While the baby boomer and millennial generations don’t have a lot in common beyond sheer size, they do often intersect around dogs. For different reasons, both groups are more likely to have dogs than children in their daily lives, and tend to consider their dogs as members of the family whose needs are taken into account when choosing how and where to live.
As a result, residential planners, designers and developers are increasingly integrating dog-friendly amenities into their master plans, and programming activities for dog people of all ages.
Inside, elements that make living with dogs more convenient and comfortable are showing up in the form of built-ins that replace crates and provide aesthetically pleasing and convenient gear storage and feeding stations. Transition areas—space off a garage or utility room where dogs can be cleaned up before coming inside— are another popular feature.
Outside, enclosed dog parks are a big draw. Access to safe, roomy off-leash areas close to home and away from traffic are, shall we say, catnip to dog owners. Extras such as sand pits, “splash pads,” and weave poles and tunnels are yogurt icing on the dog-food cake. Wide sidewalks, dog-safe (and dogproof!) landscaping and traffic-calming measures are also popular.
Apartment buildings and condos are getting in on the action as well. Some property developers are incorporating space for dog-grooming facilities (either businesses or tiled rooms with a water source and drying platform where dog owners can do the work themselves), doggie day care or retail pet supply stores into their plans.
Many homeowners’ associations (HOAs) are also coming to see the value of accommodating those with dogs. HOAs that either have a high number of dog people in residence or want to attract them are adding everything from waste stations and pickup bags to dog runs.
Both single- and multi-family housing areas find that a sense of community can be fostered by something as simple as putting up bulletin boards on which referrals for pet services can be shared or found, or by organizing social hours, dog parades or dog-friendly hikes for their residents.
What’s good for dogs can also be good for people; incorporating dog-specific features into residential areas means that those who don’t have or don’t care for dogs can minimize contact if they wish to do so.
In the end, what we look for when we look for a place to live often depends on what matters to us: a pool, an indoor gym, covered parking? If we share our life with a dog, proximity to a safe and convenient place for the dog to get some exercise, particularly a place we can walk to, is very, very high on the list, as is a community with a welcoming attitude.
Community is, in fact, one of the driving forces behind all of these developments. Many of us seek it out, boomers and millennials perhaps more than most. Among their other qualities, dogs serve as social bridges, facilitators of personal connections, even friendships and romances. As this trend continues to gain traction, one day, the “no dogs allowed” sign may be a thing of the past.