Confessions of an overindulgent dog owner: ‘His dinners are more extravagant than mine!’ | And they call it puppy love
The 12th of February was a big day for Ted. It was his seventh birthday, so his friends gathered to celebrate. There were presents, toys, party snacks, and then, while everybody sang happy birthday to him, he was presented with a birthday steak.
Ted is not a small boy, you see, but a small dog – a spitz and chihuahua cross – and his owner, creative director Lauren Verge, loves to lavish him. “He’s completely spoiled,” she confesses. “But he has the best life ever. He’s just the most loved, happiest dog.”
Verge has had Ted since he was a puppy and it was love at first sight. “He was the most adorable thing you’ve ever seen – he was the size of my hand, and straight away he was my little fur baby.”
When Ted came to live with Verge in Clapton, east London, she tried to create a perfect world for him. “I bought everything you can imagine: a really fancy designer bed – that he immediately peed in, and then refused to sleep in. Then, a matching designer jacket that cost about £50 that he refused to wear. I’ve bought him so many things that I’ve ended up giving to charity because he won’t use them!”
But Ted’s certainly become accustomed to other trappings of luxury life, such as his Burberry scarf and high-end Japanese food. “I spoil him absolutely rotten with food and often he’ll have a mini, dog-friendly version of what I’m having,” she says. “He’s also obsessed with sushi so, if I have it, he has to have some too – his favourite is tuna and salmon rolls. I realise how ridiculous this sounds – his dinners are more extravagant than mine!”
Then there’s the pampering sessions and £60 haircuts, more than Verge spends on her own hair. She also spares no expense on holidays, which she always arranges with Ted in mind. “I take him everywhere with me – last year we went to Zurich. He can’t go on the plane, so instead of a two-hour flight, I did a 16-hour car journey, which ended up being so expensive, but it was worth it,” she says. “It was Christmas, he was so happy to be there and it wouldn’t have been the same without him. I even bought him a little fake sheepskin coat to wear on top of the mountain.”
If you’re thinking this must be putting a serious dent in Verge’s finances, you’re not wrong. “It all costs a bloody fortune,” she says. “Especially with the cost of living crisis. But honestly, I would rather spend my money on him, than me. I want him to have the best things because I love him – he’s like my child.”
According to Clare Hemmings, scientific communications manager at pet food manufacturer Royal Canin, Verge might be going a little overboard in her spending on Ted. “There’s quite a few things here that are unnecessary,” she says. “The haircuts instantly jump out as expensive, so if you have to do it every few weeks, and you’re not looking for show quality, it’s more cost-effective to do it yourself. Certainly, chihuahuas don’t need haircuts. Obviously, if you have a poodle or a similar breed then this needs to be done professionally due to their continually growing hair – which is prone to matting – but, generally, grooming them daily is a nice interaction.”
And, unsurprisingly, Hemmings doesn’t recommend feeding sushi to dogs. According to research, it’s estimated that 65% of dogs are overweight – which can lead to health issues or shorten life expectancy. “Humans have about 9,000 tastebuds and dogs only have about 1,700, so they don’t have a very strong sense of taste,” she says. “From our side, it’s the emotionality of giving the treat that is important. We’re saying: ‘I love you’ every time we do that, whereas for a dog, they’ll just take whatever you give them and regular tuna sushi could even cause mercury poisoning, particularly in a tiny dog like Ted.”
Since 1968, Royal Canin has created food that is scientifically nutritious and endorsed by vets. When it comes to dogs, the food is specifically tailored to the animal’s age, size and breed, so dog owners can rest easy knowing their dogs are getting everything they need, and that they don’t have to splurge on more expensive, unnecessary extras.
Hemmings explains that food is the most important thing to invest in. “The biggest key is to feed the animal a proper diet that’s suited to them, which contains the right amount of calories, and of particular importance is feeding puppy food to puppies, since they have very different nutritional needs to adult dogs,” she says. “Lots of people may accidentally overfeed as they just scoop the food out with a cup, but if every meal is weighed out accurately on digital scales, your bag of food will last the maximum time and you’ll ensure your animal gets the right nutrition. Owners of overweight animals spend significantly more on veterinary care. So feeding the right food, at the right time, in the right quantity will end up being better value in the long run.”
It’s food for thought, says Verge. “Laying out all my costs like this, I can definitely see a few ways to trim my budget. I hadn’t thought of feeding Ted as an exact science, but it does make sense, especially if it can increase life expectancy. I also didn’t know that dogs have fewer tastebuds than humans, so perhaps it’s time to keep the sushi for myself!”
As for spoiling dogs with material goods, most of this is just for human gratification. Hemmings reminds us that once sufficient care has been taken to provide dogs with the correct type and amount of food, the best thing we can lavish our animals with is time and attention, something that Verge clearly does in droves. “I thought it was so sweet that she went on a 16-hour car journey with her dog,” says Hemmings. “I’ve done similar so I can take my dog on holiday with me, so that’s always a good thing. Spending time connecting and simply playing with our dogs is the way they truly want to be indulged.”
To see how Royal Canin could help your dog in an efficient and economical way, visit royalcanin.com/uk for more details