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Last Updated: Friday, 7 March 2008, 13:27 GMT
The luxury of living a dog's life
By Kevin Peachey
Personal finance and consumer affairs reporter, BBC News

Sign at Crufts
Dog toys are a big seller at Crufts

Wearing his new 150 Swarovski crystal-encrusted jacket, he is dressed to impress.

Coco follows the latest fashions. Coco is a dog.

For owners Ken and Pat Walters, of Stafford, when it comes to buying for their three-year-old Bichon Frise, price is not an issue.

"It is for a special occasion," said Ken, clutching a high-priced doggie bag, "but I'll have to spend more on the wife."

Coco, meanwhile, seemed to have his eye on the 400 crystal collar on display, or maybe it was the 2,500 made-to-measure leather bed.

The three were shopping at one of the 500 trade stands at Crufts, where sellers are cashing-in on the generosity of the UK's pet owners.

Dog's life

In 1957, spending on pets ranked 49th in the weekly expenditure list by UK households, according to the Office of National Statistics.

Crystal collars for dogs
Jewellery for dogs can be very high quality

Fifty years later it has risen to 37th, ahead of cosmetics, cakes and holidays in the UK.

The figures suggest people are pampering their pets more than themselves.

"I've got three dogs. I spend more than 100 a month on food, and another 100 on trinkets and gadgets. I don't have any children," said Claire Samuels, of Cholsey, South Oxfordshire.

Her one-year-old German Spitz Mittel called Obi - a wedding present from a friend - had just won a first-place rosette at the world's biggest dog show.

The 36-year-old's husband Steve was left at home on his birthday, with chickenpox.

"He knows his place in the pecking order," said Claire, referring to her husband.

"You spend a lot of money when showing dogs. You don't get any back so you do it for fun."

Spending power

Vets bills - up a fifth in five years, according to one survey - and pet food dominate the cost of owning an animal but if there's any money left over for treats, then Crufts has plenty of options.

Around 150,000 people visit the event over the four days, spending hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Dog and owner at Crufts
Crufts is the biggest dog show in the world

Five exhibition halls at the NEC in Birmingham are filled with an astonishing array of canine products.

At first glance it can be tricky to establish whether the clothes on sale are for the owners or their pets.

A shower-proof camouflage jacket - for the dog - is yours for 20.

How about a large skull and crossbones bandana, 7, or a 7.50 baseball cap that "protects your dog from harmful UV rays"?

At the other end of the spectrum, a pet sat-nav will cost about 200 and an electric grooming table will set you back 825.

A dog's dinner

Even the food sounds appetising, although the finest salmon is probably preferable to the elk chew.

Dog memorial stone
All pet events are catered for

And the spending does not stop when the inevitable happens and a pet dog passes on to the big kennel in the sky.

Stuart Gebbie is managing director of Pets at Rest, specialists in memorials and caskets.

Mourning pet-lovers can spend up to 400 on a bespoke headstone complete with paw prints and a picture.

Stuart's family-run business, based in Cambridge, specialised in engraved glass gifts for special occasions and corporate awards.

The pet business has grown so fast, turnover has overtaken their other operations.

"People tend to buy online; they are emotional and do not want to talk about it," said Stuart.

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