Science Says You Should Stop Buying Gifts For Humans And Shop For Your Dog Instead

Quick question: do you love spoiling your dog?

C’mon. We all know the answer here is a resounding “DUH!” Even if they can’t say thank you, and sometimes they don’t get as excited as we hoped over a new toy or treat, it fills our hearts with joy like nothing else to give our dogs a simple gift. It isn’t just you who feels this way, either. Science has once again come through to back up the warm-fuzzy feelings our dogs give us with actual proof.

Do we need science to tell us our dogs make us happy? No.

Do we need it to tell us we love our dogs more than anything? Nope.

Either way, I love when researchers discover this kind of thing and show that our love for our dogs is more than magic – it’s a solid, tangible fact.

So many of us consider our dogs to be family, and it’s a known fact that we spend LOTS of money on our pets. We even say silly things like, “I work hard, so my dog can have nice things.” And it’s true. Pet parents in the United States alone spent nearly 100 billion dollars on their fur family in 2020 despite unemployment skyrocketing.

These observations led doctorate student Michael White at Columbia University to ask a question we never really considered – do we spend because we have to, or do we spend because we love it?

White’s manuscript, titled “Give a Dog a Bone: Spending Money on Pets Promotes Happiness,” notes that it has been previously proven that we lucky pet lovers get a ton of health benefits from our dogs. (Read about some of them in 9 Scientific Reasons Your Life Is Better With A Dog.) Further, his team points out that there are ways that humans can give their own moods a boost. We do it all the time when we do things like meditate, exercise, or count our blessings. There is also proof that spending our hard-earned cash on the ones we love makes us happy, too. And who could we love more than our dogs? These conclusions led White to consider whether dog lovers buy presents for their pups on purpose because it gives a boost to our mood.

“Although pet owners may choose to purchase gifts for their pets for a variety of reasons, discretionary spending on pets appears to be aligned with many intentional activities to boost happiness. First, people are happier when they spend on strong ties (e.g., friends, family) than weak ties (e.g., strangers, acquaintances) (Aknin et al., 2011). Pets can be conceived of as strong ties, as most people view their pets as family (McConnell et al., 2017), feeling as close to their pets as their siblings (McConnell et al., 2011; McConnell et al., 2019). “

Based on this information, White’s team thought it was possible that spending money on a pet would make people happier than spending money on themselves. They conducted two different studies to find out.

Get a toy, give a toy. $5.34

Is it really better to give to our pets than receive?

In the first experiment, 149 people who had pets were randomly asked to remember a time they spent about $5 on either themselves, their pets, or another person. Those who recalled spending money on themselves said they tended to buy themselves snacks or drinks. Those who were assigned to think of a time they spent on another person said they bought small gifts for friends or family. The others who remembered buying something for their pet said they bought toys, treats, or outfits. Each participant was asked to remember the event in as much detail as possible. Then they were then asked to fill out a survey about how happy they felt in their life.

Though all the participants had pets of their own, those who had just been thinking of a time they had bought something for their dog or cat reported feeling overall happier than the others who had just been thinking of spending money on themselves or other humans.

Score 1 for the furbabies!

In the second experiment, 200 pet owners were recruited during rush hour at a commuter train station in Chicago. Each participant was given an envelope with $5 inside and instructions to spend it on either themselves, their pet, or another person before 8 PM that night, then fill out a survey that would be emailed to them that evening.

Those who spent their money on themselves typically bought themselves food. The participants spending money on others made small donations or bought sweets or snacks for someone else. The people who bought something for their pets reported buying their furbabies new toys or treats. (12 participants were excluded for spending the money in a way they had not been instructed.)

When the data was collected and studied, it was found there was no difference in reported happiness between the people who used the money for themselves and the ones who used the money for other people. However, the people who spent money on a pet did report feeling happier than the other groups. Among those, the ones who had already given their pet a gift felt even happier than those who had not given it yet.

If you’re keeping count, that’s two for our pets now!

The researchers concluded that people could feel happier and stay happier by changing their activities even if their circumstances aren’t great. Pet parents have an advantage because now there’s some proof that spending a little money here and there on your pup can improve your wellbeing.

“Buying their pet a gift might not turn a sad pet owner into a happy one, but our findings suggest an opportunity for pet owners to experience greater happiness.”

How to make the most of your gift for your dog – with more scientific proof.

Based on the above research, it’s probable that you feel best giving a gift when you’re giving one to your dog. So why not just head down to your local pet store and pick something up? I bet you knew this was coming but seriously – hear me out. Giving a gift to your pet feels best when you do it from iHeartDogs. Three reasons:

Reason one: you’re saving lives

It’s another no-brainer, but science has also proven that it feels good to donate. Not only that, but it never stops feeling good, no matter how many times you’ve done it. Consider this: eating your favorite food every single day may sound like a great idea at first, but after just a little while, you don’t get the same joy out of it. You may even start to hate it. (I’ll never let go, mac n’ cheese.)  But research has shown that giving gives you the same mood boost every time.

When you shop from iHeartDogs, you’re not just giving your dog a gift. You’re giving a shelter dog who doesn’t have a human of their own a gift too. Through a partnership with Greater Good Charities, just one purchase turns into high-quality, nutritious food for a shelter that may be struggling financially. Or a blanket for a dog who doesn’t have a human to snuggle up with. Or a toy for a pup who has never had anything new and needs to pass the time in a shelter kennel.

Buy a blanket, give a blanket to a shelter dog.

Shelters in need can take in more homeless pets when they’re receiving food and supplies they don’t have to spend their own funds on. You can see the impact you make from real reports we get back from the shelters, who are thankful for your support. That’s double the warm-fuzzy feelings when you choose to give your dog a gift from

Reason two: dogs love this stuff and it keeps them healthy

We’ve all given our dogs a toy or treat that they just didn’t care for. I know Ziggy doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings by turning his nose up at my gifts, but he doesn’t even pretend to like some of them. (Thanks a LOT, Zig.)

iHeartDogs has a variety of cool stuff for your pup, and we have real reviews from other dogs – or their parents anyway. You know what I mean.

We carry things we really believe in and that we hope will make your life with your pup better. We have toys for dogs that love to chew and help keep their teeth clean. There are supplements that will help boost your dog’s health but look and taste like a delicious treat. Dogs (including my pup) go NUTS for our all-natural Happy Healthy Food Toppers. Ziggy loves seeing the bag, and the moment his bowl hits the floor, the food is GONE.

1 pack feeds 7 shelter dogs!

Reason number three: pre-parcel anxiety (and excitement) is real. 

It’s so easy to walk into a store and pick something squeaky or crinkly off a shelf. You make your purchase. You give it to your dog. You bask in the warm glow for a moment, and that’s that.

Shopping online doesn’t happen this way. You have to check your email every few hours to see if you have a tracking number. Then, when you get the information, you check that tracking number repeatedly because … is it here yet? (Hint: it’s not.) You get that rush of a reward when you see your package has moved and again when you hear the truck around the corner. Finally, there’s the knock of the delivery man and at long last, you hold your package in your hands.

The science behind pre-parcel anxiety hasn’t been tested, but you know if you’ve felt it. (🙋🏻‍♀️) It’s definitely anxiety, but it’s also a fun kind of excitement that can last daaaayyys. You’re not alone in getting excited for a package you just ordered to arrive. It’s called “pre-parcel anxiety,” and I will sometimes order things I don’t even need just to track them and feel the anticipation of “when is it gonna get here?!” As soon as I get my package and its journey is over, I’m so tempted to put in another order for anything just to feel that sweet, sweet biochemical rush.

We’re super proud of our team for the speed at which they process orders and the care they put into every single package they ship out. Sometimes, our CED (Chief Executive Dog), Splash, will even slip a little extra gift into a random package as a thank you! Prolong the excitement of giving your dog a little something if you’re shopping for your furbaby anyway. Consider getting them something great from the iHeartDogs store and spend a few days clicking the refresh button over and over on the tracking website while you wait for your package to get to your door.

Whether you shop from iHeartDogs or not (but totally if you do), spoiling your dog will always be a good idea. So don’t shy away from throwing that doggy birthday party, or stuffing a stocking at Christmas for your precious pup, or giving “just because” presents as often as you want. Don’t listen to the people who tell you you’re a crazy dog parent – you and your pup are both just living your best lives.



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