‘pet obesity issue’?


Pets aren’t the problem.

We are the problem.

People are the problem.




Now pet companies are gonna run around developing pet diets and exercise programs and that will be all well and good (and probably sell a shitload of stuff that owners will buy to ‘help their pet’s obesity’).



But the problem is us.  The humans.



If we won’t change.  If we cannot change.

Our pets will not change.



Really? (you may be saying)



I always remember what my dog trainer said to me when my border collie and I appeared at our first training session … she said “look, this is how it works, this training is really about you. Because if we can train you well … your pet will do what you want it to do.”



Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm …. Go ahead.  Read that again.

And think about this pet obesity thing.



“If we cannot train you well your pet will be poorly trained”


(you may not be able to see all the words between the lines but it really says ‘if you insist on being overweight your pet will be overweight.’)


So going back to the good ole pet companies.


I feel sorry for them.


They will develop the best programs and most effective diet foods and some brilliant marketing partners will develop some brilliant insightful marketing and sell a shitload of the stuff … and they will fail in the end.


(Ok …  Rather than just rant on this issue I am going to offer a solution)



In my mind.


The pet company who will win in the end (and truly address the issue and possibly have a chance of solving this identified pet obesity issue) will develop a dual focused program.



A program in which they partner with some human health institute or nutritionist experts and address the owner and pet problem at the same time.


looking at each other dog

Sound complicated?




Sound effective?

You bet.




Cause if we truly want to impact pet obesity we need to address owner (human) obesity.





I will say this one more time (just to emphasize it).



When working in the industry time and time again we saw (in Pet research) pets taking on the characteristics of their owners.  The depth and breadth of that link was clearly defined by the strength of the owner/pet bond and when the bond occurred it occurred with an inextricable linkage.



Obesity is exactly the same.


I admit.



It was a crazy feeling reading the pet obesity WSJ article in that it was a human article – just using the word pet.



In the end I guess I wrote this because I am a dog lover.


And I love animals in general.



And I would love it if this obesity issue really could be resolved.




And I don’t think pet foods and pet companies can do it just by focusing on the pet. In fact I truly believe in my heart of hearts that plan of action is doomed for failure.




Because we are talking about a behavioral shift.




And behavior shifts take some emotional energy to succeed.  Not just planting the right food down in a bowl an saying “eat this.” (doesn’t work for humans why should we expect it to work for pets?)





If I could talk with a pet food company they may think I am nuts but I would be bring a Blue Cross Blue Shield national rep with me or some national human dietician expert or someone like that and begin the presentation by showcasing the “owner & pet partnership nutritional program to address obesity.”




And you know what?



I bet I would have nutritional expert-like companies and people lining up to join me in that meeting.





Cause (going back to the beginning) pets are like our children and family.


And who is the biggest influencer on adult & family behavior?



(I have sourced this point so many times in other behavior change articles I have written that I refuse to source it here)




Why are children so influential?



It ain’t pester power. It is because they generate true emotional energy to inspire true behavioral change.




dog hug happy

I believe pets can influence adult behavior just as well as children (ok, well, not ‘as well’ but they could effectively impact owner behavior). C’mon. What owner wouldn’t be tempted to change their own unhealthy behavior if they understood it could positively impact their pet’s lives? Well.  Maybe not all. But sure as shit a bunch would.  And it would sure as shit increase the likelihood a pet obesity initiative would have better results.




And I can almost guarantee sure as shit if the owner resolves their own weight issue their pet’s weight issue will closely follow.

And what does that mean? Sure as shit a healthier household. And a less overweight owner & pet and a happier pet & owner for god’s sake.

thought for soldier and dog



To all the doubters out there on the health bond between pet & owner (in both directions) just check out the AP article from England that was recently published.




It is a heart wrenching story about UK soldier and his springer spaniel bomb sniffing dog partner.


The soldier died in a fire fight.



The dog died hours later of a “fatal seizure” back at the base near the side of his friend the soldier.



Take a moment and think about that.



I don’t know if clinically that is dying of a broken heart and the proof a health bond …. but it comes damn close.





I am done.



If I were overweight and had an overweight dog?


I would join a dual program if it gave me two or three more years of enjoying a healthy best friend.nose dog hands




I would GLADLY have joined any frickin’ program if you could have told me it would have given me two more years of running and playing with a healthy border collie.



So, pet companies, think about that.


(just my cent and a half).

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Written by Bruce