Puppies replacing people – is that a thing?

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You may have seen a piece over on Quartz a couple weeks ago, linking the decrease of babies being born with the increase of small dogs in American families. It’s an interesting read, but it got me thinking: Is this a thing?

While the Quartz author argues that it likely is a thing, data from our corner of the country doesn’t seem to support the theory. Here’s what Quartz editor Roberto A. Ferdman has to say about the phenomenon:

It could just be a coincidence that Americans are birthing fewer babies at the same time as they’re buying a lot more little dogs. But there’s pretty good reason to believe it isn’t, Damian Shore, an analyst at market-research firm Euromonitor, told Quartz. “There’s definitely some replacement happening there,” he said.

One telling sign that the two are not entirely unrelated is that the same age groups that are forgoing motherhood are leading the small dog charge. “Women are not only having fewer children, but are also getting married later. There are more single and unmarried women in their late 20s and early 30s, which also happens to be the demographic that buys the most small dogs,” Shore said.

There’s also evidence people are treating their dogs a bit more like little humans these days. Premium dog food, the most expensive kind, has grown by 170% over the past 15 years, and now accounts for 57% of of the overall dog food market.

Interesting. Very interesting, in fact. But while this may be taking place in cities and communities with small homes and yards, you’re actually pretty hard-pressed to find a large number of small dogs in Southwestern Connecticut. Last year, we looked at registration information for 16,797 around our region and found that Labrador Retrievers are far and away the most popular dogs in our area. They’re followed up by Golden Retrievers in the No. 2 spot:

While Labs make up 11.6 percent of the dog population in Southwestern Connecticut, the first true “small dog” on the list is a Shih Tzu, which only accounts for 1.8 percent of the total. Chihuahuas come in second for small dogs, accounting for 1.5 percent. So the small dog phenomenon as a whole just isn’t something we’re seeing here.

But that’s only part of the Quartz theory. What about the idea that places with fewer young children will have more smaller dogs? We processed dog and children data for nine Southwestern Connecticut towns and cities (Darien; Ridgefield; Westport; Bridgeport; Oxford; Stamford; Milford; Danbury; and Norwalk) to see whether towns with more small dogs had fewer kids under the age of 10.

They didn’t.

For instance, Bridgeport had the highest concentration of Shih Tzus of all nine towns. But it also had the second highest concentration of kids who are 9 and younger, at 14.9 percent of the population. We saw that kind of correlation all throughout the data sets.

So when asking whether puppies replacing people in Southwestern Connecticut is really a thing, it seems the answer is no.

Maggie Gordon