What generation were you born in? A timeline of the changing role of the family dog in Australian homes

What generation were you born in? A timeline of the changing role of the family dog in Australian homes

Did you ever stop to think about how the role of dogs in our lives has transformed over the years? I was born in 1989, and for much of my childhood the family dog (or dogs) were a huge part of our family, but it was a privilege for them to come inside the house. Fast forward to today where my 7 year old Frenchie Pepsi is pretty much my landlord.

Dog inside the house, dog clothes, dogs with 100k+ followers on instagram!

How did we get here?

The "Greatest and Silent" Generations: (1901 - 1945)

During the early to mid-20th century, dogs held a distinct and practical role within households of the Greatest and Silent Generations. They were valued as loyal companions and working partners. In an era marked by economic hardships and war, dogs provided comfort, security, and assistance to families.

For the Greatest Generation, dogs served as reliable working animals. They were versatile partners, aiding in herding livestock, guarding property, and assisting in hunting. Dogs were viewed as reliable and hardworking allies, supporting their human counterparts in their daily tasks and even during WWI and WWII.

In the Silent Generation, dogs continued to be cherished as loyal companions, but their roles expanded beyond work to becoming beloved family pets. They provided a sense of security and watchfulness in the home, serving as faithful protectors. Dogs were considered integral members of the family, even if their primary responsibilities were not work-related.

During both generations, the relationship between humans and dogs was based on mutual trust and companionship. Dogs played a crucial role in teaching responsibility, empathy, and care to children growing up during these times.

Meet Mutt the French Bulldog. His job was to deliver ciggies to soldiers in the trenches in WWI. The French Bullodg was first introduced to Australia following the end of WWII in 1945.
Meet Mutt the French Bulldog. His job was to deliver ciggies to soldiers in the trenches in WWI. The French Bulldog was first introduced to Australia following the end of WWII in 1945.

The Baby Boomers: (1946 - 1964)

The Baby Boomer generation witnessed a notable shift in the role of dogs within households. Dogs transitioned from primarily working animals to cherished family companions. During this era of post-war recovery and social change, dogs held a special place in the hearts of Baby Boomers.

In the aftermath of World War II, dogs played a significant role in providing comfort and companionship to families. Many Baby Boomers grew up hearing stories from their parents about the bond formed with war dogs, who served as loyal and courageous allies. These stories further solidified the deep appreciation for dogs and their unwavering loyalty.

For Baby Boomers, dogs became beloved family members and playmates. They were seen as sources of love, joy, and unconditional companionship. Dogs served as trusted confidants, offering solace during times of personal growth and societal change.

German Shepherd sitting in the backyard. Photo taken in Queensland in the 1950s

While the appreciation for dogs was growing and the relationships between humans and dogs were strengthening, there were still certain rules and restrictions regarding where dogs lived. During this generation, it was common for dogs to primarily reside outdoors in a doghouse or a designated area within the yard. Dogs had their spaces, often equipped with a bed or some blankets and shelter from the elements.

German Shepherd sitting in the backyard of the family home. Photo taken in Queensland in the 1950s

Generation X: (1965 - 1980)

Generation X carried on this significant shift in how dogs were perceived and treated within households. As this generation came of age, societal attitudes towards dogs began to change, leading to a deeper understanding of their emotional needs and a more inclusive approach to their place within the family.

During this time, dogs started to move away from being primarily seen as outdoor pets and shifted towards becoming integral members of the household. Generation X embraced the concept of dogs as cherished family members, fostering a stronger bond and blurring the lines between human and canine companionship.

This shift in attitudes towards dogs within Generation X set the stage for the evolving treatment and understanding of dogs in subsequent generations. The bond between humans and dogs became even stronger, with dogs being viewed as valued family members deserving of love, respect, and optimal care. The growth of the pet industry during this era reflected this changing perspective, with a surge in demand for pet products and services. Simultaneously, there was an increased recognition of the importance of veterinary care, ensuring dogs' overall health and well-being. Generation X played a crucial role in shaping the modern perception of dogs as cherished companions and family members, setting the foundation for the continued elevation of the human-dog relationship.

Two Aussie surfers with their dog at Yallingup Beach WA (1973-74)
Two Aussie surfers with their dog at Yallingup Beach WA (1973-74). Photo credit: www.surfingdownsouth.com.au

The Millennial Connection: (1981 - 1996)

As Millennials came of age, a profound connection emerged between this generation and our pet dogs. Millennials have developed a remarkable bond with our furry companions, characterised by unprecedented closeness and understanding and in some cases co-dependency. (I know I'm not the only only one here talking to my dog and nursing him like a newborn baby).

One key factor contributing to this unique bond is the Millennial mindset. With our focus on holistic well-being and work-life balance, Millennials have embraced the idea of dogs as more than just pets. We see our canine companions as essential emotional support, providing love, comfort, and companionship in an increasingly fast-paced and stressful world.  

The demands of work, socialising and responding to all those messages via all those many platforms vs the basic human instinctual need for love and affection is a never ending juggling act in this age. Having grown up in the revolution of technology are we burnt out by it? Has it pushed us closer to our pets?

In the age of the adult Millennial we have seen a significant shift in how we define our family unit. Be it choosing not to have children, views on marriage and being open about our sexuality and lifestyle. But what does have to do with how we treat our pupper? During the Baby Boomer generation (1946 - 1964) there were an average of 3 to 4 children per household. Fast forward to 2022 and that has dropped to 1.7 - 1.9 children per household. 28.1% of Millennial couples living in Australia will choose to not have children.

Enter the fur-baby.

The rise of social media and technology has played a significant role in shaping the Millennial-dog connection. Millennials are known for their active presence on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where they proudly showcase their dogs as the apple of their eye. This virtual community of dog lovers has provided a platform for sharing experiences, seeking advice, and celebrating the joys of pet ownership, fostering a sense of belonging and camaraderie among Millennial dog owners.

Did you know? That there are over 1 million active dog Instagram accounts in Australia alone?

Meet Gus (top/left) & Jake (bottom/right). These handsome fellas have full time jobs as Instagram Influencers and Brand Ambassadors. With an impressive 14k and 8k followers respectively you might have even seen them doing a DOG SHT unboxing, modelling for their partner brands and delivering quality content.
Credits: Instagram; @notorious.g.u.s & jake.the.jack

Here's 5 things a Millennial's dog has that no Gen X family dog had.

  1. Custom clothes and accessories
  2. An Instagram or TikTok account
  3. Therapeutic bedding
  4. Industrially produced human grade quality food
  5. Technology such as puppy-cams and airtags

Gen Z: (1997 - 2010)

Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age. With technology and social media shaping their worldview, Gen Z has followed in their predecessors footsteps in the creation of "petfluencers" and "dogstagrammers." They have an affinity for documenting their lives and sharing their dog's adorable moments with the world. This generation's love for dogs is expressed through engaging social media platforms, where they showcase their furry friends, raising awareness about dog-related causes, and advocating for animal rights.

Gen Z have shown a growing passion for animal welfare, environmental activism, and adopting vegetarian or vegan lifestyles. Trends indicate that this generation is indeed more inclined towards animal advocacy compared to previous generations. Not only are they naturally inclined to heavily involve their pet into their daily life but they're fighting a fierce fight for animal rights.

Generations Alpha, Beta & Beyond... (2011 - 2100)

As we look ahead to the future, it's intriguing to ponder what the role of dogs will be in the year 2100. While it's challenging to predict with certainty, one thing is certain: dogs will continue to hold a special place in our lives. With the advancement of technology, it's plausible to envision dogs playing even more multifaceted roles, including further integration into our daily home and even professional lives and expanded capabilities to assist us in various tasks. As further studies shed more light on the thoughts, emotions and well-being of our furry friends perhaps we will forge deeper bonds with our dogs than even we could imagine.

I'm going to leave you with a quote that hits me in the feels every single time.

"Your dog will be around for a small part of your life. But to them we are their whole life"


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