Martyn Moore, content editor for Made in Britain tells us what his four-legged friend, Honey, means to him and explains how the variety of British dog products have grown in the last few years.
It’s hard to put into words how much I love my dog. Her name is Honey and she’s a red fox Labrador. She’s also 12 years-old and as she slows down and sleeps most of the day, I’ve started to try to imagine what life will be like without her. I can’t.
Like so many fathers of daughters, I ended up with a dog by default. As my daughter grew up and left school, who was left to do the walking and feeding and grooming and clearing up the mess? Me. And I wouldn’t have missed a second of it. Honey is the most loyal friend I have ever had and by far the best-behaved.
For most of her 12 years I have been self-employed, working out of a shed in my garden. Honey has a bed in there and I spend more time with her than any other living being.
But she has also done wonders for my social life. Most of my friends these days are fellow dog owners. I meet lots of them and over time we get to know all about each other’s lives. At first, Phil was just known as “Bentley’s dad” and it was ages before I found out Alfie’s mum was called Jan. Not their real dad and mum, of course.
Honey has kept me fit, with two walks a day, and yet still she makes my heart skip when she wags her tail and cocks her head to one side when she sees me with her lead in my hand. My dad felt the same about his collie-cross, Ben. And Ben was my sister’s dog, to start with.
One way to pay back a dog’s unconditional love is to spoil it with good quality food, bedding, winter coats and toys and Honey has been spoiled rotten. Her orthopaedic mattress was hand-made in Scotland and is as comfy as my own made-in-Yorkshire bed.
Britain’s pet product industry has grown as a result of our national love of dogs. Collectively, we own nine million of them. According to Mintel, in 2015 UK owners spent £10 billion on their dogs and that will have shot up during the pandemic.
Made in Britain, the member organisation for UK manufacturers, has seen significant growth in 2020-21 and its product directory now features everything a dog-lover might need from dog food, kennels, grooming products, beds, clothes, agility tunnels and toys. Even those who have to sadly say goodbye to a four-legged friend are catered for, thanks to Pets Remembered, who make sympathetic pet tributes including caskets, jewellery and headstones, and whose business has flourished since the start of the pandemic, with competitors struggling to obtain stock from overseas. Manufacturers of pet products in Britain are proud to tell the world where they are making them.
There’s something very satisfying about buying a dog bed that is made in Britain. For a start, it gives me the confidence that it is safe. It will be well-made from the best materials. Also, it hasn’t had to be shipped halfway around the world, so it’s good for the environment. And the place that’s making it is employing people, so it’s good for the economy. Hugo and Otto, who offer British-made luxury dog beds, recognise such sentiments amongst many of their customers who are keen to buy quality, handmade goods, care about sustainable business practices such as low carbon footprint and want to keep British makers and manufacturing alive.
Of course, this doesn’t just apply to dog beds; it’s the same for dog food, shampoo, coats and hand-made toys like those from MisHelenEous. And I don’t even mind if they cost a little bit more. Honey is worth every penny and so is the planet.
I think the challenges faced by the British dog product industry are similar to other sectors, if perhaps offset by the growth in dog ownership. But there will have been problems with supply. A shortage of your dog’s favourite food is a real problem if he or she has specific dietary requirements. Pet stores have enjoyed ‘essential shop’ status during lockdown, although I’m sure the sector has seen a big switch to online purchases and home deliveries.
There has been a big increase in the number of people getting dogs – according to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 2.1 million young adults in the UK have collected a new pet during lockdown. One neighbour told me that the dog he had reserved just three weeks ago had gone up in price from £1,500 to £3,000. He was told that this is what the market values black Labs at and he doesn’t have any signed paperwork to protect him.
The RSPCA is particularly worried about what will happen when fewer people are on furlough or working from home. I hope people have thought about the long-term commitment that is dog ownership. I hope they continue to treat them well and buy them lots of British-made products.