Global Real world dog ownership versus online dog searches - 4

On-line dog search data is available globally and as it is up to date, so it is very useful to use it as a proxy for real world demand. This article provides evidence that online search demand for ‘dog associated’ information is related to dog ownership in each country. This means that knowing a country’s search habits for dogs can be used as a barometer for real world dog ownership or other current trends related to dogs.

The graph in this article comes from a recent article on the global online dog associated search practices of several countries throughout the world.

It compares countries on a ‘wealth per capita’ (y axis) scale versus ‘adjusted dog online search per population rate’ (x axis). As can be seen, there is an approximate logarithmic relationship between the two variables.

This suggests that (except for Europe) that most countries require a given level of wealth (disposable income) to afford to keep a dog.  The wealthier the country the more likely they are to search about dogs. But does this mean they actually own more dogs? The analysis following this graph answers this question.

global dog ematrix trend 2010

Dog populations in the world and the relation to online search practices

The graph below uses the same ‘adjusted dog associated searches per population’ values used in the above graph (x axis) but plots this against a country’s real dog population numbers per person.

For large developed countries such as America, UK and Australia, dog population estimations are readily available. Unfortunately for many countries on the above graph even approximate dog population numbers are not readily available, meaning they can’t be plotted on the graph below. For instance India has a very large number of stray dogs estimated between 8 and 30 million dogs with no census taken on domestic dog populations.

The obvious conclusion for the ownership data that is available, is that both graphs show a remarkably similar logarithmic trend line relation between Dogs online searches and either a countries wealth per person or dog ownership per person.

real world dog population v online search trends 2010

Real world dog population analysis

The similarity between the two graphs (log relationship) suggests that online dog search numbers are a good proxy for real world interest in dogs (dog ownership numbers).

Japan, Russia and China have relatively low per capita ownership of dogs and this is reflected in relatively low dog associated online searches. Cultural reasons (dogs still used as meat for human consumption in China); and the carrying of diseases such as rabies in stray dog packs in developing countries of China, India and even Russia keep real world dog ownership numbers and interest in searching for dog information (for ownership) to very low levels.

Again Europe (shown as Italy and France on the graph) have relatively high dog ownership and respect for their dogs (shown by the type of dog terms they search for) but lower than expected online search numbers.

The UK as the leading online dog associated term search country (per capita) again seems to be performing below the trend-line curve. In the first graph it performs better (more searches) than the wealth per capita level suggest it should. In the second graph again ‘searches per person’ are higher than actual dog ownership would predict. This suggests that both the wealth distribution (and potentially welfare safety net) may create a middle class that can afford to keep dogs and that the high search number means that UK people are very interested in caring about their dog pets. This is backed up by the most popular search term in the UK being for ‘dogs trust’ a dog humane society.

While Ireland dog population is not readily available, one report states that while 22% of UK households have at least one dog, that 36% of Irish houses do so.  It is believed that this is due to the Irish people having a closer connection to rural lands where dogs are used as both pets and working animals. If a similar ratio for household ownership exists for the proportion of Irish dog numbers/ population, then it is likely that Ireland would be much closer to the trend line shown.

Australia and America are considered by some people to have similar cultural values. With similar ‘wealth per capita’ and potentially similar wealth distribution it is surprising how much greater America’s dog ‘ownership/ population’ value is. It is possible that Ireland’s rural effect is what tips the balance in favour of America since Australia has one of the highest urbanisation rates of developed countries.


This article was created to compare real world dog ownership with online dog searches in countries around the world. While data is scant, for data that does exist we see that there is a similar relationship between how popular dog ownership is and how many times a country searches for dog related information on the internet, per capita.

While this may not seem surprising, it does suggest that the inverse is true. That is, if you know a country’s online search habits regarding dogs, you may be able to predict their level of involvement or ownership of dogs. This relationship may not hold for the extremely rich countries of the world.

The main thing that this may highlight is that owning a dog cost money and besides love, good food, exercise and vet check-ups are a necessary part of keeping your dog well. In developed countries vet care can seem exorbitant, and there generally isn’t any free dog healthcare, which is potentially why we see so many dogs abandoned even in these ‘wealthy countries.’

Dog ownership is a serious responsibility and the benefits that people receive from owning a dog far outweigh any financial costs that are incurred. The graphs are just a reminder of how lucky we in Australia, America and the UK are in our ability to afford dog ownership. It also reminds us that we must be vigilant in our responsibility to ensure that any dogs in our countries are treated with the love and respect they deserve, which of course involves regular walks!


Original research & Analysis by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to


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