Puppy love? Recession fails to hit spending on our pets

Ice cream and tweed dog collars are all the rage, says Jane Bradley

Dog owners splashing out on increasingly weird and wonderful treats for their pets – including doggy ice cream and hand-woven Harris Tweed dog collars – despite the economic downturn.

A range of dog ice cream is to go on sale in Scotland for the first time next month – while upmarket pet accessory manufacturer Hennessy & Son has just announced a range of £67 dog collars made out of Scotland’s national cloth.

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Experts claim that people are happy to spend cash on their pets, even if the recession is forcing them to cut back elsewhere.

“The fundamental thing is that people love their pets,” said Simon James, shopping expert at Moneysupermarket.com. “For some people it is a member of their family and buying them treats is a way of showing affection. However, these are tough economic times and people need to be careful that they are sticking within a budget and not being tempted by extra presents for Tiddles or Rex.”

Dog ice cream brand Billy & Margot, which is to be launched at 11 branches of Dobbies Garden Centres across Scotland, is to be sold in two flavours – strawberry and apple and apple, banana and carrot – and is formulated to avoid ingredients such as milk, which can be harmful to dogs.

Company founder Marie Sawle created the ice cream after she found her dog, Billy, had a penchant for human ice cream, which she was worried was doing him harm.

“I wanted them to have the option to indulge without ingesting nasty chemicals,” she said. “Also, now I can eat my own ice cream without feeling guilty that they can’t have their own.”

“I am delighted to be joining forces with Marie Sawle to bring this innovative doggy treat to our customers,” said Duncan Kazakevics, pets and aquatics buyer for Dobbies. “I made the decision to introduce this unique product which I hope our dog-loving customers and canine counterparts will go barking mad for.”

And the new dog collars, made of the cloth which has previously attracted fans from pop star Madonna to Dr Who Matt Smith, is part of Hennessy & Son’s Premium Selection collection, which also includes ecological tanned Italian leather collars and leashes and collars embroidered with the Swiss flower Edelweiss.

“This exclusive item is handcrafted with the famous original Harris Tweed wool and uses French anti-allergic Alsavel lining,” the company said.

Also available for pampered animals are Barbour-branded dog coats – complete with leather logo – and “Pet Head” branded shampoo, made by top-end human hair cosmetic manufacturer Bed Head, but rebranded Pet Head and selling for almost £10 a bottle.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by Co-operative Pet Insurance found people planned to spend an average of £15.82 on their pets on Valentine’s Day – compared to £26.91 on partners.

Professor Leigh Sparks, head of retail studies at Stirling University, said that the amount pet owners were forced to spend on vets’ bills and insurance made the cost of otherwise pricy treats pale into insignificance.

“These things do seem expensive if you don’t have a pet,” he said. “But when you take into account how much vets’ bills can cost, in that context, do these things really seem that expensive? It means people are thinking differently about how they spend money when it comes to their animals.”