Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Will Exxon Decide Your Next Breed of Dog?

So many people buy larger cars and SUVS in order to carry their dogs around, that my web-friend Gina Spadafori has a whole web site devote to dog car selection.

But what happens when the price of gas shoots through the roof?

It does not take a psychic to see that this dog-car thing is a two way street.

If oil hits $200 a barrel (it's already at $130 a barrel) over the next year (which Goldman Sachs and others say it may) the cost of crude alone is going to be $4.76 a gallon. After you add on the costs of refining that oil into gasoline, distributing it, and taxing it (to maintain roads and bridges), pump prices could rise to $6 to $7 a gallon

What will that mean for the world of dogs? Well, for one thing it will mean fewer people will be willing to travel long distances to attend dog shows. It may mean less long distance travel for hunting as well.

More importantly, it will mean that getting a large dog will come with a new premium due to the rising cost of fueling a larger "dog car."

At $6 a gallon, and assuming a 12,000-mile year, an SUV that gets 15 miles to the gallon (i.e. a Ford Explorer) will cost you $4,800 a year for gas, while a Toyota Prius that gets 45 miles per gallon will cost you $1,600 a year in gas -- a $3,200 difference.

Assuming the dog lives 10 years and so does the car, the choice between a dog that requires an SUV and a dog that can fit in a Prius is a $32,000 difference.

Yow! Add in the fact that a larger dog will also cost more to feed, vet (larger dogs have larger medical bills too), and board, and you easily have a $50,000 cost differential between owning a small and large breed dog.

Bottom line: Rising gasoline prices may push more folks to smaller breeds such as terriers, dachshunds and lap dogs, and away from larger breeds such as Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Border Collies, Pointers, Greyhounds and Labrador Retrievers.


Gina Spadafori said...

I was just talking about this the other day! People are changing their attitudes, without a doubt. Last year, we picked the Honda Element as the DogCars.com DogCar of the year.

This year, many people visiting the DogCars.com site are picking at the Element's mpg as not being good enough. That's a big change. And the Element isn't a massive SUV, but a car that gets a pretty decent 22/27.

Not trading my retrievers for Yorkies yet, though.

an American in Copenhagen said...

I love to think about what would happen to the purebred dog industry if people stopped driving across the country to go to shows?

Maybe some of the rare (and useless) breeds would die out. Pharoh hound anyone? I thought not.

Maybe some people will realize that they have to foster local support for a breed to make it. And if they can't then the demand is too low (at least in their area) and they'll give up or switch to a more apropriate breed. I saw a website for a husky breeder in NM the other day. WTF!

Luisa said...

No Yorkies for me, either.

Way back in the last century, I once spent six hours on the road in a two-door Nissan Sentra along with four border collies and two pit bulls. No crates! And no conflicts, bless those good dogs. In related news, there are no words for how much I love my [four-door] F-150.

Melanie said...

I drive a Honda Element (with three Border Collies -- and I've posted a couple of comments on Gina's site) and coming from an Acura Integra, I do find the mileage it gets, despite being respectable for the amount of stuff it can haul, to be a little hard to love.

I don't see why anyone needs an outsized vehicle just to drive around with dogs. When I had the Integra, I managed just fine, with two Border Collies and a Papillon, back then. In fact, I know of someone with nine Border Collies who drives them around in a Honda Civic (and so does Luisa) and while this is an extreme case, they manage just fine.

What necessitates a larger car, for me, is going to events like sheepdog trials, and wanting to be able to crate out of the car while leaving windows and doors open, something that was impossible with the Integra. That said, if gas prices keep rising as they are, we may not be going to all that many events, so...

Pai said...

American in Copenhagen, the vast majority of dog breeds are 'useless' nowadays. Most people do not use dogs to hunt or any of the other things they were bred for. Nowadays all breeds are mostly just pets, even ones you might not personally prefer, like Pharaoh Hounds. Not that the breed is all that common, even now, anyway.

Some folks in the show world have wanted to move to a more European-show style, with far fewer shows overall and different scoring (In Europe it is much harder to get 'Champion' than it is here, and dogs are individually measured against the breed standard, instead of against each other like they are here).

I personally think it would be a great improvement if local breed clubs grew more strong and independent and ran their own Specialties and other events without just relying on the big-name registries to do all their work for them. Maybe a stronger independence would also help them make better decisions for their breeds health and futures, as well.

Julie said...

I used to drive a Honda Civic and carry six border collies in it. Now that I have nine, I drive a mid-size van. The gas mileage isn't great, but I thought it a good compromise for me as I can really afford just one vehicle. Like Melanie, I wanted to larger vehicle so I could crate dogs, not only at events, but also when traveling because I think they're safer that way. At any rate, I doubt I'll be getting smaller dogs, but I will definitely be traveling to fewer sheepdog trials.

Katie said...

Interesting notion. I can fit three pit bulls in seat belts in the back of my Ford Focus (a reasonable 32ish mpg on an average week) for short trips, but it would be too cramped for long trips.

I've thought at length about trading my car in for a smaller SUV, but gas (and everything else) prices keep going up and up, and my paycheck can't keep up.

Caveat said...

I easily carried my Rottweiler and Dachshund in the back seat of a Ford Probe for years. The whole truck thing is silly.

If you have a team for Agility, etc, then you need something more utilitarian.

If by 'pit bulls' you mean the American Pit Bull terrier, they usually run from 35 - 50 lbs or so - about the same as a Springer Spaniel. I consider them small to medium-sized. And of course the Staffordshire Bull terrier is itty-bitty, about 18 - 34 lbs.

The World Weight Pulling Champion APBT two years running weighs 34 lbs.

PBurns said...

If you are traveling with your dogs without having them in solid crates, you are taking enormous risks -- about like having a child or human in the car without a seat belt. In my car, crates are mandatory.

But crates take up space -- lots of space. So too do digging tools, guns (for those who hunt with guns), luggage, x-pens, popup tents, hawk boxes, coolers, etc.
The simple truth is that we do not live (or hunt, or recreate, or travel) by dogs alone. We travel with a lot of stuff.

My Explorer is packed full with three terriers, tools, veterinary box, water bottles, cooler, etc. and the dog crates are (as expected with working terriers) pretty small. Add a passenger and two duffels with change of clothese for overnight, and you have a full house. And my dogs are small!

As for a pit, they can weigh anywhere from 30 pounds to well over 120 pounds depending on what line of pit dog you are talking about. A Johnson Pit Bull (he is now calling them Johnson Bulldogs) averages over 100 pounds in weight. A Scott pit might be half that weight. The pits you find at the pound can be anywhere along that scale. Of course, weight matters less than height with crates; a 60 pound greyhound takes a pretty big crate.

Can folks get by with smaller cars? They will. But for those folks with multiple large dogs who show and hunt, there are limits.

Yes, if you are just rolling a few miles to the dog park or the vet, you can get an Italian Mastiff in a VW beetle. But if you are traveling for several days with two people and multiple dogs, size matters. Take a good hard look at how crowded the backs of those dog-show SUVs are already. What happens when all that stuff is packed into a smaller car? It won't fit!

The entire premise of Gina's "dog cars" web site (and its value to dog owners and car dealers) is that dog owners need vehicles that can haul dogs -- and some cars do that better than others. And size DOES matter.


Caveat said...

Those big 'pit bulls' are outside the standards, especially ADBA but yeah, they exist. I was referring to the purebred ADBA and the old UKC types - on the small side, agile and racy - more terrier than bulldog in appearance.

I used safety harnesses, kind of like seatbelts for the dogs in the back seat. I think they are safer that way than in a crate where in case of an accident they might fly around. Touch wood, I've never had an accident.

As I said, if you have a need for a larger vehicle as in your case, fine, but for the average pet owner a regular car is more than adequate.

Now that I have tiny dogs, I could pack everybody into the 'back seat' of a Corvette and be fine :>)

dr. hypercube said...

"American in Copenhagen, the vast majority of dog breeds are 'useless' nowadays." Gotta respectfully disagree here - I'd say that the vast majority of AKC dog owners are ill-served by their choice of breed, but the fault doesn't lie w/ the breeds. Breeders who produce litters that go to home where they won't be worked? Useless. People who buy dogs that should be working (I'm thinking of herding breeds, bird dogs, you get the idea), expect them to sit around the house, and are surprised when the dog is frustrated? Useless.

Back on topic - I've been thinking about an Element, but may just stick with my 280k mi. T100 p/u for dog/hawk duty and get something with better mileage for the (vast majority of) times when I don't need to schlep dogs, gun, water, tack, cadge, giant hood, etc. along. Maybe a scooter - with a sidehack so I can commute when there's snow on the ground (I kid).

Pai said...

I don't disagree with you on the point that most people who buy dogs that are completely unsuited to owning that dog or caring for it properly. The fact that it took an Oprah show to get people to think about where pet shop and website puppy sites get their dogs is testament to people's willful ignorance when it comes to pets; and dogs specifically. I hate to say it, but I really believe that those kinds of people will always be in the majority.

AKC/CKC/UKC, or FCI, it's always a breeder's responsibility to find appropriate homes for their dogs. Those that don't I would not call 'reputable' in the least.

Cat, Tessie, & Strata said...


That post contains this video done in Germany, showing crash test footage of airline craves vs. seatbelted dogs vs. unrestricted dogs (using dummies, of course).

I think it is lacking in many regards (they should've used a vari-kennel, not the crappy knock-off) but it definitely proves the point that seatbelts aren't worth what you pay for.

Right now I take a Sheltie and an English Springer Spaniel to all sorts of dog events. Dogs are always crated. If I take both dogs, the Sheltie is crated and the ESS is loose, but that is because I am either riding in a Honda Civic or a Nissan Altima. (People told me getting an ESS-sized crate in an Altima was impossible -- haha!)

I definitely want to upgrade to an Element or similar car (I'm also diggin' the CR-V) but I know my boyfriend and I will certainly miss the gas mileage.