Has China’s One-Child Policy Bred a Generation of Dog Lovers?
People in Shanghai fucking love dogs, maybe even more than they love themselves. Walk down the street in China’s biggest city and you might see heiresses’ Chihuahuas getting facial scrubs, lawyers adjusting their poodle’s distressed jeans, a Yorkshire terrier with a pink Mohawk, or a couple feeding their corgi cupcakes outside a tea shop.
But what’s motivating the people of Shanghai to treat their dogs like extras in a Katy Perry video? Ask around and you get the impression that lots of locals are turning to their pups to fill a one-child-policy-shaped hole in their lives. It’s amateur psychology of the most amateurish kind, sure—but when you see a dog dressed up in little booties being pushed around in a stroller it’s hard to escape the conclusion that many Chinese people are turning themselves into surrogate bitches.
To tap into the city’s hound obsession—and to max out my phone’s memory with pictures of dogs wearing sneakers—I decided to head to the annual Shanghai International Dog Expo.
First I met Greg Li, Vice President of the Shanghai International Trade Promotion company, which organized the event. Sitting next to a board displaying the tagline, “My dog. My family. My life,” he explained that his event now attracts 50,000 people over five days, compared to 20,000 two years ago. He said unofficial stats put dog ownership rates here at around 12 percent of households, which would mean there are well over 1.1 million pet dogs in Shanghai, not including the nomadic armies of strays.
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Their personalities. Each one is so different. They are so individual. They will make you laugh and just constantly play. You could have a bad day at work, and they will just perk you up.
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